Highrise proposed next to Victoria Park as new development guidelines for area delayed

The long-simmering debate over highrise developments next to Victoria Park is about to heat up again.

City Hall has sent notices to neighbours that Auburn Developments is applying to rezone 560-562 Wellington Street for a 17-storey, 173-unit residential building.

“It is disappointing,” admits Mary Ann Hodge, who lives in the Historic Woodfield neighbourhood. “We are back in the same spot we were a couple years ago.”

The pandemic has delayed City Hall’s completion of the Victoria Park Secondary Plan that would include maximum height guidelines for future developments around the park.

In 2018, inconsistent zoning around the perimeter of the park, and the potential for highrise buildings to encircle it, triggered work at City Hall on a ‘secondary plan’ that would regulate future developments. 

“The Victoria Park Secondary Plan was presented to council in February 2020 for adoption, but was referred back to staff for more consultation,” explains Michael Tomazincic, manager of Current Planning in an email to CTV News London.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted in-person consultation and field work, and Covid-19 recovery initiatives and projects have been prioritized,” adds Tomazincic.

There has been online consultation and studies of shadowing, parking and tree health, but council isn’t expected to consider implementing the secondary plan until late fall or winter.

Hodge worries the rezoning application at 560-562 Wellington St. is out of step with the city’s yet-to-be-completed secondary plan, and might instead be evaluated under existing rules.

“It seems that people aren’t willing to wait and see what that resolution is before coming forward with development plans,” she adds.

Multiple calls to Auburn Developments’ VP Steve Stapleton to discuss the proposal and its timing have not received a response.

Hodge says the secondary plan could become moot if zoning changes are approved on the properties prior to its completion.

“The hope is that it comes back quickly, so that when there are applications that come forward, there is a stronger guideline."