Developer, eight-storey condo proposal hammered by Grimsby residents
By Mike Williscraft
The meeting to roll out a proposed eight-storey condo complex in downtown Grimsby never had a chance – it was doomed from the start.
The meeting, hosted by developer Homes By DeSantis, which has proposed the building for the former site of the Roxy Theatre, was set for the Carnegie Building with doors opening at 6:30 p.m., a presentation to start at 7 p.m.
By 6:15 p.m. the 40 chairs set out were occupied with about 20 people standing around the room. By 6:40 p.m., members of the DeSantis team gathered up easels which were showcasing various aspects of the project to make room for more people.
Scott Arbuckle, a senior planner with consultant with consultant IBI Group, started the program early by telling the crowd he was throwing Town under the bus for recommending the small hall which had about 120 people sardined in and streaming down the stairs and out the door.
In his opening comments, Arbuckle invited those in attendance to interject with any questions as the presentation unfolded and, with that, the struggle to get through it started with the very first anecdote which praised the redevelopment of Burlington.
“We moved from Burlington to get away from all that,” shouted one man in the crowd. “if we wanted high rises in our neighbourhoods we would have just stayed there.”
From that point on there were anywhere between one and four questions offered up every 2-3 sentences for the remainder of the contentious affair.
Parking was the first core issue brought up by Arbuckle as he noted there would be 125 parking spots, “with the majority in two floors of underground parking.”
Many in the crowd shouted that was not near enough, while neighbouring property owner Irene Broms said she has an existing problem with people parking in her lot and adding a major, underserviced building a few doors down would only magnify the problem.
“My parking is being used now,” said Broms, who owns 6 Ontario Street, home to Brooke’s Barber Den and Sun Chasers with residential above.
“If you’re planning for the future, you have to do it right and this is not the way. There must be a lot more thought
given to this.
As IBI’s Jared Marcus attempted to speak to traffic related issues, Matt Shipton, who owns 1 Doran Ave., interjected with a series of comments and questions relating to traffic on Doran, parking and student safety at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School as that street is in a school zone.
“The spot right in front of my house is the only on-street parking on the street and not a day goes by now that I cannot look up and down the street and see it full of cars. This proposal is underserviced, so it will only get worse,” said Shipton.
Marcus cited a traffic study done for DeSantis by consultant C.F. Crozier, “The traffic study showed there was no necessary upgrades to Ontario Street or Doran.”
“That’s just not right,” shouted resident Reg Freake, who asked aloud how many members of Grimsby council were on hand to take in the meeting.
“Now how many future members of Grimsby council are here,” added resident Dave Sharpe, to loud applause and really the only moment of levity on the night.
Ald. Joanne Johnston and Ald. Dave Kadwell were in attendance.
As the traffic aspect continued, Marcus mentioned there would be no Main Street traffic to or from the proposed building, adding that access to a 10-foot alley running behind Main Street businesses would be connected to the main outdoor parking area.
After one lady shouted out the current plan should be scrapped and a new plan for a four-storey unit should be brought back, Michael Grosman, a lawyer who owns 7 Doran Avenue went a step further.
“They should bring back a plan that is worth the paper it is written on,” said Grosman.
At that point, Gabe DeSantis, president of Homes By DeSantis interjected. He noted the meeting was the beginning of the public process for a project 1.5 years in the making to date.
“We’re listening and if we can finish our presentation we’ll answer all your questions after,” said DeSantis.
However the crowd did not believe this comment with one lady asking DeSantis repeatedly if he was listening, would he come back with a project reduced in scope.
While this question was asked many times, DeSantis would not give an inch of concession.
In fact, he dug in his heels saying several times that he will go through the “rigorous process” to get the project completed.
Tempers reached their peak when Ald. Johnston read aloud one of many emails she said she had received on the issue.
As she noted, lack of sidewalks on Doran were a major issue since that would be the only access to the condo, DeSantis shouted out that the Town would correct that issue by putting sidewalks in.
“No, you’ll put those sidewalks in, Mr. DeSantis,” said Johnston, pointing her finger across the room.
DeSantis walked across the room to confront Johnston at that point. Their conversation was inaudible in the room.
While the meeting disintegrated from there, it was noted several times the matter will come up at the March 27 Planning Committee meeting.