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‘Wow’ surprise or ‘wow’ spectacular?

[Updated with correction]

A key issue is whether the people of Crystal Beach could reasonably expect that a 12-storey condominium would be the result of the plans, studies and community consultation the Town did for the neighbourhood.

Should people expect that a three-storey limit imposed by the Crystal Beach Neighbourhood Plan for the rest of the area be applied on a development on the waterfront?

The Town and Molinaro Group say no. These specific limits do not apply to Bay Beach since it was designated a “special policy area” in the plan and that earlier goals for the land included a multi-storey commercial development.

Opponents say the opposite and the community consultation was nothing more than a shell game — nobody said anything about a 12-storey tower.

“I could not see a 12-storey building resulting from these polices,” said Paul Johnston, a Toronto planner retained by the Fort Erie Waterfront Preservation Association.

“The purpose of plans is for the public to have an understanding of where things will go,” he said. “The public could not predict a 12-storey building on this site.”

Johnston said there is not enough pressure to build housing in Fort Erie — which consists mostly of low density, detached homes — to warrant this degree of intensification.

“The lands are not in an area where intensification is proposed in the Official Plan,” he said.

The building is also out of scale with the community, Johnston said.

“The density, mass and height are not compatible. It looms over the neighbourhood,” echoing the appellant’s architect, Sharon McKenzie, who said the building will be a “wall.”

Johnston also took issue with the sun shadow study, saying the 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. window is merely a snapshot and it doesn’t take into account the “shoulder months” around summer when many people may find themselves living in the shadow of the building.

Project architect Myron Karp said the period for the shadow study is the standard for municipalities in Ontario and effects on the neighbouring westerly property were mitigated with a new design accepted in September that calls for 10 upper stories to be moved seven metres to the east.

Town planning director Rino Mostacci said the property had been a densely populated summer resort with 48 low rise units before the Town purchased the land in 2001.

All the plans and community consultations recognized the development potential on the property and that the Crystal Beach Neighbourhood Plan does not “recommend exclusively open space,” he said.

“There was no unanimity but they didn’t want a re-creation of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club,” Mostacci said, but there was “no consensus on a specific development scheme for the property.”

Development on the north side of Erie Road “was meaningfully looked at but no application was made” except for an informal plan that was forwarded by Brian Watson, Steven Oprici, Jason Pizzicarolla and Jonathan Whitton.

“It was problematic,” he said. “There was a lack of parking and it would have had greater land use impacts.”

Ed Fothergill, the planner for the Molinaro Group, said “it doesn’t have to be the same as (the neighbourhood) or even similar to be compatible.”

Community input helped to evolve the project from a twin-tower concept to a single tower and other adjustments to accommodate the neighbours, such as moving the upper floors away from the property line and re-orienting the balconies.

“Why, in such a low-rise area, do you think that height can be achieved sensitively,” asked Reid Rossi, the hearing chairman.

“If it’s not prominent it fails,” Fothergill said. “The Town wants something spectacular — a ‘wow’ factor. It had to be substantially different.”

Fothergill said if the building is not tall, then it has to be wide. “It would impinge on habitat and public access.”

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  1. Chris | Dec 5, 2010 | Reply

    Funny how no one complained about height issues when the Comet was there.

  2. Mike Cloutier | Dec 5, 2010 | Reply

    Nobody seems to mind the cottages on the hill, either. To get a true sense of the height, the water tower at the cemetery is 11 storeys, not including the antenna.

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