'Tower of spite' rejected
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Councillors are in no hurry to add a fourth unit to the so-called “towers of spite,” particularly after the developer looking to build it accused the city’s planning department of discriminating against students.
During the Planning and Environment Committee meeting on Monday (May 28), councillors heard an application by KAP Holdings Inc. relating to the property located at 186-188 Huron Street and 2 Audrey Ave.
The public site plan being applied for would lead to construction of another building the same as the single family, three-storey, five bedroom homes that were built in 2007. Those same homes are the ones that committee members called everything from ugly to disgusting.
The committee, after over an hour of discussion, voted to have the proposal sent back to staff to see if the developer and the planning department could come up with a plan that better suited the desires of the community.
Prior to the public participation component of the discussion, Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson was asking — rather bluntly — if a better design could be brought forward.
“If you look at the picture of those buildings ... that is terrible architecture in my mind,” Henderson said. “A square box? Can’t we get some architect to do something to make it look better? This is going to kill the whole neighbourhood.”
Several members of the community came forward in agreement with Henderson’s assessment, asking for — at the very least — additional landscaping to help ease the harshness of the design between the proposed home, three existing units and the rest of the neighbourhood.
Property owner Aaron Kaplansky grew quickly indignant to attacks on his development, even going so far as to suggest the city’s planning department of actively working against his project.
“The neighbourhood association is using the planning department in this city, for the past 20 years, to discriminate against student housing,” Kaplansky said. “The planning department is working for the neighbourhood association and not working for the city as a whole.”
Committee chair and Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill quickly interrupted Kaplansky to defend the planning department.
“The planning department of this city works for the public, they work for the city, not for any community association,” said Polhill, who spoke over Kaplansky to finish his point. “I am not going to argue with you, but they work for all the people in this council chamber and all the people in this city.”
While Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant also agreed with members of the public that landscaping would be the least of what might be done to mitigate the situation, Mayor Joe Fontana went much further. In fact, Fontana said the community deserves better than what was being presented through the site plan.
“That (plan) is totally unacceptable. Mr. Kaplansky is capable of doing a lot more. I think the neighbourhood, their expectations are a heck of a lot more than this,” Fontana said. “That (design) is disgusting. How it got passed back in 2009 . . . had I been here, I would have said thanks, but no thanks.”
John Fleming, director of planning, said the biggest problem with the project was that Kaplansky’s designs for a higher density developed were much better than what was ultimately constructed.
“We are confusing the notion of intensity of use and urban design. The urban design component in some of his earlier proposals were excellent, at least from a staff point of view,” Fleming said. “However, the intensity of use that was being proposed was not appropriate in our view. I want to make sure it is clear there are two different issues at hand.”
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