Aldershot residents have made it clear that they do not like what is happening in their community.
During last week’s two virtual public meetings, about separate redevelopment projects, people complained that the changes to the area once referred to as “Sleepy Hollow” are not welcome.
A review of the comments made at those meetings along with the facebook posts that followed, testify to the level of disappointment.
“It’s incredibly upsetting to see our area, that I’ve lived in for 30 years, completely change…. and the direction it’s going much like Mississauga…..You’re going to drive out everyone that has made Aldershot what it is”, observed a woman named Brittany.
Local Ward Councillor Kelvin Galbraith explained that the changes taking place in Aldershot are part of a Provincial plan to accommodate massive population growth in southern Ontario.
“Approximately 70,000 people will be moving to Burlington by the year 2051. Burlington has identified areas to accommodate that growth……Plains Road has been a bit of a target lately, I can admit, but it is a five-lane road that the City has identified as a growth area.”
Most of the criticism focuses on Plains Road and the new developments that are already built or proposed.
“If you go down Plains Road, all you see of anything that used to be a plaza or a large home, is a condominium or a townhouse”, said Steve during one of last week’s meetings.
“Where does this stop? Every single week we see a new development coming to our attention. It’s mind blowing, one after another, after another. Is this ever going to stop”, said another speaker.
“It’s not just the number of new buildings. It’s also about the style, mass, height and architecture.
“I am concerned with the condos that are being planned and proposed, even the look of them is not going to be in keeping with the architecture of Aldershot. ….These buildings are so modern looking that they just don’t fit with the rest of the Aldershot feel. I would hate to see a mishmash of different architectures that don’t match the feel of the Village of Aldershot”, said Joanne.
“How does any of this fit in with the surrounding and existing neighbours?”, asked Kelly McKinnon.
““It is not designed with the neighborhood and residents in mind”, claimed long-time community advocate Tom Muir.
“The building heights are absolutely unacceptable to the community”, said another man.
The City of Burlington’s new Official Plan permits 6 storeys along Plains Road with even higher buildings close to Waterdown Road. Developers, however, have the right to object to the height regulations and appeal the Official Plan. Several are doing that.
Then, there’s the traffic. Aldershot experiences major traffic volumes during the evening rush hours and when the 403 backs up, many of the cars get off the highway and on to Plains Road. Some trucking companies even prefer to use Plains Road out of fear that the highway will shut down.
“Aldershot is being spoiled terribly by the number of buildings that are planned to go in….
How are you ever going to be able to deal with the traffic that will be added” cautioned Kerry Green.
“I can’t even imagine how horrible driving will be on Plains Road. We are still not seeing plans for another grocery store or even restaurants in the west end”, said Sylvianne Koh.
The long-standing complaint about the lack of a grocery store in west Aldershot continues to colour every debate about the wellbeing of the community. Added to that is the discussion about the range and size of retail outlets along Plains Road.
“I’ve lived in Aldershot for some time and I’ve seen the closing of 3 grocery stores in our area, where the Bingo Connection was, the A&P and where DOT Patio is, used to be Longos. We don’t have a walkable grocery store in our area any more. It’s a concern”, said Mary.
“We are still not seeing plans for another grocery store or even restaurants in the west end”, said Sylvianne.
Ground floor retail “is not the type of retail we need in Aldershot. Any retail space in a condo building is very limited. We have enough of them along Plains Road……cafes sure, Starbucks sure,…. but with any type of restaurant – all those residents will smell is grease. We need larger retail complexes”, said Gary.
Councillor Galbraith responded that smaller, ground floor retail is inevitable.
“The City is looking for mixed-use commercial and good retail on the main floors to service the new residents and existing residents. We’re not going to see any big box plazas any more in Aldershot. We don’t have the land for it so we need these developments to be mixed use so they can service the entire community”.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward won’t make any promises about the grocery store.
“We can require it to be built as part of a development, and the space preserved, but we do live in a free market and we can’t require businesses to move in.”
Frequent calls to grocery store chains over the years have revealed that they are not ready to locate in Aldershot because the population remains well below 25,000 and this limited consumer market is further fragmented by the fact that there are already 7 grocery stores withing 7 kilometers of Aldershot.
In the late 90s a citizens group known as the Plains Road Village Vision was formed. Its goal was to “Convert Plains Road from a highway that divides us to a ribbon that ties our community together”. Their work resulted in the City’s 2006 “Plains Road Corridor Urban Design Guidelines”.
The Study made mention of the character of Plains Road.
“Today, segments of the Plains Road corridor have a distinctive visual quality that should be protected and reinforced through careful planning and urban design……Along the corridor, several precincts each have a clearly defined visual character that reflects the character of adjacent neighbourhoods. Streetscape and built form guidelines are needed to protect and reinforce this character. Other segments of the corridor are in transition and need clearly articulated streetscape and built form guidelines to ensure that redevelopment supports a green “parkway” corridor.
New guidelines were eventually adopted by the City.
By Rick Craven