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Residents oppose addition of secondary dwelling unit on Laird Ave.

Updated: 39 minutes ago


Amherstburg Crest.

While Amherstburg town council has not made a decision on a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow for a secondary dwelling unit in front of a Laird Ave. home, it is clear the neighbours want nothing to do with it.

A two-hour planning meeting was held prior to the start of Monday night's regular discussion, with the issue of 24 Laird Ave. taking up a good chunk of that time. The request for a secondary dwelling unit (SDU) saw numerous residents oppose the proposal, claiming it would not only impact their neighbourhood but could lead to it impacting all of Amherstburg.

According to a report from town planner Janine Mastronardi, a zoning bylaw amendment is being proposed to change the zoning from Special Provision Residential First Density (R1-8) to Special Provision Residential First Density (R1-16).

The report states: “The applicant is proposing a small addition and total renovation of the existing accessory structure on the subject parcel to accommodate a Secondary Dwelling Unit (SDU). The purpose of the rezoning will be to grant permission for a SDU to be located within an existing accessory structure which is located in the front yard. The proposed rezoning will also allow for an increase in setback between the SDU and primary dwelling from the permitted 20 m to 48.7 m, an increase in building height from the permitted 5.5 m to 7.0 m and an increase in accessory structure lot coverage from the permitted 100 sq m to 107.5 sq m. The existing accessory structure is 6.46 m in height. All other existing R1-8 provisions are proposed to remain the same i.e. uses, setbacks, lot coverage etc.”

The report also noted that the existing zoning bylaw allows for a secondary dwelling unit in a rear yard or an interior side yard, not a front yard as is being proposed.

“The applicant is proposing a small addition with the same interior side yard setback as currently exists and a total renovation of the existing accessory structure on the subject parcel to accommodate a Secondary Dwelling Unit (SDU). The purpose of the rezoning is to grant permission for an SDU to be located within an existing accessory structure which is located in the front yard,” Mastronardi's report states.

Proponent Marco Savoni told council and the packed council chambers his intent is to use the property for personal uses, as Councillor Diane Pouget had earlier wondered if it could be used for a short-term rental or bed and breakfast. Administration later said a bed and breakfast was not allowed but would have to check into the short-term rental provisions.

Savoni said he's been trying to move to Laird Ave. for “quite some time” and said he loves the town.

“It's a spectacular area,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to acquire 24 Laird Ave. South. My intention is to use it for personal use.”

Savoni said he thought it would be a “great fit to acquire that property and ultimately use it for personal use.” He said he has no intention to use it as a short-term rental.

“We'd like to get construction started there as soon as possible,” he said.

Savoni said he has already spent approximately $25,000 on hydro upgrades and another $100,000-plus on breakwall upgrades.

“The reason for the accessory building and to have a dwelling unit there seemed like the right fit,” said Savoni. “I could have children living there.”

Noting his son has shown interest in the unit, Savoni added if it was not him it could be his mother or a caregiver of the property.

Savoni added any property he has owned in the town has “been improved and well maintained.”

Among the concerns of neighbour Daryll Fogal was the proposed size of the structure, the latter to house a garage for the main house plus the SDU.

“This thing is a giant,” Fogal told town council.

Sight lines would be obstructed, Fogal maintained, and worried about the occupants of the SDU being able to see into his and his neighbours' homes. Views could extend into his library and another neighbours' bedroom from what Fogal referred to as “surveillance platforms.”

According to Fogal, the proposed structure would be too big for the area and too far from the main home, estimating the latter to be half a football field away.

Fogal added Laird Ave. would not only be impacted, but it could set up other neighbourhoods for similar situations. If the zoning bylaw amendment is granted, it could lead to issues in at least 12 other neighbourhoods in Amherstburg, Fogal estimated.

“It's a bad precedent to set,” he said.

Fogal asked council if the public has been consulted, adding “this isn't a Laird Ave. thing.”

“This is not right for Amherstburg. It's not right for Laird Ave.,” he told town council.

Ron Timothy encouraged town council members to view the site for themselves.

“I really don't believe this is going to be good for the town or for Laird Ave.,” Timothy maintained. “I don't think anyone of you wants to see it in your yards.”

Grace Zec, another Laird Ave. neighbour, said Amherstburg is known for its unique charm, including its historical significance and natural beauty. Zec, whose family owned the former Duffy's Tavern and Motor Inn, said she has won numerous tourism and hospitality awards and believed granting the amendment would “change the gateway to town” that is Laird Ave.

“It's not just another street,” she said, at one point calling it “the golden mile.”

“We are united in opposition to this,” said Zec.

Joe Gorski, another resident in the neighbourhood, said he was “in awe” of the amount of support there was against the request. He said he has “strong opposition to the zoning bylaw change.”

“We're all standing firm on this,” said Gorski. “We want the historical area to stay the way it is.”

Ed Debevc also said he was opposed, noting he and others have chosen Amherstburg to retire in. He believed granting the request would go against town plans. Debevc also referred to Laird Ave. as “the gateway street” into the community and wanted the current bylaw to be upheld.

“I don't see where there is a need to change it,” he said.

Debevc asked council “why are you compromising all of your principles for one property?” but Mayor Michael Prue said there has been no pressure to make any changes on the street. Prue added council has the obligation to hear the matter as the proponent has made an application.

Phil Kasurak, another area resident, said there are issues relating to height, side yard relief and distance between the SDU and the main home among other matters, and called for council to refuse the request.

“To me, this whole thing is unworkable,” he believed.

Kasurak was another neighbour who thought other requests similar to this could arise if council grants it.

Deputy CAO Melissa Osborne stated that while administration has not yet had the opportunity to present recent changes of Bill 23 in a report to town council, she indicated appeal rights would only lie with the town, public entities and the proponent.

“The province has taken away more rights,” Prue charged. “That town can appeal and the applicant can appeal.”

Councillor Peter Courtney believed height would be an issue, indicating he would be more open to seeing a home built elsewhere on the property versus the proposed addition. Sight lines and setbacks were among Courtney's concerns.

If the buildings on the site are renovated, Mastronardi told town council they would have to tap into the town's sewer system as the property is on a septic system right now.

Administration will take the information gathered at the meeting and prepare a report for a future council meeting. That will likely occur some time over the summer.

Residents oppose addition of secondary dwelling unit on Laird Ave.

By Ron Giofu

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