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Developer withdraws application for bylaw amendment

by Robert Hirtle

Residents on the north side of Montague Street and Pelham Street fear that their view of Lunenburg will be obliterated if these two buildings are raised to 45 feet in height, which is permissible under the existing land-use bylaw.
 LUNENBURG - About 60 Lunenburg and area residents turned out July 11 for a public information meeting on the proposed development of a pair of buildings on Montague Street, but in the end the gathering turned out to be unnecessary.

 The town's planning advisory committee (PAC) called the meeting to gain input on an application by Farblack Limited to expand the residential occupancy of two buildings purchased from the Waterfront Development Corporation earlier this year.

 Farblack owner Farley Blackman is asking council for an amendment to the land-use bylaw to allow for an extension of the upper floors of two buildings which contain civic addresses 182, 188 and 192 Montague Street to be used for residential space.

 He wishes to raise the roofs of buildings to create more upstairs living space in the structures, which he intends to utilize as a residence during his stays in Lunenburg.

 The main floors of the buildings would be occupied by an art gallery.

 The 192 Montague Street civic address which is upstairs above 188 Montague, a former retail space, had been used for many years in a residential capacity while the 182 location formerly housed a sail loft and storage area on its top two floors.

 "The issue is that the residential use is a non-conforming use at the present time, which means that it existed substantially before land-use planning had been adopted in town in 1975," acting town planner John Cameron told the gathering. "The owner wants to expand the part of the building that contains this use ... the expansion of the portion of the building, or a building, that has a non-conforming use isn't permitted under the Municipal Government Act."

 Confusion arose surrounding exactly which buildings were affected by the proposal when the town advertised the meeting saying the application was regarding 188 and 189 Montague Street.

 More ensued at the meeting itself when Mr. Blackman indicated he was applying to create two residential spaces rather than one which was Mr. Cameron's interpretation of the application.

 Letters of support received by the town outnumbered those against the proposal by a four to two count. And, while the general consensus with those present indicated a desire to not reject change, there were several concerns raised regarding the amendment, among them whether okaying the project would lead to further residential development of marine industrial property, and a flood of condominiums popping up on the waterfront.

 Mr. Cameron said that to his knowledge, there are no other properties in town besides that in question which involve residential as a non-conforming use in a marine industrial zone, and that the municipal planning strategy would have to be amended to change the existing zones for that to happen.

 The biggest bone of contention, however, revolved around the proposed altered height of the buildings and the impact that would have on view planes of the harbour for other residents living in the area.

 While Mr. Blackman contended that raising the structures and constructing an additional elevated rectangular enhancement to the top of the former sail loft property was essential to make the project economically viable, several neighbours living on the opposite side of the street and on Pelham Street came forward to say the change would cut off their view of the water and significantly devalue their properties.

 Because the buildings are in a marine industrial zone, their maximum height allowable is 45 feet as compared to 35 in a residential area.

 Mr. Cameron said that measurement should be taken from the Montague Street front sides of the buildings, which would put Mr. Blackman's proposal within the legal boundaries, rather than the Bluenose Drive sides which are of a significantly lower elevation.

 Following the hearing, PAC members discussed the issue at length and ultimately moved to recommend that council approve the application.

 Before council met the following day, however, Mr. Blackman informed town staff via e-mail that he was withdrawing the application and was preparing to work with Mr. Cameron on a different proposal that would be permissible under existing bylaw regulations.

 He also asked for a refund of the $1,000 deposit the town requires accompany such applications, and council agreed to refund all but $300 which was the approximate cost of advertising the public meeting.

 Mayor Laurence Mawhinney said that any individual who owns property in the town "could apply for any particular means that they felt might be more in keeping with existing bylaws.

 "But I can't predict what Mr. Blackman might do," he added.

posted on 07/19/11
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