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Committee advances 70-unit residential building opposed by dozens in neighbourhood

'There are many architectural features that will look over the city and supply some beautiful views'

A committee of North Bay City Council is recommending a rezoning so a proposed six-storey 70-unit development may proceed once several conditions of a site plan control agreement are met by the proponent. 

The development — to be located off Bain Drive between Airport Road and Golf Club Road —  has been met with considerable resistance as 79 people signed a petition against its construction. Council will have the final vote on the project.

Reasons cited in opposition include increased traffic volume; potential traffic hazards created by the proposed access on a bend of Bain Drive; the development is incompatible with the character of the neighbourhood; increased noise; loss of privacy; concerns about the effects on Chippewa Creek and the nearby watercourse; and, the possibility Bain Drive would be considered as a future transit route by the City.

In recommending the project on behalf of the City of North Bay, Senior Planner Peter Carello highlighted several steps that must be taken by Consolidated Homes Ltd. to move forward and cited traffic, landscaping, and servicing as areas for further study and possible mitigation.

The structure would be built on the south part of the land, the farthest away from neighbouring uses allowed by the property, separated from Bain Drive by a 111-space parking lot. The building would be situated in close proximity to the commercial property at the base of Airport Hill and enveloped by vacant space to the east and west. Airport Lookout Park is nearby, located to the northeast. 

The property has an existing lot area of 1.538 hectares and a frontage of 26.57 metres on Bain Drive. The property is currently vacant and is at a higher elevation than other neighbouring properties in the area. The proposal aims to use a 60-metre setback from Bain Drive and mature vegetation to provide buffering between the building and its neighbours, comprised of low-density residential homes.

Councillors Mark King, Bill Vrebosch and Ed Valenti all raised concerns about the development. Ultimately, King and Valenti were the only two dissenting votes, while Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch and Coun. George Maroosis were absent.

King and Bill Vrebosch focused their enquiries on runoff issues related to the surrounding geography and what Vrebosch deemed an inadequate storm sewer near the proposed entrance.

Valenti, as he did similarly with the now-approved housing development on the former Dr. MacDougall school property on Brookes Street, again wondered about the relevance of the planning policies in a post-pandemic environment.

See related: Rezoning approved; 41-unit apartment building to move ahead despite objections from neighbours

"I find things have changed now. These policies came prior to the pandemic," he said. "There is a reason people are coming to North Bay. I always like to quote Jerry O'Connell, when he said, in 2017, 'Places like North Bay, the secret is about to get out and it's so exciting to see it captured on Carter.'

"What's important about that statement is we still had trouble getting people to come to North Bay. Then the pandemic hit and things completely changed. The reason people are coming to North Bay is they like that we are spread out a bit...I find this property, with its height and density in that area — I have concerns with that."

Candice Micucci of Antech Design and Engineering Group acted as an agent for Consolidated Homes and addressed some of the questions raised by the committee.

Micucci noted the building has not been designated as geared-to-income and a determination has not yet been made on whether it will operate as apartment units or as a condominium. 

The concern about the elevation at the proposed entrance will be mitigated by the grade of the 75-metre driveway and the proponent is aware of the capacity issue with the culvert, she advised.

"There are many architectural features that will look over the city and supply some beautiful views," Micucci said. 

The Engineering Department requires a traffic impact study for the development to proceed and it will be placed in a holding zone by Planning Services until it is completed. 

Micucci expressed her client is prepared to meet all conditions prior to construction.

According to Carello's report, "The purpose of the study would be to determine whether the existing road network is capable of accommodating post-development volumes and to determine what improvements (if any) are required."

Under the City’s Official Plan, a high-density development application must demonstrate "there would be no undue impact on public services," another reason for the holding zone designation.

And, the proponent must provide a landscaping plan — to be incorporated into the site plan control agreement — showing how the mature vegetation at the north of the property would be maintained. Carello stated, "The preservation of the mature trees should provide additional buffering between the low-density residential uses and the proposed new building."