Oxford County’s application to rezone 102 Dereham Drive in Tillsonburg will pave the way for new apartment buildings and townhouses near Westfield Public School.
The application, deferred from a Nov. 13 meeting, to change zoning from minor institutional to special medium density residential was accepted by Tillsonburg Council at its Jan. 23 council meeting in a recorded vote.
The change will affect a section of land currently owned by the Thames Valley District School Board that would conditionally be sold to the county, allowing the development of two four-storey apartment buildings (39 units each) and 21 townhouses.
“This would provide kind of that mix between rentals – market rentals, maybe some affordable rentals,” said Rebecca Smith, manager of housing development, Oxford County. “There is a great need for it.”
The county could potentially offer future developers incentive to provide affordable units, said Smith, noting the range might be $1,000 per month for one-bedroom apartments at the lower end, up to $1,500 per month for market rentals.
“We need housing options, that’s probably one of the biggest things I hear. There’s nothing here for people that can’t afford to buy a house,” said Councilor Kelly Spencer. “Even the rental prices are through the roof.”
In a presentation to council, David Climie, vice-president of the Baldwin Place Residents Association, said the residents were strongly opposed to the application.
“We think that this is a very poor use of this land,” said Climie, who voiced concern about parking issues and drop-offs at the school. “It’s the wrong place in an already very congested area. We don’t want to see any children get hurt in that area.”
Councilor Chris Parker proposed a counter-resolution to turn down Oxford County’s zoning application, but later with Drew it.
“I think we’re in a housing crisis,” said Spencer. “And the fact is, we have to look at this from a housing perspective. I find this to be a difficult decision, but I think that we should be supporting this application.”
“As much compassion as I have for the people in this existing neighborhood, I believe that what we have here is, what I’m going to call, ‘the best of what could possibly be the worst,’” said Deputy Mayor Dave Beres , who said the land would otherwise be going on the market for potentially much higher density development.
“At this point, I think it’s something that is workable for the community. Of course, we’d all like to see it as green space, we really would, and certainly the residents there would like to see it as parkland.
“It could be a lot worse,” Beres added.
Councilors Spencer, Bob Parsons, Pete Luciani and Beres voted in favor and Councilors Parker, Chris Rosehart and Mayor Deb Gilvesy opposed in a 4-3 recorded vote.