Concessions defrost some of development’s chill

By Mike Williscraft

Somewhat of a white flag soothed some, but not all, at last week’s public meeting regarding a proposed development at 133 Main St. E. in Grimsby.

A crowd at the public meeting which filled town hall to capacity – doors were locked at 5:55 p.m. – heard a consultant for the Homes By DeSantis proposal for the property at Main Street East and Nelles Road outline several concessions from its initial proposal.

• Instead of five storeys, design has been reduced to four;

• 148 units have been reduced to 137;

• There would be 305 sq m of commercial space, and;

• The number of parking spaces would be reset to 210 with the vast majority underground, 32 above.

“We have proposed several modifications,” said consultant John Ariens, adding a key one for many.

“At our own public meeting, there was skepticism that a house that old (as the Grout Nelles House at the site) could be relocated….We will retain it where it is.”

He added that “a square” feature would be added to the proposal between the heritage home and Main Street.

One point which generated a murmur through the packed house was Ariens noting the square footage of the studio units would start at 500 sq ft.

While some said that seemed too small, Ariens noted DeSantis’s market research showed they expected the building to sell out in 48 hours once sales opened.

Several spoke against the proposal, some who simply wanted to see no more than town homes on the site.

Ron Schroder, who spoke on behalf of 190-plus citizens who have signed onto a group called Save Main Street, said, “We are not averse to development but we want it to be consistent with the Official Plan and be consistent with heritage on Main Street.”

Stacy McNeil noted, “It’s just not going to work”, for several reasons, chief among them for him was the parking limitations.

The proposal outlines 1.09 parking spots per unit, but McNeil said 1.5 should be the target.

The key, recurring concerns revolved around density and potential resulting impacts on infrastructure and traffic patterns.

While Ariens showed a traffic study which outlined minimal changes to traffic patterns, residents would have nothing of it.

Karl Gonnsen outlined the proposal is nearly double what is allowed under current Town bylaws. “Yes, they have reduced the project by 11 units but I don’t think that is going to be enough,” said Gonnsen.

“It is four times the allowable number under medium density and twice the units in high density. This is major, major intensification.”

Homes By DeSantis owner Gabe DeSantis clarified an issue relating to his donating of space to Gillian’s Place, which supports abused women and their children. The ground floor he is donating to them is for administrative uses and boosting their profile, not as a shelter itself.

Further, he said he will open a process for request for proposals for space on the second floor to be used by a successful community group applicant.

“We are willing to work with everyone. We will continue to move forward with our vision, but anything can be changed,” said DeSantis.

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