Donald rezoning will alter hamlet: residents 0
Residents of Donald are thrilled the old chemical distribution centre is being renovated, but aren't as enthused about a plan to rezone the property "highway commercial" and erect two storage units behind the historic building.
The proposed changes from owner Jim O'Connor would alter the flavour of the hamlet, they say, and allow a quiet rural neighbourhood to become industrialized.
"It would change the whole atmosphere of the town. We've overcome the stigma of being called 'The Chemical' [after the Standard Chemical Company that closed 65 years ago]. We've really worked hard to have a people-friendly rural community country feel and that would be lost by putting in storage buildings," Bill Ross said.
Bill and Terri Ross own The Little Tart, a sweets and dairy bar on Koshlong Lake Road, steps from the distribution building. Although they won't be able to attend the public meeting about the rezoning of the property, they have sent in a list of concerns to the municipality of Dysart et al. "We believe that establishing one highway commercial zone in our town could lead to other industrial businesses vying to establish themselves here," they write.
"Our concern is also that should the applicant obtain highway commercial zoning he could simply sell the property with the new zoning and we would have no recourse."
Along with the proposed self-storage units, O'Connor has also partnered with Leora Berman, who is heading up a contractors' and green builders co-op to run out of the old distribution building.
The Rosses' letter also lists concerns regarding light pollution, a large unsightly fence and no building specifications.
Bill said while the couple would enjoy a renovated historic building on the road, storage units are another matter.
His neighbour, Wayne Combs, agrees.
"I'm not opposed to development, but we've got to be careful," he said.
"An industrial park is not what we want. If anything, we need a playground for kids."
If rezoning goes through, the Donald chemical property will be labelled a "CH exception," meaning there will be a site plan agreement specifying how changes to the property proceed.
Highway commercial rezoning doesn't necessarily mean an industrial park or even that the property is located on what the layperson calls a highway, town planner Pat Martin said. In fact, there is already a highway commercial zoning on Koshlong Lake Road: The Little Tart.
"They are a CH exception too," Martin said of the shop.
"There are site-specific provisions that apply to their property and there are site-specific provisions that will apply to this property if the bylaw goes through the process successfully."
She said that the title of the zoning change is what scares people, but because there will be a site plan agreement, there will be controls over what O'Connor is allowed to do.
Many of those controls will be discussed at an upcoming public meeting at the municipal office June 7 at 5 p.m.
"You can have highway commercial zones that deal with different types of uses and so you really have to drill down into what the permitted uses are for the actual zone itself. So the proposal that [O'Connor] has . is fairly restricted. It has the self-service storage buildings and it has the retail store that will permit the type of use that [Berman] is anticipating in the building itself," she said.
If the property is sold to someone else, all of the provisions decided by council will remain with the property.
Such provisions include whether vegetation buffers are installed and what type of lighting is used.
O'Connor is open to making changes to his plans to suit the needs of Donald, he said. "We've been working on this for quite a while so . if they want a fence we'll put a fence up. If they don't want a fence, we won't put up a fence. If they don't want the lighting, then fine, we won't put the lighting," he said.
The first priority for the property is to make necessary renovations to the old building, which won't make it though another winter without repairs, O'Connor said.
He wants the property rezoned soon so Berman can continue with her work on the builders' co-op, but said his own plans for storage units may not come to pass for years.
"It might be 10 years before I get around to doing it. The first thing we want to do is try to save the building from falling over," he said.
The public meeting on Monday will allow the Rosses, Combs and anyone else to raise concerns with the property.
The recommendation from the committee then goes to council to be voted on.