Housing development angers residents

A group of neighbours will present their case against a proposed townhouse complex to the OMB in late March

The proposed development will be built between 637 and 655 Johnson St.
The proposed development will be built between 637 and 655 Johnson St.
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A proposed Johnson St. housing development is now facing an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal following complaints from neighbouring residents.

The project, developed by Golden Dragon Ho 7 Inc. of Ottawa, plans to build new townhouses in the area between 637 and 655 Johnson St. Five single-unit houses will be torn down to make way for the project, which will be able to house 108 people and will contain 29 three and four bedroom units.

In June 2012, concerned residents attended a City Council meeting at which they voiced their grievances regarding the project. Complaints ranged from fears of student parties to spacing concerns due to the size of the building compared to other residences on the street.

Despite this, City planning staff, the planning committee and City Council approved the plans. Residents subsequently launched an OMB appeal to overturn it.

The appeal is set to take place March 26 in Kingston, and will last for three days.

Residents who disagree with the construction of the building have come together to organize under the name “Our Neighbourhood.”

Rob Fonger, spokesman for the group, said in the 2012 meeting that the building was a “very large foot in a small shoe”, and that there isn’t enough land to accommodate the needs of the building.

“This has to do with the intrusion of the development in the neighbourhood,” Fonger said.

“[Residents] want to see [student housing], but they want to see it elsewhere,” he said. “To have this [building] go where it’s proposed, it doesn’t really work for anybody.” The area was reviewed by City planners, and was deemed in transition, meaning the area’s zoning laws could be rezoned to accommodate the building.

Fonger added that Our Neighbourhood does want students to have more available housing options.

“We want to see good, safe and proper student accommodation and in the proper location — one that fits Kingston for all of us,” he said.

City Councillor Jeff Scott said he understands the concerns of Our Neighbourhood, as he has a background in urban planning.

Scott said townhouses shouldn’t typically face a row of single-unit homes.

“By putting [the building] in this neighbourhood it kind of disrupts everything … because it implies that over time it will all become townhouses,” he said.

He said an area would typically transition from large single-family homes, to smaller homes, and then to semi-detached or townhouses, and then finally apartments.

Regardless, Scott said he would vote in favour of developing the townhouse, as students are generally well-behaved.

The project isn’t specifically labeled as “student” housing, Scott said, as the City isn’t able to approve a building designated for a specific group.

He also said the province has mandated that cities focus on creating a more dense urban centre, as opposed to urban sprawl, making this appeal difficult to approve.

“That’s a provincial mandate … it’s pretty difficult to override,” he said, “and we know we desperately need student housing in Kingston.” Johnson St. resident Kong Lo said he does support student housing as his wife is a landlord.

However, the building may intrude on the current neighbourhood’s structure.

“That building is a bit too dense. It’s too many units in one area that’s concentrated,” Lo said.

A better solution would be to expand the houses already on Johnson St., he said.

“I don’t mind if they kept those houses, or doubled them, but not into 27 units with three or four bedrooms, that’s like a hundred people in a small area,” Lo said.

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