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Council moves onto next step in rezoning “Highway Commercial” zoned properties

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Essex Council hosted a statutory meeting to consider an amendment to the Town of Essex Official Plan and to Zoning Bylaw 1037.

Essex’s Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, said the purpose of the meeting was to start discussions on possibly amending the Town of Essex Official Plan to permit lands designated “Highway Commercial” and zoned C3.1 within Essex and Harrow Centres be rezoned to also permit multiple dwelling units and residential care facility uses.

This was to accommodate more residential development in these areas, because the multiple dwelling zoning is not available on those sites, Watson said. The Planning Department investigated where residential development, in larger areas, can take place in Harrow and Essex Centres. 

Through the report to Council, the Planning Department recommended Council consider that for lands designated “Highway Commercial” in the Official Plan, located in the Essex Centre and Harrow Centre Settlement Areas, a “multiple dwelling and a residential care facility” be added as additional permitted uses.

It was further proposed that under General Zoning Bylaw, Commercial Districts be amended to permit multiple dwelling units either in a free-standing building, as in a townhome or multiple dwelling units either in a free-standing building or in combination with a non-residential use. It was also recommended care facilities be an additional permitted use as well. This would be subject to appropriate regulations.

It was also proposed that the Essex Centre and Harrow Centre Community Improvement Plans (CIP) be amended to provide conversion grant funding for multiple dwelling unit conversations of ground floor commercial space. 

Lands designated Highway Commercial and zoned C3.1, situated in the Essex Centre and Harrow Settlement Areas include existing residential properties on Talbot Street North, vacant parcels on the east side of Talbot and the Essex Motel, 263 Talbot Street, the vacant parcels further back to the Talbot Street/Maidstone Avenue intersection, and properties next to 255 and 259 Talbot.

Properties in Harrow Centre were also highlighted.

The majority of Essex and Harrow Centre will not be affected by this as they are already built up, Watson noted.

Watson said a low rental vacancy rate for rental or condominium dwellings, being within walking distance to the downtown, and with lot size permitting adequate buffering and a building orientation to minimize nuisances, as development advantages.

Some development consideration for Talbot Street include storm water management, sanitary sewer capacity limits, and potential traffic impacts.

In Harrow Centre, Watson explained low rental vacancy rate for rental or condominium dwellings and a small-town flavour, in walking distance to services and shops, are development advantages. Development considerations for Queen Street include storm water management, potential sanitary sewer capacity, and nuisances from industrial and other non-residential activities.

If Essex Council wants to implement these changes, a bylaw would need to be adopted. Official Plan amendments must go to the County at that point, Watson said. 

The Planning Department will submit a report to Council on this file in the near future.

Councillor Morley Bowman said he thought it was a good idea, but wondered if this rezoning would take highway commercially zoned land away from the Town.

This would be added as an addition use to the land Watson noted.

Mayor Larry Snively said there is a huge shortage of housing in Essex and saw this as a great opportunity. He urged fellow Council reps to consider the Zoning Bylaw amendment.  

Council received the presentation and directed administration to take the next steps in the process.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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