A virtual open house last week couldn’t match the intensity of an oft-discussed community centre meeting that filled the auditorium in 2018 to discuss Benny Marotta’s John Street East development proposal, but the sentiments expressed were similar in opposition to his current subdivision proposal.
Both meetings showed strong objections to two large developments proposed by companies owned by Marotta. It was at that first meeting in 2018, intended as an opportunity for the public to speak out about a proposal to turn the historic Randwood Estate on John Street East into a hotel and conference centre, that the public heard about a subdivision to be built next door to it.
That was the topic of last week’s virtual meeting, the first opportunity for the public to address Solmar’s completed application for a subdivision on John and Charlotte Streets, bordering the Rand Estate property.
Members of SORE (Save Our Rand Estate), which has been involved in legal challenges regarding the hotel development proposal — now apparently dropped, at least temporarily, by Marotta’s Two Sisters Resorts — and others spoke in opposition to the subdivision proposal, chiefly based on the density of the project as inappropriate for the neighbourhood, and the destruction of environmental and heritage assets on the properties.
Paul Lowes of SGL Planning and Design, representing Marotta, defended the proposed density, citing regional and provincial policies regarding mixed types of housing and density requirements, with the application proposing 125 single family homes and 66 semi-detached.
Plans for the two properties are still to be reviewed by the Conservation Review Board, which will offer an opinion on the impact the development will have on heritage assets, scheduled to be held July 19.
Several residents expressed distrust for Solmar’s heritage preservation promises, after witnessing the cutting of trees, and the destruction of significant landscape and other heritage assets on the Randwood Estate property.
Also of concern is the height of the subdivision, with the proposal to raise the grade of the site in some areas. Solmar representatives explained that will be necessary for storm and sewage drainage, but residents say it will result in some of the new dwellings being substantially higher than neighbouring homes.
Other issues expressed by residents involve concern of increased traffic, including what will come from construction and the trucking-in of fill, the narrow width of roads in the subdivision, the destruction of more trees, and the underground water management system that is being proposed.
The next opportunity for public input will be another virtual meeting to be held Wednesday, July 14, at 5 p.m.