Battle Brewing Over Proposed Byron Apartment Building

  • 08/21/18
  • |          London

A scrap is brewing over a plan to build an apartment project in Byron.

A four-storey, 38-unit building proposed for Byron Baseline Road was turned down by politicians at a recent city hall committee meeting after neighbours also opposed it.

But the builder, Birani Group, says it will take the matter to a provincial body that oversees planning disputes, rather than try to negotiate a deal with the city.

“They are set in keeping the community the way it is, but the city’s official plan and the province want higher-density building,” said Ric Knutson, a private planner working with Birani.

“We feel we are within what was expected on that site.”

A hearing with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, formerly the Ontario Municipal Board, is scheduled for October, and the builder will wait on the ruling from the hearing. Although there are single-family homes in the area, there are also four, five and 12-storey buildings in the community, he added.

“There seems to be a gap too wide, everything has gotten to a contentious point,” he said.

Staff, in its report to a recent planning and environment committee meeting, recommended refusing the 15-metre-tall structure at 1146-1156 Byron Baseline Rd., as it does no fit with the neighbourhood.

“Additional work is required to achieve a development that fits with the neighbourhood character,” states the report.

The city also wants a hydrogeological survey done on the property, as nearby homes are on well water.

“The applicant has also not demonstrated that the health and safety of the residents of the adjacent property at 1158 Byron Baseline Rd. would be protected, as a hydrogeological report has not been provided,” the report added.

As for the provincial appeal application, Birani’s building application was made in October 2017 but no action was taken on it for more than 120 days. An appeal to what was then the OMB was filed in March 2018. A hearing has been scheduled for the end of October.

Since the application, the OMB has been replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The half-hectare site, on the south side of Byron Baseline Road, west of North Street and Colonel Talbot Road is currently vacant as four single-detached homes were torn down.

“We often try to work toward reaching a resolution position but the committee wants the recommendations in the staff report upheld,” said Michelle Knieriem, a city hall planner.

Neighbourhood concerns with the development include landscaping, location of garbage, traffic flow, privacy and keeping trees on the site.

Five neighbours wrote letters to council’s planning committee, all opposing the project.

“A 15-metre building (four storeys) is too tall and will not fit in with the surrounding single- and two-storey homes in this area,” stated a letter from Keith and Jan White, on October Crescent.

“The proposed building’s setback is too far forward and it will be positioned right at the sidewalk on Byron Baseline Road.”

Neighbours also expressed concern the project will increase traffic and may pose a safety risk.

“The large size and scale of the project is totally out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood of single-family homes. We feel the resulting look obtained will make it appear as if a huge block of concrete has been dropped in to fill up the space, lacking any character as with one and two homes in the area,” stated another letter from Tom and Ronda Wolf, on Lansing Avenue.

The city report concludes, “this residential intensification has not been demonstrated to fit with the surrounding neighbourhood and has not demonstrated that it would protect the health and safety of residents.”

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