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Park Avenue West Homeowners Association

Elmira, Ontario, Canada

 ↑  Meetings

Township Council Facilitated Meeting

18 June 2008 at 7:00pm
Woolwich Township Council Chambers  (map)
69 Arthur St. S.
Elmira, ON, Canada

Township Council is facilitating a meeting between the new owners of 10 Park Ave. W. and the neighbourhood residents concerned about the fate of the property, including possible redevelopment.

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Published 17 June 2008

PAWHA Meeting

17 June 2008 at 7:00pm
14 Hampton Street  (map)
Elmira, ON, Canada

To discuss next steps in preparation for the Council-facilitated meeting the following week

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Published 10 June 2008

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 ↑  News

 ‹   ˆ   ›  7 June 2008
From: The Woolwich Observer

Wrecking ball likely for Park Ave. home

Neighbours hope new owners maintain Victorian character; residents eager to give input


There they were, on the outside looking in. Literally, in this case. Members of the Park Avenue West Neighbourhood Association showed up Tuesday night to address Woolwich councillors, only to find the doors locked and the lights off: The brief committee-of-the whole meeting had wrapped up before the group arrived.

Thirty minutes earlier, however, councillors found themselves with few options in trying to preserve a century home at 10 Park Ave. W. Essentially unable to prevent the demolition of the house and redevelopment of the large property, they called on planning staff to arrange a meeting between concerned neighbours and the new owners of the home, Woolwich Holdings Ltd.

The Elmira company has applied for a demolition permit, but has not announced plans for the site. Residents are worried that if the house is torn down, it will be replaced with something not in keeping with the Victorian feel of the street.

Everybody's concerned that if it can stay up, then let's keep it up. If not, then let's try to keep the character of the neighbourhood, Park Avenue resident Ken Galipeau said Wednesday, noting he was disappointed the group was unable to address councillors the previous day.

He and others plan to attend the council meeting on June 10, however. Recognizing the township has little leeway in dealing with the situation, he welcomed the chance to sit down with the owners.

Arranging that meeting is certainly on the agenda for Dan Kennaley, Woolwich's director of engineering and planning. As with the neighbours, he too would like to see the street's Victorian nature maintained.

We'll certainly advocate the development be in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. Because the area is not designated as a heritage district, the township can do little to influence what happens at the site, he noted.

Today, the owner can apply for a demolition permit, tear down the old house and replace it with a single-family home, semi-detached or duplex, all without any further planning approvals. Any other uses, such as severing the large lot, would require township input and approval.

Woolwich Holdings is still mulling over its plans for the property, but will start with demolition of the house.

We hope to to tear it down, but we don't have any plans beyond that at the moment, partner Allan Poffenroth said in an interview. We have lots of ideas, but no concrete plans.

His preference would be a development fitting in with the surroundings. In the longer term, said Kennaley, the issues raised in this case could spur Woolwich to establish a cultural heritage district in that part of Elmira. Staff could also look at establishing a registry of significant historical homes in the municipality under the Ontario Heritage Act.

While warning of the onerous requirements placed on homeowners in heritage districts, Coun. Mark Bauman acknowledged the township's hands are tied in this case.

I don't see a simple answer to this problem.

 ‹   ˆ   ›  3 May 2008
From: The Woolwich Observer

»FROM THE EDITOR (Woolwich Observer)

Everything old is new again ... if we're smart about it


The old, yellow brick home calls out for tender loving care. Its best days are clearly behind it. Or ahead of it, if the neighbours get their wish.

Restoring the century- old house on Park Avenue West would be a large job indeed. Walking around the outside, peeking in the windows, that seems something of a pipedream — the new owner is unlikely to make that investment, especially given the development potential of the property.

The neighbours fear the worst: a new building or two totally unsuited to the Victorian neighbourhood within walking distance of Elmira's core. You don't have to go far to see their fears are well founded: the town is rife with examples of unattractive houses and apartment buildings wedged between older homes. There are plenty more such sadsack cases in the region and beyond.

It's too late for Woolwich councillors to pursue heritage designation for this property, but the neighbourhood concerns they heard this week should prompt proactive measures to avoid a repeat of the situation.

Neighbourhoods such as the one found west of downtown Elmira are in short supply. New subdivisions are almost universally abysmal places, the homes symptomatic of our disposable society, so it's important to preserve the older areas.

As is always the case when I return from Europe, I was struck again by just how unattractive our communities are by comparison. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was taking in the old quarter and surrounding communities of several cities in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Aside from the far superior natural surroundings, the built environment of the average street humbles the best that we have to offer.

It's not by accident that old buildings — very old by North American standards — are preserved, that buildings are rebuilt in the classic style and that new buildings must meet high aesthetic standards. Good planning keeps communities interesting and attractive.

It's a mindset we need to see here.

It starts with preservation of the architectural heritage, precisely what the Park Avenue residents are asking for. If the old house at number 10 can't be saved, what replaces it should blend seamlessly with its neighbours.

Of course, new development, even on greenfields, should be held to much higher standards, both for quality and aesthetics, but that's another issue. On the historical front, Ontario has a long way to go, and Woolwich is no exception.

Only recently, prompted by the University of Waterloo's Heritage Resources Centre, has the township even begun to take stock of its inventory of heritage assets.

Robert Shipley, a professor in the planning department who heads the centre, says proactive steps are needed to avoid dilemmas such as the one on Park Avenue.

Ironically, he notes, such neighbourhoods are precisely the model for planners moving away from the unsustainable car-centered subdivisions that have been the norm in the postwar period. Built close to downtown, walkable and offering front-porch living, the old areas are what the latest new developments ought to be. With Elmira in the midst of a building boom, planning for that growth is essential.

Now is a really critical time for a community like Elmira to think about what it wants to look like, he says.

Heritage preservation is a key element, even if it's often overlooked. In that regard, Woolwich is not alone. Some communities have made historical buildings and older neighbourhoods a priority, but that's still the exception. However, Shipley sees reason for optimism.

I think it's getting better — we've got better legislation now, we've got more awareness. Planning is [shifting] back to the way it was with those older neighbourhoods.

Still, conservation doesn't resonate with everyone. Often it's piecemeal, such as when a particular group rallies to a specific cause. It's up to the municipality to lead the way for a more comprehensive approach even when, as is the case in Woolwich, administrators don't hear a steady stream of requests from the public — the issue flies under the radar.

Heritage preservation … is a sentiment in a certain part of the population, but it's not the majority.

But there are changes in the air. Environmental concerns, escalating gas prices and shifting demographics mean more of us are interested in livable neighbourhoods, ones that feel more like a community.

It's the older areas, built before the car was king, that offer that. Preserve them and we make the entire municipality more attractive. And we have something on which to base the new developments rather than the suburban sprawl we've seen for decades.

 ‹   ˆ   ›  3 May 2008
From: The Woolwich Observer

Residents on Park Avenue fear changes

» Neighbours petition township to maintain street's historical heritage as property is sold


Sandy Bair in front of 10 Park Ave. W.

The pending sale of a century home on Park Avenue West to local developers has residents of the Elmira neighbourhood worried the property will be transformed into something out of character with the rest of the neighbourhood.

Dozens of them brought their concerns to Woolwich council Tuesday night, seeking support for their effort to maintain the historical feel of the street.

Ideally, the new owners would restore the existing home at 10 Park Ave. W., suggested Ken Galipeau, representing the Park Avenue West Neighbourhood Association. The house, vacant since its former owner passed away in November 2006, has fallen into disrepair.

Barring such renovations, any new building should match its surroundings, he added.

We ask that the new development be respectful of the character of the neighbourhood.

Why mess up the neighbourhood?

While residents have no idea what the new owners have in mind, they fear the worst. They circulated photos from other Elmira neighbourhoods where modern houses and apartments had been wedged between century homes.

Even though Woolwich Holding's purchase of the property has yet to close, residents wanted to be proactive in tackling the issue, said Sandra Bair, who circulated a petition signed by everyone on the street, as well as residents on adjoining routes.

More than just a NIMBY issue, the Park Avenue situation should be a catalyst for the township to develop a policy for historical preservation, she said, noting past examples where new construction clashes with existing neighbourhood standards.

I can't understand why one individual can be allowed to ruin it for a street or a neighbourhood.

Admitting there is little the township can do at this point, councillors suggested residents meet with the prospective owners and planning staff to discuss options.

Contacted the following day, Woolwich Holding's Paul Robb said the company currently has no plans for the site.

I imagine we'll be able to do something to keep everybody happy, he said.

The oversized lot could be put to a range of uses, from a single home to a pair of duplexes. There is the potential to sever the property, creating two building lots.

While the township can do little to influence the ultimate use of the property, it would have more say under the Planning Act if the owner applies for a zone change or variance, explained director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

His department is willing to mediate a meeting between the new owner and the neighbours.

There's a need to balance the needs of the neighbourhood with the rights of the purchasers.

 ‹   ˆ   ›  1 May 2008
From: Elmira Independent

Residents bring concerns to council

Chuck Kuepfer Staff Reporter

May 1st, 2008

A house in disrepair on Elmira's Park Avenue West, which has been conditionally sold, has neighbourhood residents concerned.

In an effort to maintain the character of the street, a petition has been signed by every resident on Park Avenue West, as well some of those on a neighbouring street.

Their concerns are that the house, which sits on a double lot, could be torn down and replaced by a duplex or some other type of residential unit that would compromise the heritage value of the neighbourhood.

In an address to council Tuesday, Sandra Bair, a representative of the Park Avenue West neighbourhood group, said she'd hate for their opposition to losing the Victorian home to be misconstrued as that of only self interest. It concerns all of Elmira, said Blair.

She explained that part of the appeal of Elmira's small-town living is neighbourhoods like Park Avenue West, with its mature trees and older homes .

When it went up for sale, we realized that action had to be taken, said Bair, who is optimistic that council can help preserve the neighbourhood. There must be some way we can all work together for a solution.

While Bair said that she'd prefer that the home is preserved, if it is torn down, any new housing project should reflect the Victorian-look of the old street.

Our real concern are some of the things that have happened in the past, said Kenneth Gallipeau, who handed photos to councillors taken at various Elmira neighbourhoods where townhouses and apartment buildings have replaced historic homes.

Brad Martin of Thur Real Estate said that the buyer is aware of the petition. He indicated that he doesn't know what the purchaser's intention for the house, but noted that there are lots of areas in town where redevelopment in older neighbourhoods has happened.

Township staff have advised council that the concerns of Park Avenue West residents must be balanced with fairness to the developer. The property in question is not designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, and the neighbourhood does not have the distinction of being a Heritage District.

We need to balance conservation with fairness, said Dan Kennaley, director of engineering and planning services.

 ↑  Contacts

For more information please contact:

Ken Gallipeau
13 Park Ave W
Elmira, ON, N3B 1K9

Sandy Bair
8 Park Ave W
Elmira, ON, N3B 1L2


 ↑  Where is the Park Avenue West Homeowners Association?

The Park Avenue West Homeowners Association area is bounded by James St. on the north, Park Ave. W. on the south, Hampton St. on the east, and about 100m west of Snyder Ave. S.