Evidence is mounting regarding public concern over the large apartment complex proposed to be built on the former site of Kemptville Public School at 215 Rueben Street. During the regularly scheduled Council meeting on December 14, several residents addressed Council with strong and specific concerns about the proposed development. This shows mounting public opposition to the project, since it is rare for large numbers of residents to address Council regarding the same issue. Overall, 10 residents raised their concerns directly to Council on December 15, with many others submitting written concerns which were distributed to all members of Council for review.
Prior to the floor being opened for public commentary, Council heard a presentation from the developer. Mayor Peckford challenged the developer on the assertion of “affordable housing”, arguing that there are different definitions of “affordable”, and that even the lowest cost units of the proposed development would not be affordable to those who truly need subsidized housing in the current housing market. Mayor Peckford also pointed out public concern over the type of tenants these new housing units could attract to a family-oriented area.
One woman who spoke at the meeting had a small child with her. Whether intentional or not, this seemed to be a symbol of the family-oriented characteristics of the neighborhood in which the development is proposed to be built. Many residents’ concerns relate to the inevitable increase in traffic that will come about from the addition of approximately 168 residential units, which, in the case of several of the people who spoke to Council, will be built directly across from their homes.
Another woman who addressed Council placed blame on Council itself, asking how they could have considered such a project, given the number of residents who have stated their opposition to it, either verbally or with written letters. A common theme amongst those who addressed Council was related to traffic and parking availability. The other concerns raised by residents are too many to list exhaustively, but include such wide-ranging issues as rodent control, flooding potential, construction site dangers for local children, and infrastructure concerns relating to the density of units.
A representative of the developer attempted to address the residents’ concerns about which they spoke, though it is unlikely many minds were changed. In addition to concerns about the developer not meeting the Municipality’s requirement for a commitment of 25% affordable housing (the commitment in this case is only for 15%), Mayor Peckford also stressed that it will be important for the Municipality to see more detailed plans. She did, however, point out that there is an urgent need for additional housing locally, suggesting support for the project and, perhaps, a preference for compromise.
The meeting took a brief dramatic turn after the motion for the official plan amendment was passed. At least two audience members could be heard becoming angry and shouting concerns from the back of the room. One firmly stated, “this is a disgrace”, before being asked to stop since the period for public commentary was over. The meeting then proceeded unphased. A spokesperson for the Municipality confirmed that Council has adopted an amendment to the Official Plan to allow for an increase in residential density for the property at 215 Reuben, as well as a Zoning By-law Amendment to rezone the property from Institutional to Residential Fourth Density – Exception – Holding. The Official Plan Amendment requires approval from the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and the developer will be required to go through site plan control, to satisfy the holding zones that were implemented through the Zoning By-law Amendment.