Controversial development site entrance


Homeowners in Port Stanley are raising objections to a ‘draft plan of condominium’ that proposes rezoning property on the edge of the woodlands and ravine at the west end of Hill Street to permit construction of 27 townhouses.

Opponents to the application by Morgan, John and Ada Pavia, at 279 Hill Street, are demanding Central Elgin at least postpone the proposed November 14, 2022 public meeting to give the new Council more time to get its bearing on the issue. Area residents are also calling for a face-to-face meeting with their newly elected representatives, rather than the proposed Zoom online meeting.

“I have had numerous conversations with people on council, planning department, conservation authority and am waiting for a return call from (Rob Flack, the Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament for Elgin – Middlesex – London),” said Rich Gruener, whose residence backs onto the site. “With the legislation that is apparently coming down from the Provincial government, it’s not looking like we have many options.”

Premier Doug Ford’s Provincial government has tabled new measures to speed up development and intensification based on the Housing and Affordability Task Force Report that recommends building 1.5 million homes across Ontario over the next 10 years.

“They ‘may’ postpone the meeting until the new council is in place, but it seems that is just delaying the inevitable,” added Gruener. “I am still trying to convince council for an in-person public meeting. The more people that can call (and) email the better.

The timing of the public meeting raised some questions in the neighbourhood.

Paul Shipway, Central Elgin’s Chief Administrative Officer and Clerk confirmed the public meeting is scheduled virtually for November 14, 2022.

“The purpose of the meeting is to provide the opportunity for persons to make written or verbal representation either in support of, or in opposition to the proposed planning applications,” said Shipway. “The meeting will be conducted by the 2018-2022 term of Council.

“The consideration of bylaws to implement the planning applications would occur at a later date under the 2022-2026 term of Council,” he added. New council members are scheduled to take their oaths of office on December 5, 2022.

“I am encouraging everyone in the neighbourhood to continue writing (and) calling (Central Elgin) with our disapproval of this development and also the process in pushing it through,” he said. “There are many discrepancies in the reports that I am going to highlight in a follow up email to council and then my presentation at the Nov. 14 meeting.”

The Pavia’s existing single-family dwelling is on a rectangular two-acre parcel of land on the north side of Hill Street, just west of Beamish Street. Redevelopment plans propose 27 two-storey townhouses in three-and-four-unit blocks.

The site is already zoned for residential purposes in the Central Elgin Official Plan, however, changes are required to facilitate the intensification of development. The west boundary of the site runs along property that is designated as Natural Heritage land. The nearby ravine is zoned Natural Hazard land.

“Through consultation with the (Kettle Creek) Conservation Authority, any impacts to the wooded area will be compensated for,” according to a May 2022 Planning Justification Report prepared for the landowners by planning consultants Zelinka Priamo, of London. “The subject lands are designated for residential development and it is not anticipated that any impacts to the wooded area will have lasting negative effects.”

Neighbours of the redevelopment site, having recently rebounded from inconveniences caused by construction of a new subdivision at Hill and East Road, fear more disruptions are imminent.

They say they bought their homes believing the density on the site would not change and that its natural setting would be preserved. Now, a portion of the ravine may be filled in and some of the trees removed to accommodate construction.

The residents also fear some costs associated with construction may be passed on to taxpayers. For example, the proposed development is at a bend in the road where a village street built to Provincial standards narrows to accommodate a shared laneway for several homes further west of the site. Besides redesigning the streetscape, they say storm sewers, water services and drainage will also need upgrades.

“There’s just so much of this that doesn’t make sense,” said John Johnstone, who lives next door to the Pavias. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added, fearing that “nickel and diming” of the Natural Heritage designation is likely to lead to more impacts on nature and tax bills.

John Pavia, who has lived on the property for 15 years, said the proposed development is a natural extension of the subdivision to the east, fronting on Beamish Street. An aerial photograph (shown below) demonstrates this, he added. Pavia said he is not accountable for whatever real estate agents may have said – or failed to say – to people who bought houses on the perimeter of the development site. He believes the redevelopment will not be a burden to taxpayers.

“There’s a housing crisis in Ontario,” said John’s son Morgan Pavia, a home builder in Grand Bend. The Government of Ontario is actively encouraging intensification, he added, with a full range of housing types and densities to meet demographic and market requirements.

Morgan Pavia said the family has not decided on a developer to follow through on the plans, although he may assume the role himself.

“I understand (the neighbourhood’s) concerns, but it is very commonplace to see these two types of housing beside each other,” said Morgan. “It’s all well within the boundaries of what’s permitted. We’ve done everything we could to make it better suited.”

Aerial photograph of the lands in question.