The seniors rental housing project that’s been proposed for the lot at 201/203 Dogwood Drive was the subject of lengthy discussion around the virtual council table at the October 6 Council meeting.
Frank and Mike Crucil, who are the developers behind the project, originally pitched the idea of a six storey building on the lot. However, after discussion with community members and Town staff, they have decided to lower the building proposal to five storeys. There is also a possibility that the building could be lowered further to four storeys; however, any further lowering will increase the overall footprint of the building.
At five storeys, the building would feature 25 units of multi-family resident housing with potential for local commercial uses on the first storey. The developers have proposed a terraced building. They will provide detailed design drawings on view corridors, as well as design controls related to height, scale, form, and massing.
“We believe a five storey building will be a much better fit for this site, it’ll have a lesser impact on view corridors, and it will be aesthetically pleasing,” said Toby Seward, who is representing the developers.
In discussing the project, Council expressed a variety of concerns, and areas that they felt needed further investigation.
“I have an extremely long list. This is by far the longest list I’ve ever put together for a development application. I think that’s because of the mass and scale of change that’s being requested here,” Mayor Aaron Stone said.
“Even with staff recommendations, it’s a floor space ratio, and a mass and density that’s beyond anything we’ve ever considered in Ladysmith. That being said, I’m also very excited about the prospects for the site, redevelopment, and remediation.”
Stone said that the design of the building will be ‘critical’. Developers have proposed a design that is four storeys, with a fifth storey setback. Mass in a four storey option would be significantly larger than the fifth storey option. Stone wants to see a building design before moving forward with rezoning for the project.
Stone was also unsatisfied with the traffic impact study that the developers conducted. The traffic impact study concluded that there would be no traffic impacts over a 20 year period.
“A Wednesday in the middle of a pandemic does not accurately represent a broad cross-section of traffic movements at that corner. It is well recognized as being a blind corner, and we do have a significant amount of concern around the existing crosswalk, which is quite far from that building,” he said.
Another concern was the ultimate cost of remediation for historical contamination at the site. Studies have shown that hydrocarbon contaminants are present in the soil from the former business, Dalby’s Automotive, that operated on the site.
“I want to see a clear indication of what the costs would be, not just saying that it’ll be expensive. We know that – how expensive,” Councillor Marsh Stevens said. “The crux issue for me on contamination is the extent.”
The developers have said they plan to remediate the contamination by digging underground parking. Seward said that the actual cost of remediation work won’t be known until contamination studies are completed.
“The goal is to dig out the first three metres of the soil and take away the contamination source,” Seward said. “[Contamination] has migrated slightly into the neighbours’ property in a couple cases, but we have found out the extent of the migration and it’s not that far into their properties.”
Terra West Environmental has been hired to conduct testing of the site. Testing will continue to take place over the winter months, as the water levels and vapour testing must be conducted over one year to gain accurate results.
“The contamination strategy is not fully completed yet, because we have to do this testing over the winter. Hence, the costs are not known. We would just be putting out guesses of what the cost would be until our environmental consultant advises us of the final study. Unfortuantely we’re just not there on cost,” Seward said.
The remediation plan must meet Ministry of Environment standards before any construction can begin on the site.
Councillor Trisha McKay said she wanted to see a design option for a four storey building on the site, while Councillor Rob Johnson said he was disappointed that the building was going down from six storeys, since the reduction sacrifices five units of rental housing.
Both McKay and Johnson voted against the motion for the project to undergo further consultation with the five storey design option; however, the motion carried with votes in favour from the remainder of council.
No approvals to begin work on the project were given, nor was there any rezoning or OCP amendments voted on at the October 6 meeting of council.