Town approves former WMS development project | Spare News

Town approves former WMS development project | Spare News

After a long wait, Woodstock City Council cleared the way for developers to convert the former Woodstock Middle School and its grounds into a sprawling apartment complex.

In a special session at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 12, the council unanimously passed a motion to convert the lot at the corner of Elm, Green and Orange streets from institutional to R3, a multi-unit residential development.

The application will allow Belleterre Real Estate Properties and Emmett Properties Group to begin their plans to convert the former school into a 30- to 36-unit apartment building.

The plan also calls for the construction of a 20-unit apartment building on the site of a former outdoor basketball court.

While the council imposed development restrictions to address some issues raised during a public meeting in late October, the city and developer failed to reach agreement on the green space that stretches along Orange Street that neighbors wanted protected.

“There is no safe space,” Mayor Trina Jones said.

However, she noted that development restrictions requiring access to the apartment complex from Green Street could only provide some protection for the green space.

Jones said if townspeople show interest, the council could revisit the green space issue to consider purchasing that portion of the property and dividing it.

Belleterre currently owns the entire property and is under no obligation to maintain the green spaces.

count. Christa MacCartney said she understands the city cannot mandate the protection of the green space in the bylaws, but hopes she can come to an agreement with the developer in the future.

Deputy Mayor Mark Rogers said that with hindsight, he wishes residents had reached out to the council years ago after the school closed to let them know about the importance they place on the green space.

“The city could have gone provincial to acquire the green space,” he said.

Rogers welcomed the project, adding that everyone at the table worked hard to secure a good deal for the developers and the city.

Mayor Jones, who, like Rogers, sat on the council when talks with Belleterre began, agreed that city officials spent a lot of time weighing all issues related to the development.

She said it has enabled a “much needed” project to move forward.

Woodstock’s CAO and director of planning and development, Andrew Garnett, enthusiastically welcomed the council’s decision, saying it provides needed housing, including affordable housing.

At an open house in early October, Blair Martin of Belleterre and Lucky Balakrishnan of Emmett Properties estimated preliminary rental costs, based on information at the time, to be $700-$1,070 for affordable units and $819-$1,485 for monthly rent market units .

Under the state’s affordable housing program, developers can apply to have rental costs equal to a percentage of their units subsidized by the provincial government.

Deputy Mayor Rogers noted ahead of Friday’s special session that the government’s affordable housing program is distinct from low-income housing programs.

While the developers are based in Toronto, Martin is from New Brunswick and has led other significant developments in the province.

Garnett said the developer has built a solid reputation in the province.

“The Belleterre group has done a great job in other communities,” Garnett said.

The rezoning changes will require parking lot grading to ensure stormwater runoff is not increased and appropriate connectivity to the nearest storm sewer.

Parking lots must be paved and curbed before each occupancy.

Garnett said the former school lot is huge, which gives developers little trouble providing ample parking for the 50 or more residential units.

After the statute change, the developer must submit a landscape plan before the city issues a building permit.

Jones said the city couldn’t demand that the developer go ahead with the massive endeavor, but noted the school’s deterioration would continue one way or another. She said Belleterre’s proposal offers the city its best opportunity to salvage a historic building and provide the housing it needs.

During October’s open house, Martin said the developers are considering opening a daycare center on the ground floor of the converted school.

Jones said the city’s zoning change doesn’t address this issue, noting that the developer must meet strict provincial regulations to proceed with its daycare plan.

During October’s open house, Martin acknowledged that repurposing the long-closed school is a massive and expensive undertaking. While asbestos abatement is always difficult, he cited mold as the biggest challenge for the project.

Martin said his company has faced similar projects in the past and has worked with contractors experienced in handling hazardous materials.

During open house, developers said they tentatively hoped to start work in spring 2023, but that was ahead of the three-month delay for the city’s final approval.

Martin’s early estimate suggested a target for late 2024 to complete the school building’s refurbishment, but acknowledged that this could be delayed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *