Neighbours of a property on the north side of Johnson Street made it clear during Monday’s public planning committee that they strongly oppose a second dwelling on a single lot, an unusual configuration which they feel will set a precedent in the Old Town’s heritage district.
The property has an 1890 heritage house on it which is currently used as a cottage rental, and the owner, David Jones, is applying for rezoning to allow the garage to become a second dwelling.
He told councillors his plan is to eventually sell the property, which abuts the garden of 124 On Queen Hotel and Spa, the hotel that fronts on Queen Street, which Jones also owns.
Neighbours are also concerned about the small driveway which would be required to service two separate dwellings, should the application be approved, and the lack of amenity space, which they are assuming would spill over onto the hotel property.
They also question the intended future of the two buildings.
At least two home owners on Johnson Street told councillors if the second dwelling on one property is approved, they would apply for the same right on their property — even if they don’t follow through, it would make their property more valuable in the future, one resident warned.
Town staff have said provincial policies encourage growth and infilling, with a mix of housing options, including additional secondary uses.
One of the points made in support of the application by heritage planner Denise Horne is that because the exterior of the garage building wouldn’t be altered, the zoning change would only affect land use, and there would be no negative impact to the heritage district.
But residents living nearby disagreed, saying adding another dwelling on the property, and similar proposals it is sure to encourage in the future, would certainly impact their neighbourhood.
Scott Langill, one of the neighbours who spoke to the virtual planning committee Monday, called the application, if approved, the beginning of the “slicing and dicing” of one of the best heritage areas in Canada.
He reminded councillors that growth policies are intended to be used when appropriate, and a block from the main street is not the appropriate place.
“It will be a train we won’t be able to stop,” he said, urging council to “stop this train before it rolls over our Old Town.”
There is also some concern that the garage, although not zoned for commercial use, could become a commercial use associated with the hotel.
Jones also owns condo units on Victoria Street. One of the units has been sold, and the others he owns and rents, he said. He also owns a house on Gate Street, which he says he has no plans for at this time.
When asked by Coun. Allan Bisback whether he has plans to bring 129 Johnson into the hotel complex and rent them through the hotel, Jones said he plans to rent them by the month, not as part of the hotel, but that he anticipates selling the property.
However, residents pointed out his plans have frequently changed from his original intentions for the hotel complex.
Johnson Street resident Andrew Taylor reminded councillors that when neighbours supported the hotel project, they were told “there would be a lovely park,” but over time it has been degraded, with no provision for trees, a commercial property has been moved into the park with two hotel rooms, and a wedding venue is planned.
“How do we trust you, Mr. Jones?” he asked, when promises that were made in the past are not materializing.
Brodie Townley told councillors they were elected to be stewards of the heritage district, and to provide leadership in heritage preservation. “We’re looking to you for that now.”
If the application is approved, he said, “this will open up a can of worms that other developers and residents will feast on.”
Monday’s virtual public meeting was an opportunity for residents to have their say about the rezoning application before a decision is made. Information from the meeting is intended to inform a staff report and recommendation to council.