By Joanne McDonald
West Lincoln planners have assured residents that assessing the impact of increased traffic will take a front seat as urban land use planning takes shape for two major residential developments in downtown Smithville.
Last fall the Township retained MHBC Planning Urban Design & Landscape Architecture to evaluate the redevelopment potential for the former St. Martin Catholic
Elementary School site located at 186 Margaret Street and the former College Street Elementary School site, at 132 College Street.
“This is a concept for the Township to consider not a development application,” MHBC Planner Dan Currie said Monday at a meeting of the Planning/Building/Environmental Committee.
The report, intended as a guide for the future redevelopment of the school properties, as well as a Township-owned parcel of land adjacent to the Margaret Street site, was received for information at Monday’s meeting.
Brian Treble, WL Director of Planning and Building, said once a supportive transportation component is received, a formal public meeting is expected to be scheduled in April.
The redevelopment envisions a variety of housing and heights, including two to four storeys, a four-storey complex with some commercial space on the ground floor, and a six-storey apartment on the Township-owned parcel that would require an amendment to the Official Plan which now permits a maximum height of five storeys.
A potential for 262 units would intensify residential development in the downtown core, including 90 units at the 3.12-acre St. Martin site; 69 units on the adjacent 1.78-acre Township-owned parcel, and 103 units at the 3.95-acre College Street site.
Currie said the design vision will be compatible with the existing surrounding development to create a diverse and vibrant downtown. From the report, the properties “will accommodate new residential development that will allow more people to live in downtown Smithville, supporting a growing consumer area for businesses and promoting a pedestrian oriented community.
Residents at Monday’s planning meeting cited concerns around increased traffic, adequate parking spaces, building heights, affordability and storm water management.
“We’re in a small community. Most families have more than one car. This parking will overflow into the community,” said Ken Way. “It’s going to change our way of living in the community if they ram in too many units.”
Resident John Brierley asked why the government is forcing intensification in a rural community that won’t be able to support increased needs for medical care and hard services. “It’s just incomprehensible that this is being considered,” Brierley said. “We’ve seen what they’ve done to Binbrook and Ancaster and now they want to bring it here.”
Brierley was also concerned the private streets of the Wes-Li Gardens condominium community near the Margaret St. site would be used for through traffic.
Treble said the Township can’t use the roads as thoroughfares as the condominiums are privately owned associations.
Currie presented an overall vision of the type of development and density that can be accommodated and design considerations such as site layout, building orientation, massing, landscaping, public realm elements, connectivity and site circulation.
The report proposes a continuous pedestrian walkway access between Margaret Street and Griffin Street North, using existing pedestrian infrastructure and McMurchie Lane as a connection point.
“We appreciate the sensitivity to ensure there is good interface,” Mayor Dave Bylsma told Currie, recognizing provincial density targets for urban development. “I like the idea of more connectivity between neighbourhoods.”
The Margaret St. and College St. sites are key parcels to form hubs and opportunities, “for making our municipality very walkable and very accessible to allow for people to mingle,” Bylsma said.
Brian Treble, WL Director of Planning and Building said Township staff, Currie and his MHBC team will continue discussions around how traffic flow will occur and how the added population and car mix will work. “The traffic piece is key.”
“We’ve had a chance to absorb concerns and will receive in the future the traffic piece leading to the formal proposal to make zoning changes,” Treble said.