Council supports former movie theatre site development

An artist rendering for a new residential development at 1450 London Road in Sarnia. Image courtesy of the City of Sarnia.

Construction of a large residential development at the former movie theatre property on London Road in Sarnia received support from city council Thursday.

Official plan and rezoning bylaw amendments were approved in a unanimous 8-0 vote during a special public meeting at 10 a.m.

Councillor Bill Dennis complimented the developers.

“I could not be more supportive of this outstanding development project for our city,” Dennis said. “I think we owe a big thank you to Southside Construction for their proposed investment, which will result in 324 new rental units.”

“This project translates to greater city revenue, lots of construction and related jobs, significant spin-off jobs, more business activity for our local businesses, more housing opportunities for our residents. It’s a big win, win, win.”

Keith Douglas, a veterinarian who co-owns the neighbouring Blue Cross Animal Hospital at 1438 London Road, expressed concerns about privacy and requested that the development be fenced off and have security lighting.

Councillor George Vandenberg asked that wood fencing be avoided.

“I just noticed in some of the other subdivisions the fencing falls apart after a few years, and masonry doesn’t,” said Vandenberg. “If you go into London, along old 22 [Highway] in the Masonville [area], you’ll see all these nice concrete walls and they’re soundproof and last a long time.”

Councillor Brian White thanked Mayor Mike Bradley for requesting the special meeting to ensure all concerns are met.

“I think the neighbours’ concerns are valid and important for consideration, specifically regarding the privacy and safety issues that were described, but I also feel very confident in having listened to the presenter, on behalf of the property owners, that they’re willing and friendly neighbours,” White said. “So, I believe the process will work well.”

Community Services General Manager Stacey Forfar said the group is motivated to advance the project, but she couldn’t put a firm date on when site plan documents would be received.

“There are a number of other agencies involved in those,” Forfar said. “But we can certainly work toward, I would hope, within the first quarter or second quarter at the latest of next year, if I can put it out there broadly.”

Southside Construction Management Limited, purchased 1450 London Road, across from Lambton College, in December, 2021.

The company plans to build four, six storey, apartment buildings with a mix of one, two, and three bedroom units.

Zelinka Priamo Ltd. Senior Associate Dave Hannam, who represents the developers, told council the units will be geared toward “annual renewals and international students.”

The property has been vacant since 2013 and the former Famous Players movie theatre and a restaurant, known as Norm’s Pub and Grill, were demolished in 2017.

Councillor Margaret Bird was absent from Thursday’s meeting.