The Plan for Williamsville: “a disappointment”

This article appears in the Vicki New Times - coming to a mailbox near you!

The Williamsville Main Street Secondary Plan covers Princess Street from Division Street to Bath Road.  The plan was developed in 2010-11 and approved by City Council in February 2012 leading to changes in the Official Plan and the Zoning By-Law in July 2013.

The purpose of the plan is to guide the transition of this part of Princess Street into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly main street for Williamsville.  There were several consultant reports and extensive community meetings that led residents to hope that the Williamsville section of Princess Street could be redeveloped and the neighbourhoods on either side of Princess Street protected.  Since the approval of the Plan, more than 2,200 bedrooms have been constructed or approved for construction.    

 

Alan Gummo, retired municipal planner, notes that “One of the most important design requirements to protect the streets’ public spaces and neighbourhoods is that the front and rear walls of new buildings be built along a 45-degree angular plane.” 

 

The Plan calls for storeys above the 4th floor to be stepped back along this plane.  Without the angular plane, buildings overwhelm and shadow the sidewalks.  On the back side, they overwhelm and shadow near-by houses. Unfortunately, the 45-degree angular plane has not been enforced. Council has approved up to 78 degrees for some developments and in one case did not require the angular plane at all.  The approved 10 and 11 storey buildings will tower over Princess Street and the nearby neighbours. 

 

“One thing residents liked about the Main Street Secondary Plan was the proposed greening of Princess Street with street trees on wide sidewalks and the greening of streets leading from Princess Street to Victoria Park and the Memorial Centre” says Sue Bazely, a long-time resident of the Williamsville neighbourhood.  The street greening was in addition to the Provincial Planning Act requirement for all developers to allocate 5% of the development land for parkland or, if requested by the City, to pay the cash equivalent.

 

The Williamsville Secondary Plan also called for parkettes on street corners.  Only one of five development proposals has a planned parkette. Developers were allowed to pay cash instead of installing parkettes, ultimately resulting in even larger buildings.  So far, there has been no greening of Princess Street or the adjoining streets.   

For Albert Street resident Joan Bowie, "The Williamsville Main Street Study has been a great disappointment.  There are more vacant lots and empty buildings with property standards’ violations such as broken and boarded up windows. The promised increase in ground-floor commercial space, which would attract people to the main street, did not happen; if anything, there has been a decrease.”  She and many others in Williamsville District are looking forward to a review of the study so that the problems can be fixed and the next developments required to stick to the Plan.