Neighbours take issue with latest subdivision plan for Elmira
Southwood 4 project in the southwest part of town would feature increased densities, raising concerns from parking to appropriateness
WHAT THE DEVELOPER CALLS benefits in proposing a new subdivision in Elmira, existing residents see as nothing but problems for their neighbourhood.
Inappropriate land use, densities, traffic and parking headed a long list of concerns aired at a public meeting at Woolwich council Monday night to discuss the Southwood 4 project. Proposed for some 70 acres of land fronting on 1143 Listowel Rd. in the south end, it would essentially form a link between Whippoorwill Drive and Listowel Road.
The Birdland Developments plan proposes 444 to 513 new residential units – a mix of singles (176 to 194 houses), semis (50), townhouses (68 to 94 units) and apartments (150 to 175) – that would be home to an estimated 1,165 to 1,300 people.
Having that many people shoehorned into an area that already has traffic and parking problems will create more issues, residents maintained. They also raised fears about the incompatibility of denser housing proposed to be wedged into a triangular space along the west end of Whippoorwill Drive, adjacent to single-family homes on larger lots.
“It doesn’t seem to go with our neighbourhood,” said Candace MacKenzie, airing common concerns about density and traffic.
She questioned why it was all of the higher density homes – apartments and townhouses – were pro-
posed for one spot, rather than being spread throughout the subdivision.
Also a concern, she noted, is parking. Already a problem, the minimal extra parking proposed for the denser units, and indeed the entire project, is likely to be insufficient by a wide margin, even if it meets planning requirements.
“If we keep doing the basic minimum, what’s our neighbourhood going to turn into?” asked MacKenzie.
As proposed, the apartment blocks – three fourstorey buildings of 55 units each – would not fit into the neighbourhood, having an adverse effect on property values, suggested neighbour Steve Racey.
He, too, expressed concerns about traffic, which he said is already a problem on Whippoorwill and Barnswallow drives.
“It is becoming a freeway,” he said. “We need stop signs. We need some kind of traffic control to calm the traffic.”
A planner representing the developer, however, said the project represents “good planning” for a “complete neighbourhood” that makes good use of land that includes natural features such as a woodlot and trails.
“We believe there are a lot of benefits to this plan,” said Douglas Stewart of the IBI Group.
Additional residents will provide more customers for retail stores and other services in town, offering a wider diversity of housing and densities, he suggested, noting the project is the work of a local developer who works with local builders.
Addressing the apartment blocks, Stewart noted provincial rules set out minimum densities that are higher than in the past. New guidelines mean developments must provide minimum residential density of 45 people and jobs per hectare. This plan provides for a density of 45 to 51, he said.
Apartments are required to meet provincial rules, it’s just a matter of where they’re situated, he added.
The current proposed location is Whippoorwill Drive because it’s an arterial road and the lot will be at the intersection of a new collector road, Stewart explained, adding the location was chosen for “good planning reasons.”
Residents remained unconvinced, however.
Mockingbird Drive resident Ben Hoogendoorn set out a long list of concerns, including questions about parking, lighting and snow removal. As with his neighbours, he noted traffic is “already terrible” and only going to get worse with growth.
As there’s no plan for dealing with the current traffic issues, there should be no new building until that problem is rectified, he argued.
Monday night’s meeting was for information purposes only, however, so many of the public’s questions went unanswered at this point, though they will be addressed in the eventual report from planning staff. Likewise, councillors didn’t weigh in on the matter in any robust way.
Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley noted staff would be taking some time to review submissions, including ordering peer reviews of the applicants’ studies, before coming back to council with a recommendation about the proposed subdivision.
A map shows the area slated for development, an area in the southwest of Elmira between Whippoorwill Drive and Listowel Road.