Stratford’s loss is developer’s $1.2 million windfall

Council decision threatens historic streetscape

STRATFORD, Ontario, October 27, 2021: On October 25 the City Planning and Heritage Committee opened the opportunity to demolish homes on Ontario Street to make way for blocks of new apartment buildings; the first block targeted for demolition is between Trow Avenue and Queen Streets. The proposed amendment of Stratford’s Official Plan will change the heritage corridor and heritage area from a low-density stable residential area to a high density residential area, and will permit stacked townhouses and apartment buildings of up to 14.5 meters, or four storeys in height, containing mid to upper priced one- and two-bedroom condominiums.

Opposed by councillors Clifford, Gaffney, Ritsma and Sebben, the Official Plan change requested by Chancery Developments was supported by the city planning department. The approval by Councillors Bunting, Vassilakos, Ingram, Burbach, Mathieson, Henderson, and Beatty will increase the land value for the developer from about $2.1 million to an estimated $4.8 million.

Stratford architect Robert Ritz believes the decision threatens this stable neighbourhood: “This is not a NIMBY protest; if this can happen in a heritage area protected by the Official Plan it could happen anywhere in the city.” The neighbourhood group SOS Stratford has proposed a compromise that follows Official Plan policies, triplexing the existing buildings and adding three quadruplexes to create a greater, medium density, 64 unit per hectare, 10m high development, the maximum permitted in a stable residential area by the Official Plan. Combining existing and similarly styled new structures would maintain the neighbourhood’s character, and offer low, mid to upper priced one- and two-bedroom condominiums (see below). This proposal would increase the land value for the developer to an estimated $3.6 million, $1.2 million less than originally projected, but still a healthy profit.

The proposed alternative increases density without sacrificing heritage, causes much less environmental damage, and will not cause rent inflation in the area

At the public meeting seventeen delegations by concerned citizens used passion, reason, logic and excerpts from the Official Plan itself to oppose changing the Official Plan to permit such a development; the only delegate in support of the project was Chancery’s planner. The Official Plan clearly specifies that where intensification of development is proposed in residential areas, it must be compatible in terms of scale, density and design with neighbouring development. It also states that stable residential areas are those in which potential new development or redevelopment is limited. It further states that any intensification will be modest and incremental, not abrupt, to generally maintain the elements of the structure and character of the immediate surrounding residential area. Where Infilling is proposed, the inherent qualities of the area or corridor are to be retained, restored and ideally enhanced.

SOS Stratford is urging concerned citizens and neighbours to reach out to pro-demolition councillors and encourage them to review their decision. It takes only two councillors to change their votes for the motion to be defeated at the next Council meeting on Monday, November 8.

If the members of Council and the citizens they represent do not work together, the streets of Stratford as we know them today and have known them for the last 100 years, will change forever.