On November 8th 2021, I presented to Stratford City Council in opposition to the proposed zoning bylaw amendment and official plan amendment for 370-396 Ontario Street. The presentation begins at 27:10 and concludes at 30:55.
'You cannot ruin a neighbourhood by adding neighbours': Stratford council backs townhouse plan
This article was originally published on CTV News Kitchener on November 9th, 2021.
STRATFORD -A controversial development near Stratford’s downtown is a step closer to reality. On Monday, council voted 7-4 to amend its Official Plan and redesignate land encompassing properties at 380, 388, 390 and 396 Ontario Street to allow for two, three-and-a-half storey, stacked townhomes to be built. “You cannot ruin a neighbourhood by adding neighbours and so, we have to start to sort of think about – we’re talking about adding homes,” said city Coun. Kathy Vassilakos, in response to what she sees as heated rhetoric from those opposed to the plan. The project would add 30 units and 47 parking spaces as currently proposed. However, residents voiced concerns the designs would not be in keeping with the heritage corridor into the city and would harm the character of the neighbourhood.
Hayden Bulbrook, a delegate to council speaking against the proposed development, said his career has brought him to London, but he hopes to return to his hometown of Stratford in the future. Bulbrook also echoed a concern of other delegates that a change to the Official Plan to allow for the project could set a dangerous precedent.
“To come back won’t be coming back at all if Stratford just becomes another city when Stratford is no longer Stratford,” said Bulbrook. “Perhaps I sound dramatic but, this development will have tremendous impacts; impacts that may alter the fabric of our fine city.”
Administration assured council, in its view, the decision to amend the Official Plan is not precedent-setting. City staff recommended the proposal because it met a number of planning goals – including intensification and housing targets.
“The proposed 30 units will result in adding diversity in the existing housing stock in the area and bring new units to market during a housing crisis,” said Emily Elliott, an agent for the applicant behind the development. The group, SOS Stratford, organized to oppose the project as proposed and offered an alternative design of three quadruplexes as a compromise.
“Ultimately, the difference between our proposal and the developer’s proposal is something between six and 12 residential units,” said Gary Annandale, a delegate to council opposed to the proposal. “Are you really willing to radically change this area and upset a great many people across Stratford, and further afield, for a small number of additional residential units?”
Council unanimously approved bringing the site plan for the project before a future public meeting of council for final approval. The site plan offers detailed designs of the future building and does not typically require council intervention.
Residents group meeting virtually about proposed Ontario Street development
This article was originally published on the Stratford Beacon Herald on May 18th, 2021.
A group of residents in Stratford concerned about plans for a high-density residential development on Ontario Street will meet online Wednesday as they try to bring more awareness to a project they believe is flying under the radar due to the pandemic.
Hayden Bulbrook, an executive member of Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Stratford-Perth County and one of the meeting’s organizers, said about 50 people have been invited to take part.
“We’re going to (talk about) where the development is at right now, the problems that we see with it and our call to action to … find a strategy that is sympathetic and favourable to the neighbourhood,” he said.
The development is being proposed for 370-396 Ontario St., part of a heritage corridor near downtown Stratford that includes several homes and the former Golden Bamboo restaurant.
Southwestern Ontario planning consultants MHBC, on behalf of real estate developers Chancery Developments, have applied for amendments to the city’s official plan and zoning bylaws needed to move the project forward.
According to a council report from January, that section of Ontario Street is currently designated for low- and medium-density uses, but the official plan amendment, if approved, would increase the allowable density in the area from 65 units per hectare to 100 units per hectare. It would also increase the neighbourhood’s maximum building height from three storeys to six storeys.
The requested zoning bylaw amendment, meanwhile, would rezone the lands from mixed-use residential and neighbourhood commercial to a site-specific residential density that allows apartment dwellings, nursing homes, seniors apartment dwellings and retirement homes.
Neighbours first raised concerns at a public meeting earlier this year . They’re worried about the development’s fit in the neighbourhood – its height and impact on shadows, traffic, and parking, among other concerns – and the potential precedents the amendments will set for other developers interested in building along Ontario Street in the future.
“The biggest issue here is how it comes down to planning in the city,” Bulbrook said. Those amendments “are two very huge actions to take that alter what we have in mind as the city’s vision,” he added. “As a group we are not opposed to development infill or intensification, but we want intensification that is appropriate to the structure and character of the immediate surrounding residential area.”
MHBC hosted a followup neighbourhood meeting in April. According to documents from that meeting , the developer responded to concerns by reducing the number of units in the proposed building from 36 to 34, removing a two-storey element facing Trow Avenue in favour of an outdoor amenity, and increasing landscaping and buffering opportunities behind the proposed building, among other changes.
The tallest point of the structure will be four storeys, according to the revised plans. The project assists the city in achieving intensification and housing mix targets, the report said.
Emily Elliott, an associate at MHBC, said Monday the proposed development’s units will be made available at market rate.
The latest plans have not yet been submitted to the city. Elliott said that is expected to happen this month.
“The materials presented at the (April) neighbourhood meeting, together with the resubmission of the application, will respond to feedback received through the public consultation process,” she said.
In the meantime, Bulbrook said concerned residents are hoping to engage more of the community they believe may not have had an opportunity to consider the impact of the project since public meetings have been taking place during the pandemic.
“That’s another thing that’s kind of frustrating right now,” Bulbrook said. “These (meetings) have happened during two lockdowns or near lockdown times so that’s made it very hard for the public to be aware and active.” The group is reachable by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hayden Bulbrook outlines the history of heritage houses (now under threat of demolition) along Stratford, Ontario heritage corridor
This article was originally published on the Tri-University History Graduate Program news bulletin on September 8th, 2020.
Recently, Hayden Bulbrook, a Tri-U History University of Waterloo MA Student, was featured in his local newspaper, the Stratford Beacon-Herald. The article explains his creative response to the limitations brought about by the pandemic. Hayden's research for his Major Research Project (MRP) changed dramatically since he could no longer travel to Europe. The article reports that for a break he created an Instagram account (@stratfordhistory) where he posted images found in online archives of local 20th century sites. The Instagram account now has 800 followers. Hayden reports that about 100 additional people joined after reading the article. "Taking that idea a step further, Bulbrook decided to use the momentum of his Instagram account to begin a fundraiser for Gallery Stratford," the article adds. Hayden plans to defend his MRP at the end of September 2020. He hopes to work in the area of urban planning or heritage conservation. "Hayden's fascinating project highlights the resiliency and creativity of our history students during this global pandemic," says Susan Roy, the Associate Chair (Graduate) of the History program at Waterloo.