MORRISBURG – Third time’s the charm for a rezoning application on County Road 2 in Morrisburg. At their September 27 meeting, South Dundas council approved the commercial rezoning application for a lot next to the McIntosh Country Inn.
Local businessman Lloyd Wells, who also serves on South Dundas council, owns the property which backs on to the Morrisburg Industrial Park. Developer Stefano Ferrante twice-previously applied to rezone the property to allow for a mixed-use commercial/residential development. Council twice refused the applications.
This third application did not include the residential component, opting instead to apply for a special exemption. This allows a mixture of commercial development on the ground floor including a laundromat, medical offices, a fitness centre, retail or other similar development.
According to the development application, the three-story building would have a motel on the top two levels.
“My client is seeking to expand the list of permitted uses in the ‘Highway Commercial’ zone to make the property more flexible to allow maximum opportunity to fill the building with tenants,” said Tracy Zander, principle with ZanderPlan who represented the developer in the application process. “There are a few commercial uses that are proposed to be added but otherwise the proposed building is in your highway commercial zone with uses that are compatible with the other uses on that corridor.”
Zander made it clear that the proposed rezoning had no residential use.
Some members of council had concerns with the rezoning application. Deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner said the design of the proposed building was not in the application.
“I think in previous discussions we’ve had, we’ve seen what the plan was,” she said.
Councillor Donald Lewis said that not having the plan with the application was “like putting the cart before the horse.”
Councillor Archie Mellan said that he had no problem supporting the rezoning.
“Third time’s a charm, let’s drive on,” he said.
Mayor Steven Byvelds had more pointed concerns about the development.
“What kind of motel is this? Is it a chain motel or a short-term motel,” he asked. “I want to make sure this is a true motel and not something that becomes a conversion some day down the road.”
Zander replied saying there was no plan for any specific tenants, which Byvelds questioned.
“The word I heard three times or more was tenants. Usually you call hotel or motel people clients or customers. That’s a concern to me,” Byvelds said.
He explained that the council has already had challenges with residential development on the property and that he foreshadowed the possibility of a future application to change the zoning after the building is built.
Zander said again that her client is very clear that there is no residential development on the property and she was talking about commercial tenants, whatever those are.
There were no comments from the public about the commercial rezoning application.
Council also raised a procedural concern about the amount of notice given for the rezoning. While the notice of application was given to various agencies and advertised, property owners within 120 metres were not notified. Planner Peter Young clarified that letters to property owners were not sent out as this is a commercial rezoning to allow more commercial uses. It was not changing the zoning to a different class like residential. He recommended to council that they approve the rezoning.
“The two previous proposals had some issues with compatibility that council felt should be turned down but the latest one is similar to existing uses and some permitted uses in the highway commercial zone,” he explained. “I don’t think the issues that were brought at the previous proposals in terms of compatibility will be an issue for this proposal.”
After a brief discussion around the council table they supported the commercial rezoning, Byvelds said he still had concerns including that adjacent property owners were not directly notified. The bigger concern was with the design of the project.
“We have no idea what the building is going to look like and we did in the past,” he said. “[The design] was presented to us twice before and now all-of-a-sudden[sic] nothing is on the table. We’re just going to accept a motel and hope for the best. Just remember today and see how motel sticks to the plan.”
Councillor Wells declared a conflict of interest as the property owner at the opening of the public meeting on the rezoning. He remained in council chambers at his place at the council table throughout the public meeting discussion, and rezoning bylaw discussions. Wells did not vote or comment during the proceedings that involved his property.
Prior to council voting against the second residential rezoning application in May 2021, Wells went on record with The Leader about his role in that project.
At that time he said he was an investor in Ferrante’s residential development, in addition to owning the property. That development was estimated to be worth about $3 million according to Wells.
He also said that if the residential development had been denied, he would build a commercial plaza on the property instead.
“At the end of the day, something will be built there.”