Development in the City
Saturday, February 2, 20081 Comment
part of the old Lafarge site
A 10 minute walk (2km) from down town, along the rail road tracks, you end up in a open piece of land made up of meadows, thickets, and forest. There are worn trails where people play with dogs and go for walks. The Lafarge lands are bordered on the west and east by CN rail lines, from it you can see the Hanlon Parkway. This 45-acre piece of land is now owed by Silvercreek Guelph Developments Ltd.
This non official park is also a home for wild animals. It has been used in the past as an asphalt and concrete plant and through it runs one of the last open creeks in the city. Since 2005 the land has become a controversy that everyone has an opinion about.
Silvercreek Guelph Developments Ltd., wants to build a commercial development on the site of up to 400, 000 square feet. At the information meeting the group revealed their plans; two very large big box stores as well as four other chains stores surrounding a 'market place' idea in the center of it all. 26% of the overall triangular property is proposed to be turned into a park.
The Howitt Park Neighborhood Residents' Association (HPNRA,) is a community group that has been active since 2005. "From traffic and access issues, loss of employment lands, to non-conformity with the City of Guelph's Commercial Policy Review (CPR) this development will affect all residents of Guelph" the group stated in a paper they handed to attendees of the meeting. They are not against development on the land but say the effects it will have on the community must be taken into account. They are against the rezoning of the land from an industrial designation to community commercial.
One barrier to development is that access to the site is difficult because of the rail lines. To bypass this the developers want to construct an underpass under the railway tracks that would link to Silvercreek Parkway South at Paisley Road. During the meeting residents of the area expressed anger the creation of the underpass because in some cases it would leave their drive ways opening up onto a highway, or a cliff. Scott Hannah, the facilitator of the meeting and the city manager of development and parks planning, said that the Ministry of Transportation might have to compensate some people for their homes.
Many people were frustrated that the big boxes are to be located beside the residential areas instead of beside the already noisy freeway. They continued to feel this way despite the developers promise to make buffer zones out of trees. Residents were also angry about the dramatic increase in traffic that is obviously being planned for in the expansive parking lots; capable of holding 1,980 cars!
People were concerned about the values of their properties, the affects on the neighborhood and standards of living, and in some instances, their very homes. However concerns with the proposed development seemed mostly logistical instead of flat out anti-development.
The application for development is no longer in the hands of the city council because they failed to make a decision on it within the 120 day period. Now the decision is left with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB.) There is a public council meeting on this issue taking place March 3 and an OMB hearing on June 12th.