Posted by: HamptonIona | December 5, 2012

Ashcroft Convent Update: Site plan, traffic, Shannon, OMB and Communications

Ashcroft has recently submitted re-designed site plans for the south half of the convent property.

There are several changes that have been proposed that will significantly increase the impacts on the neighbourhood and reverse previous commitments made by Ashcroft. As these changes are being made as part of the site plan process and Councillor Hobbs has so far indicated that she is not prepared to lift delegated authority, these changes can be approved by staff without any recourse to the Planning Committee or Council or public discussion. As well, the public is not in a position to challenge any approvals at the OMB. Only Ashcroft can appeal to the OMB if they are turned down.

The following requests made by Ashcroft are currently being considered as part of the site plan:

a. Increased Traffic on Shannon – The parking garage for the condo building south of the convent was supposed to enter and exit through Richmond Road. Based on Ashcroft’s original submission, only the seniors buildings (65 parking spots) were to have exited through the south side of the property. Ashcroft is now planning to connect the south condo building which will now result in 260 spots exiting/entering through the south instead of 65 spots. The majority of these spots will be attached to condominium units which will result in not only more cars using a south access route but significantly different traffic patterns than 65 spots devoted to a senior’s building.

When Council approved the development in 2010, they were told that only the seniors building would be using the southern access as well as visitors and staff for the senior’s building. While Ashcroft could not confirm previously as to whether the condo building underground parking would be blocked from using the southern access by an actual wall or whether separation would be merely controlled by electronic pass, we were told that the condo south of the convent would not exit through the south. According to the City, Ashcroft has supposedly claimed that the cost of connecting the southern convent parking to the Richmond Road exit was too expensive due to structural concerns with the convent building. Ashcroft supposedly told the City that the cost of the linking the south condo parking garage to Richmond Road might result in Ashcroft not having the funds to restore the convent building.

To date, it should be noted, that Ashcroft has yet to commit to any actual use for the convent building and they are in fact ultimately under no obligation to do so. They are only prohibited from tearing down the convent due to its heritage designation. As well, when we were asked to review Phase One of the Site Plan, the community association raised concerns that Phase One did not show any linkage between the Richmond Road access and the southerly convent building. At the time, we were told by staff that we shouldn’t worry as this would be resolved in Phase 2 and that it was not an issue.

b. Increased Traffic on Leighton Terrace – The Community was previously advised that while there was to be an exit onto Leighton Terrace that this exit was only going to be used for emergency vehicles. Ashcroft is now seeking approval for all visitor and commercial parking for the condominium buildings to go through Leighton Terrace instead of Richmond Road.

The site plans do not show as to how Leighton will be reconfigured to minimize impacts on the street or how those modifications, if any, could affect the existing residents of the street.

When the development was approved in 2010, Council approved all traffic (except for the senior’s buildings) going through Richmond Road. Is putting increased traffic onto residential streets, the City’s solution to excess traffic on Richmond Road?

c. Traffic Study – There has been no revised traffic study for the project submitted with the site plan that would examine the impact of these proposed changes or propose mitigation.

d. Shannon Street Widening – The Site plan submitted by Ashcroft shows that Shannon Street would be widened to 8.5 metres (approximately 28 ft wide) with a sidewalk running alongside. This is counter to what we have been told by the City is their plans for Shannon. Subsequent to the issuance of the site plan, however, Doug James has advised that the site plan only shows Ashcroft’s initial concept. Through the Site Plan process Ashcroft will also be required to undertake a road modification agreement for Shannon Street. James advises that it is anticipated that the actual asphalt width of Shannon Street will be more like 6.7 metres (approximately 22 feet) wide. According to an email from Doug James, the idea is to relocate the overhead wires to the north and move the road as close to the row of trees in the park as possible, without needing to remove them, then having the asphalt go north only as far as need be. Hopefully this will leave a lot of green space and cause as minimal impact on the homes along Shannon as possible. If need be, the trees in the park would be removed and the road moved even further south, but we will see what it will look like first on paper, without removing the trees. There is not intended to be a sidewalk, however there would be a curb on the north side and perhaps something different, like a thin strip of decorative pavers, along the south. None of this is finalized as of yet and still has to be determined.

e. Is Ashcroft Planning for the OMB? – Ashcroft had put in an application for a rezoning in late-June. In that application, Ashcroft indicated that if they did not get approval to go through the Byron Linear Park, the economics of the senior’s complex would be negatively impacted (as they would have to change building configurations) and that they would need to change the height of their 4 storey buildings to 5 stories. This goes against the terms of our Minutes of Settlement as Ashcroft was not proposing to lower the 9 storey component of their senior’s facility to 7 stories as agreed to by Ashcroft.

We were told a previously by Doug James, Councillor Hobb’s office, and Ashcroft that Ashcroft were not planning to increase the four storey buildings to 5 stories. The City could not give us a clear answer, however, as to whether Ashcroft had formally withdrawn that request. The Community Association had to spend weeks chasing down Ashcroft for them to advise us of their actual plans. They claimed that they were not seeking 5 stories, but it appears that they have never withdrawn that request. While the latest site plans show the senior’s building along Byron Avenue still at 4 stories, Doug James has advised that Ashcroft has not yet withdrawn their application to go to 5 stories. Since the City considers this earlier request as no longer being actively pursued by Ashcroft, they are not considering it at this time. Nevertheless, as Ashcroft has not officially withdrawn this proposal, it may be possible that Ashcroft will appeal to the OMB directly if their request is not reviewed by the City within 180 days. Ashcroft could possibly appeal to the OMB and bypass the City entirely based on the City not reviewing the request within the prescribed time. When Ashcroft was originally seeking approval for their development in 2010, they had originally proposed 12 stories along Richmond Road. Even though they agreed to the 9 stories proposed by the City, Ashcroft ultimately appealed to the OMB for 12 stories as they had not officially withdrawn their application for 12 stories.

Professional Planner Engagement and Review

Given these significant changes to the originally proposed and approved development and the fact that they are being considered as part of the site plan, where there is limited public discussion, Hampton Iona Community Group has engaged the services of a professional planner, Dennis Jacobs to review the application. Mr. Jacobs is the planner who worked with the community on the proposed Roosevelt development. We are seeking to determine if these changes can be approved through the site plan or whether they should be doing back to Planning Committee.

Ongoing Communications during Construction Period

On another related matter, we understand that the Soeur de la Visitation will be under construction for 4-5 years. There have been numerous impacts from the construction on the community from on-street parking to garbage on the roads to noise from blasting and last-minute surprise construction roads through public parks. We have requested to both the City and Ashcroft that as a good neighbour, Ashcroft should be having regular meetings with the neighbourhood to keep us advised of the ongoing construction schedule and to get feedback from the community as to the issues that we face.

To date these requests have largely been ignored.

If you think that regular communications from Ashcroft and the City would be useful, we would encourage you to contact Paul Rothwell (prothwell@ashcroft-homes.com) and David Choo (dchoo@ashcroft-homes.com) or our Councillor’s office.

 

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Responses

  1. Is it time for a protest rally, outside the Ashcroft sales office at 101 Richmond Rd?


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