In the end, it wasn't the objections of residents opposed to allowing rental units into their pricey South End neighbourhood that sunk a plan to add 12 row houses to a vacant lot on Arnold Street.
Instead, what sunk the plan – literally – were concerns about the stability of the land, which was so close to a flood plain that the developers weren't going to put basements in the two units.
“I don't think that land is stable enough,” said Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli, in her first meeting as a member of planning since agreeing to fill the vacancy left when Fabio Belli passed away in April.
“If you have land where you can't put in a basement … you have a problem.”
The proposal would have seen two buildings – one with four units, the second with eight – built on 3.75 acres of land on the north side of Arnold Street, in the same area as Marcel and Yale streets. The plan was to rent the units to well-off seniors – empty nesters, the developer said – who want to live in the Moonglo area, but no longer want to maintain a larger property.
Their goal was to change the negative view many people have about row housing, a view made abundantly clear from the letters, petition and the two dozen people at the planning committee Monday.
Many said they bought their single family homes in the area with the understanding that the area would stay that way. Allowing rental properties would introduce an element into their neighbourhood that would drive down the value of their properties.
As one resident said, the developer can promise now to make the rental units high-end, but once they are built, “it can quickly degenerate to be something different.”
And Matthew Gould, who bought his Arnold Street home a year ago, said the units would not only lower his property values, it would increase traffic in the neighbourhood. He's already concerned about his child riding a bike in the area.
“This street is quite busy as it is,” Gould said. “The traffic in the first part of Regent Street is going to be greatly affected.
“This is really very upsetting … A community of families raising children will be severely affected.”
To proceed, the land would have to be rezoned medium density from low density. The staff report on the plan said even with the rezoning, the development would still be on the lower end of the density scale and wouldn't significantly affect traffic. However, the owner would have to get approvals from the Nickel District Conservation Authority, because of its proximity to a flood plan and a history of drainage issues in the area.
“There was a historical issue with sanitary sewer capacity within the vicinity of this site,” the report said. “The construction of the sanitary sewer rock tunnel south of this location has rerouted much of the sanitary sewer flow originating upstream returning some capacity to this area.”
The rezoning would have been conditional on a storm-water management report, “to prove that the regional storm-water overland flow can be safely routed through the site without impacting the proposed site development.”
But the concerns were enough to convince the committee to reject it.
“Seems to me this area is prone to leakage,” said Ward 9 Coun. Doug Craig. “The rocks we've put in there over the years haven't really made any difference.”