Rejected Housing Project Moves Forward

Construction is moving ahead on a townhouse project in Belle River despite Lakeshore town council voting against the plan.

Lakeshore council rejected a proposal in June of 2017 to build two townhouse style buildings, standing two storeys and housing a total of ten units.

"If we're putting something new in an old area, that old area, those residents, those ratepayers — they better support it and they better want it and if they don't then we need to take a hard look at why we're doing it," says Steven Wilder, the Ward 1 councillor in Lakeshore. "Unfortunately, because the Official Plan calls for it, is not an answer that I necessarily agree with."

The project planned by Azar Holdings was for property at 1581 County Rd. 22 in an old neighbourhood made up largely of single family homes.

Before the Ontario Municipal Board was replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal earlier this month, it overruled council's decision after an appeal by the developer because the proposal met all necessary planning guidelines.

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A proposed development by Azar Holdings Ltd. in Belle River is opposed by the neighbourhood and rejected by Lakeshore council on June 27, 2017. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Wilder credits the developer with trying to tweak the project to get residents on board, but feels it's not a match for the neighbourhood.

"Even though it might fit with what the planning requirements call for, if it's not consistent with the neighbourhood, if it's not something that residents are in support of, then hopefully we'll have a little more power," says Wilder.

Wilder points to the Belle River development as the perfect example of why municipal politicians across Ontario have been upset with the OMB.

Wilder hopes the recent changes and tribunal will help prevent local politicians from being out muscled by decision makers in Toronto going forward.

"Hopefully with the new LPAT it'll restore the control and give a voice back to the municipality to say, 'Hey, we don't think this is good for our area,'" says Wilder. "It might work in Toronto and the [Greater Toronto Area] but it certainly doesn't work in Windsor and Essex County and not here in Lakeshore."

Azar Holdings still needs to pull building permits, but will be able to move forward with construction as quickly as the company chooses.