A huge turnout of local citizens at Monday night’s council meeting. Manitou Park residents comprised much of the large contingent, with some sharing their concerns about city staff’s proposed re-zoning of the former Manitou Park elementary school grounds to make way for a housing development. Most left council chambers unhappy as the re-zoning got unanimous approval.
A mixed housing development on the five-and-a-half acre site of the former Manitou Park Public School was approved at Monday night’s city council meeting and the unanimous vote in-favor drew disgruntled comments and some shouting from a few Manitou Park residents clearly disappointed in the outcome.
The project, from Manitou Developments Inc., is to be built in three phases and will feature semi-detached homes and townhouses. Two three-story apartment buildings are also in the plan. The proposed structures – two 10-unit buildings – drew the most objection from park residents. The apartments are on hold pending the resolution of some technical issues. In total, the development would create 49 units.
New housing would front along Manitou Dr., Amy Ave and Greene St. Derek Armstrong, a Manitou Park resident for over 14 years, said the city has a number of housing projects underway, including the 107-unit tower on Great Northern Northern Rd at the former Legion site, and that the densification of Manitou Park isn’t necessary.
The Anna St. resident, disputed the city’s claim that the Sault has a shortage of housing and says the proposed apartment units will have “no impact” on homelessness in the city.
He called for a more modest plan, of single homes, semis and townhouses more in keeping with the character of the park.
“The community does not want an apartment building, period,” said Armstrong.”We’re not saying ‘not in my backyard,’ he continued, “We’re saying don’t change my back yard.”
Carol Martin said she and her parents were initially against the development but welcome the holding provision as over-densifying of the park and increased traffic is their biggest concern.
She noted developers have recommended a four-way stop at the intersection of Adeline, McNabb and Frontenac streets. “I’d like to see that sooner rather than later,” said Martin. “Having grown up there, I can tell you it’s extremely problematic.”
Doug Harvey, an Anna St. resident, pointed to increased traffic and a lack of sidewalks as a main concern, with and children and families walking on the streets in winter. He also told council he’s concerned about possible sewage backups and said the city has “lots of other land” for housing development.
When asked if sidewalks would be added eventually. Planning Director Peter Tonazzo said sidewalks are planned for the entirety of Manitou Dr. and Anna St.
“Semis, townhouses…would be fine in the neighbourhood,” offered Harvey. “I think most people would welcome them. Apartment buildings are the big question mark. Sewage? I just got my renewal from my insurance company and they will not insure sewage backup. That means if there are any sewage backups it’s going to be at our expense to clean it up and re-finish our basements. City council going to reimburse us, help us? I doubt it. So I’m leery about the services put in 60 years ago can handle this added load.”
Harvey said he’s also concerned property values in the east-end neighbourhood may not appreciate at the rate they might have without any new development. He vowed to do his own statistical analysis of the development’s impact on property values.
Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen said she’d support the project because the city is trying to
grow and newcomers need a place to live. “I’m in support of this project,” Vezeau-Allen told council, via Zoom. “We do need housing. We are really strong at recruiting and wanting to bring newcomers into our community. If we want to grow our community we have to grow our housing inventory.”
Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker said the city’s population is forecast to grow by roughly ten
per cent, to 83,000 by 2036. To accommodate the growth, the Sault needs about 4,000 new homes. The Mayor said about 500 units are under development but it’s not enough. Shoemaker said there have been a number of former-school grounds successfully re-developed in recent years, including at the sites of the former St. Ann and St. Theresa schools. “All have fit beautifully into the neighbourhood as re-developed, re-imagined, spaces,” said the Mayor.
New units, said Shoemaker, help sell the city to newcomers. We’ll have (about 50) new taxpayers if this development goes forward,” adding that new units will also help students at Sault College and Algoma University in their search for housing. “That doesn’t mean that they will find these units specifically, but there’s a domino effect with any of these new developments that benefits our community as a whole.”
Council proceeded to back the proposal unanimously. The result set off a period of some disruption as a few Manitou Park residents, clearly disappointed with the approval, made a somewhat noisy exit.
That prompted the Mayor to say to one gentleman, “Sir, sir, sir…we have council business to attend to, if you could please remove yourself. We’ve got continuing council business to attend to, please do not interrupt that.”
The first phase of the project will see housing constructed on Greene St. followed by Amy Street construction in year two. The entire project is expected to be completed within seven years.