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Town council accepts cash in lieu of payment for parking

What began as a request for a payment in lieu of providing parking spots required under the zoning bylaw turned into the praising of a local developer for his work on a downtown building.

Town council agreed unanimously to receive a $9,700 payment from developer Adam Rossetto. Once of the commercial units opened on the Ramsay St. side of the building and is Beauty by Bretton & Co.

The other unit nearest the intersection is expected to be a restaurant/coffee shop.

In a letter sent to the town, Rossetto proposed that seven spots be “grandfathered in,” have two spots on the property, the two spots already approved last summer for the “cash in lieu of parking” program and the additional two “cash in lieu” spots that were eventually approved at the most recent meeting. That would satisfy the 13 total parking spot requirement.

Councillor Diane Pouget was the first to congratulate Rossetto on “a beautifully renovated building.” She wished Rossetto luck on his future enterprise, but asked administration what will be done with the money.

“Parking is at a minimum in the downtown core area. What do we plan on doing with that money and do we plan on providing parking in another area?” said Pouget.

Deputy CAO/director of development services Melissa Osborne stated the $9,700 will go into the town’s parking reserve for future projects. She said initiatives from the transportation master plan that is under development could eventually be funded from the reserve.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb thanked Rossetto “for becoming a steward of one of our historic buildings.”

Gibb noted the building dates back to 1835. He said as a member of the heritage committee, “it is always refreshing to see people who get what we’re trying to do to restore our heritage.”

The deputy mayor asked what the investment was in the building but Rossetto said he would rather keep that information private.

“Thank you very much for choosing Amherstburg and for choosing to save history in Amherstburg,” Gibb told Rossetto.

Gibb added “we have to be flexible” with such requests, adding the town’s strategic plan calls for “preserving our past and forging our future.”

Councillor Peter Courtney agreed that the restoration was welcome and he appreciated Rossetto’s investment, but added when business is done in Amherstburg “you look at the landscape” and what the obligations are.

“We’ve waived two spots already,” he said.

Courtney said when the scope of the commercial business is changed to a restaurant, the demand for parking spots increases. He said that it great for the downtown but “can be compromising for other businesses.” Accessible parking for residents was also an issue cited by Courtney, noting some people aren’t able to walk far distances.

“I’m apprehensive to keep cutting parking spots especially when we gave a two spot reprieve already for this development,” said Courtney.

A focus on “strategic parking spots” has to be done, Courtney added, and the overall landscape of all retailers and the proximity to them. He did support the request after debate.

Osborne said there are zero parking requirements in the CG4 zoning across the street.

“I do love your building and it’s beautiful,” said Councillor Molly Allaire.

Allaire did question whether this issue sets a precedent for other building owners who want to pay in lieu of providing parking for their uses if they are not capable of providing them. Osborne said it site specific, noting when development on the former Maria’s Restaurant was originally proposed, it was short on required spots and the proponents there were granted a cash in lieu of parking request.

Osborne added when the town tries to encourage economic development, there are tools for council to allow businesses to be economically viable.

Planner Sarah French added the planning department evaluates every proposal on its own merits. She added she did not believe the request at 79 Murray St. was precedent setting, noting it is a pre-existing commercial heritage building near an area with relief from parking requirements.

Every request for cash in lieu of parking has to come to town council, French stated.

Councillor Linden Crain said “it’s a great spot for mixed use” that creates jobs and rental units. He said he was not willing to delay growth while the town waits for parking and traffic studies. Councillor Don McArthur called it “a fantastic initiative” and was pleased to see what was done with the property.

McArthur said the town will gain property taxes and have a “stickier” downtown where people will stay longer in the area. He said people come downtown for businesses and events and he also thanked Rossetto for his investment.

Mayor Michael Prue noted it is a historical property.

“I am very impressed,” said Prue. “What you have done to restore that building, I didn’t think it was restorable.”

Prue called it “one of the most beautiful heritage buildings I could possibly imagine rising from what was there.”  He said he is a fan of heritage and pushes that every chance he gets.

“If you need two parking spots to do that, I don’t have any problem with that,” Prue told Rossetto.

The mayor added a tree on the property was also saved and a residence is going upstairs.

“He has done everything else, in my view, so perfectly that I don’t have the slightest hesitancy in getting more money off of him,” said Prue.

The money will go into a fund and he said some day there will be a chance to put in parking elsewhere, he added, using the parking lot at Richmond St. and Ramsay St. as an example.

“I am totally in support of this,” said Prue.

By Ron Giofu


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