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Planner, Neighbors Disagree on Proposed Self-Storage Site in Ontario, Canada


A developer who would like to convert the site of a former Catholic school in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, into a self-storage facility is facing opposition from the city planner, who wants the city council to refuse the developer's rezoning application at a public hearing this afternoon.

Nelmar Developments Inc., owned by Sarnia residents Robert and Rino Iacobelli, needs a zoning change to convert the 3.7-acre site of the former St. Margaret Catholic Elementary School into a self-storage facility consisting of eight warehouses and an office building. Mayor Mike Bradley told the source the neighbors of the proposed project have no objections to the plan, but Director of Planning and Building Kim Bresee argues the development does not align with the rest of the neighborhood, which is primarily residential.

“We are concerned that a neighborhood that’s been there for years and years will erode if there’s an industrial use in the middle of it,” Bresee told the source. “It’s not an easy or clear-cut situation because they’ve taken steps to integrate the mini-storage with landscaping and screening,” Bresee said. “But the fact remains it is still an industrial use and will abut the backyards of predominantly residential property.”

The city currently operates a public-works yard, where waste and recycling are donated, collected and processed, less than a block away from the proposed site. But the planning department would prefer to see development Bresee calls “more supportive” of residential areas, such as a daycare center or a convenience store.

A petition attached to the application has 34 signatures from neighbors who say they don't oppose the facility as long as the property is fenced and has limited access, and gates are included the plan. Dino Iacobelli told the source a January open house with 40 neighborhood residents in attendance seemed to indicate the neighbors supported the company's plans.

The school has been vacant since 2010, along with three other Catholic schools in the city. Nelmar acquired another former school site and also places to redevelop it but hasn't disclosed plans.

Bradley told the source he has yet to take a position on the application and will wait for the public meeting before making up his mind.


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