Condo Proposal Changed After Residents Express Fury in Mississauga

 

A controversial condo proposal has changed following a series of contentious meetings in Mississauga.

But it hasn't changed too much.

Back in February, a group of residents came forward to protest the possible construction a "too tall" condominium development in Port Credit.

The condo (depicted in its original form in the cover photo), which has been proposed by the FRAM Building Group, was originally slated to feature 10-storeys, 34 units and one level of underground parking. If approved, the condo will take shape at 55 Port Street East.

The reaction to the application from some residents was swift, as the developer was asking for an exception to the zoning bylaw to permit a 10-storey structure in an area that, as of now, only permits buildings of six storeys or smaller.

And while it's not yet clear what will happen to the application, it does appear that the developer is willing to compromise by taking away one storey and reducing the podium height on the building.

"Following the public meetings that occurred, the applicant has recently resubmitted a revised proposal to City staff,"  Planning and Building staff said in an email to insauga.com.

"Highlights of the revised proposal include a reduction in overall storeys from 10 to 9, an increased front yard setback to the portion of the apartment building above the front podium and a change in the westerly podium height from 2 to 3 storeys. This information has been circulated to all city departments and is currently under review by staff."

While the new application proposes a smaller building, it's difficult to say whether or not residents—many of whom invoked the "slippery slope" philosophy when arguing against the push to exceed the agreed-upon building height limit—will be appeased by the olive branch.

At a meeting earlier this year, residents took turns speaking out against (and sometimes even in favour of) the proposal.

Resident Dorothy Tomiuk, vice-president of the Town of Port Credit Association (TOPCA) said that while TOPCA has not advised residents on the application in any official capacity, she understands the aversion to the original application.

"There's no doubt the waterfront views for some residents will be compromised or obliterated by the building. Their open sky views will be altered when compared to the building that's on the site now," Tomiuk said at an April meeting.

Another resident, Scott Lightfoot, spoke in favour of the application and asked residents to think about the long-term benefits of a larger residential building.

"It's amazing what's been happening [in Port Credit]. These meetings often have people who are concerned or cautious of change because they're emotionally tied—but I want to provide some support," he said.

"The decisions we make will last for a long time and I know there are concerns about height and its effect on views and sun, that's just one variable. If we look at what's possible with architecture, it could be great and awesome and functional. I'm in favour of narrower and taller. I don't want 30 storeys, but 10 storeys…I think that's something that I can lend my support to."

Another resident, Michael Brooks, spoke out in support of the building in its 10-storey form.

"I have listened to my neighbours and the main theme is the desire to protect our greatest historical asset—views of lake, sky and Port Credit harbour. Any changes made make people nervous and the older you get, the more fear you have," he said.

"I believe development has met our highest expectations. FRAM are neighbours and have asked us to reconsider because they believe they can do better. They offer us something very important—the offer is an opportunity to have another view of the lake and sky from another angle. It's a walkable community, and the drive to maintain views is a worthwhile consideration for any and all proposals. I believe neighbours will benefit."

Others argued that they invested in the affected area of Port Credit because they were told that no nearby building would exceed six storeys in height.

Some residents said the request to allow more height signified the breaking of a crucial promise.

Robert Butt, a local resident, said the development flies in the face of promises made by late Ward 1 councillor Jim Tovey and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion.

"I spoke to Jim Tovey about the area, and he said there will be no construction over six storeys near the Lakeshore. He said Mayor McCallion shared his vision. We made our investment partially on these words. We live down on the lake and we see residents from all districts walking along there on the weekends."

Another resident, Mauro Del Rosso, brought up concerns with shade, wind, the loss of views and sun exposure and increase of traffic congestion. Del Rosso also said he had concerns with the "developer's lack of communication and misinformation."

In response, Frank Giannone, a representative of FRAM, provided details of public meetings, presentations, and hard copies of information that has been shared with the community.

Before Giannone addressed Del Rosso's complaint, Butt seemed to question why the application was being entertained in the first place.  

"Is this the need for tax revenue? More profits? What happened to voter trust? I knew there would be a six-storey [building] and I expected that's what I would have beside my balcony. There's a lack of information. We don't know how it's going to affect our lives, our views, our sunshine and the wind. I'm opposed because it will affect all of these things for me."

But while some residents were passionate about the potential downfalls, others said they trust the developer to make a building that isn't only functional, but attractive and well-suited for the area.

Giannone also said FRAM has learned from previous mistakes and knows how to create buildings that will complement the area.

Since resident feedback has been fulsome (to say the least), it makes sense for FRAM to come back with a scaled-back design—but it's hard to say if residents will accept a nine-storey building when they've been pushing for a six-storey one that conforms to current zoning regulations.

The situation is also complicated in the sense that Port Credit will need more housing as it grows (although a lot of it will no doubt be expensive), and that housing won't be invisible. Views will be obstructed and traffic patterns will change—but that can be (and is) part and parcel of living in a growing city that's actively attempting to urbanize.

It's normal and understandable to mourn one's view or worry that the construction of one tall building will spur the construction of more and more. Lake views are precious, and losing them can be devastating.

But there comes a time when a city's ambitions cannot be denied—and fulsome growth cannot be convincingly argued against—and residents have to make a choice: accept that change is inevitable, continue to wage countless battles or move elsewhere.  

At this time, it's impossible to say what will become of FRAM's plan and if the dispute will make its way to the province in the event the city decides to stick to its current zoning rules, but it's probably safe to say that this situation won't be the last of its kind in Mississauga (or any other growing city for that matter).

Is a potential bylaw exemption a broken promise? Or the natural cost of living in a growing city?

We guess it really depends on who you ask.

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