Volume 96, Issue 1
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Western loses zoning battle:
City vote hands developer coveted land
By Christina McKenzie
On Tuesday evening, a 16 to 3 vote by London's City Council threw a major hurdle at Western's proposed use of property at 217 Sarnia Road.
The piece of property, owned by Community Living London, has been the centre of a dispute between Western and Richmond Properties, a local developer.
City council approved Richmond Properties proposal for the re-zoning of the contested land removing it from the protection of a "regional zone" and allowing CLL to sell the land at a higher commercial rate. Richmond Properties has an existing contract to purchase the land for more than $800,000. Western had been attempting to convince council to vote against the re-zoning and had offered a $600,000 proposal for the land.
David Winninger, ward 6 city councillor, advocated that the piece of property be kept a "regional zone" so Western could use it for day-care facilities, freeing up existing university property for a new student residence.
Winninger said he did not want to see the property fall into the hands of developers. "Does the best price prevail or will good sound judgement?" Winninger asked.
Western VP-administration Peter Mercer said the valued regional property would benefit Western and the community.
Mercer noted the proposed four-storey apartments that Richmond Properties would build upon the site would offer none of the support a student residence offers to its tenants, adding there was no guarantee the apartments would even be rented to a student constituency.
The university's offer was conditional on the re-zoning not being granted Mercer said before Tuesday's meeting, noting the university would likely appeal a re-zoning decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
"It's highly inappropriate to threaten an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board," said Alan Patton, a lawyer for the developer, noting his client has an established agreement on the purchase of sale with CCL.
Murray Hamilton, the executive director of CCL, an organization which supports people with developmental disabilities, said they require the maximum amount for their land in order to modernize their other facilities.
"We have an ethical responsibility," he said. "A million dollar organization subsidizing a university is kind of funny."
Community and Protective Services Committee member and controller Joseph Swan said other community concerns should be taken into consideration, including the increase in traffic to the area if the property is turned over to developers.
Gary Williams, ward 5 city councillor, said the university could have acquired the land at any time within the last 18 years but only began negotiating with Community Living London within the last two. "This describes the university's lack of concern with the piece of land. it was not a must have," he said.
with files from Chris Lackner
Copyright © The Gazette 2002