Zoning change approved in Chatham despite opposition from neighbours

18 Dolsen Road in Chatham. Fall 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

A new affordable housing project could be coming to Chatham soon.

Chatham-Kent council passed a zoning change Monday night that would allow a two-storey, 14-unit affordable housing building to go up at 18 Dolsen Road.

An hour and a half was spent discussing the matter and council members heard from over a dozen residents who live near the site, with most of them speaking against the project.

“We acknowledge the need for affordable housing, but we feel to best advantage the tenants… [the building] should be placed in the best possible location near amenities in order for them to thrive,” said Jody Vilaranda, who lives on Allen Street. “The necessities and services needed for everyday living are not totally accessible there, nor is the transportation.”

Vilaranda, and other neighbours, also expressed privacy concerns stemming from the height of the proposed building, which could include balconies on a two-storey apartment complex. Several other concerns included the potential for decreasing property values and an overall disruption to the residential neighbourhood.

Despite the opposition, a motion to approve the housing development received support from a strong majority of the CK council members, passing 14-3.

“Affordable housing is no different than people on pensions or people working two jobs who can’t afford to buy a big house,” said councillor Marjorie Crew, who supported the motion. “They don’t want to live in industrial areas, they want to live in nice welcoming communities. So I hope everyone is nice and welcoming to them.”

Councillor Joe Faas agreed, calling the approval a “no-brainer.”

“The [affordable housing units] blend into the community quite nicely… I don’t see it as being a problem,” said Faas. “People don’t want change and they’re fearful and they come up with fears that don’t really have justification.”

The property that was approved for re-zoning is occupied by the now-closed St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Before a new building can go up, the vacant church would need to be demolished.

Council was met with several ‘boos’ from upset residents after the motion was passed, but the man behind the building plan, Tim Zavits, currently manages three affordable housing units in Chatham-Kent and assured those with concerns they would hardly notice a difference in their neighbourhood.

-With files from Matt Weverink