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Council considering adding ‘multi-residential’ to zoning options for Essex Motel

by Sylene Argent

On the evening of Tuesday, April 2, members of Essex administration and Council sat down to consider adding ‘multi-residential’ as a possible use to the Highway Commercial Zoning the Essex Motel currently has.

  During the meeting, Council received the report the Town’s Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, provided on the file. He explained this meeting was a statutory meeting, which could lead to Council authorizing the preparation of the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 7 to the Town’s Official Plan (OP). This could also amend the General Zoning Bylaw, 1037, under the provisions of the Planning Act to allow the conversion of the Essex Motel, located at 263 Talbot Street North, to allow for multi-residential zoned units.

  At a meeting held in March, Essex Council considered the addition of a multi-residential component in various forms as permitted used on lands zoned Highway Commercial. This was deferred, pending the undertaking of a Local Comprehensive Plan Review to determine if the removal of land as “employment land” is justified, it was noted during the meeting.

  In the Report to Council regarding the possibility of the Essex Motel being converted into multi-residential units, it notes the facility is no longer viable for accommodating the travelling public, “and it currently operates more as a transient facility for persons seeking accommodations on a monthly-basis.” 

  Watson also noted in the report that the Motel’s current Highway Commercial Zoning is devoted to retail and service commercial uses and does not permit residential uses currently. The report adds it would be appropriate to separate the Essex Motel and its neighbour, Valvoline Express Care, with a 1.5-meter-high screening fence.

  In addition, as the Essex Motel is located within the Town’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP) boundary, which encourages the conversion of “obsolete and under-utilized” commercial space to affordable dwelling units, where permitted.

  The conversion of commercial space to affordable multiple-dwelling-units is eligible for conversion grants of $5000 per unit, normally for above-the-ground dwelling units. Development permit fee grants are also available.

  According to the report, an affordable dwelling united must rent for a maximum of $1000 (all in) per month in order to qualify for CIP grant monies. Watson said the $1000 threshold is low and will be looking to raise that, as well.

  The report also noted no affordable housing has been constructed in Essex Centre for several decades.

  Watson noted affordable housing is considered to be 20 percent below the average market rate.

  Watson explained the preparation of the OPA 7 to the Essex OP and a supplementary change to the Zoning Bylaw, 1037, to permit the conversion of the Essex Motel to multiple residential units and Council’s authorization of giving of the conversion grant for affordable multi-dwelling units for the facility will be discussed further at the April 15 Essex Council meeting. Specific recommendations will be presented then.

  An OPA, once Council-approved, is then submitted to the County for formal approval. A 20-day public appeal period then takes place.  

  Applicant Austin Wycisk is looking to purchase the Essex Motel, and spearheaded the possible zoning change to offer affordable housing in the ten-unit structure.

  Wycisk has plans to upgrade and renovate the facility, converting the motel rooms into bachelor apartments. Possible expansion of the facility could take place in the future.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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