Wendy’s

Council defers planning report, developer says that kills Wendy’s proposal

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council voted to defer a amending development agreement for 83 Sandwich St. S. and that deferral has killed the chances of Wendy’s coming to Amherstburg, according to the property owner.

The deferral came as a result of a letter from Sobeys’ lawyers with the majority of council, with the exception of Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillor Rick Fryer, opting to wait until that matter was addressed by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). However, developer Joe Mikhail said that deferral effectively kills the plans to have a Wendy’s on the site due to timelines that company has.

According to Mikhail, the letter was circulated to town council about one hour before the meeting.

Mikhail said Wendy’s wants a shovel in the ground by September and that isn’t possible now that the matter is deferred. For it to happen in Amherstburg at his site, the process would now have to wait another year and Mikhail believed Wendy’s would not agree to that.

“They’ll just walk away,” said Mikhail. “They’ll go to LaSalle.”

Mikhail alleged that what Sobeys “with the concurrence of council” did was kill the deal for Amherstburg. He said 50 potential jobs were lost in the process and accused “corporate greed” from Sobeys as the cause of the deferral.

The process to bring a Wendy’s fast food restaurant to Amherstburg cleared an initial hurdle as council approved the concept of allowing a drive-thru at the proposed 83 Sandwich St. S. site. The image, included on the town’s agenda package for last Thursday’s meeting, shows the proposed design.

The letter from the law firm of Aird & Berlis, and signed by Steven A. Zakem, stated that they would file an appeal of the Official Plan designation and zoning bylaw amendment for the site at 83 Sandwich St. S. The letter disagreed with statements in a report to council and that “contrary to the statements in the council report, the landlord has not co-operated with Sobeys Capital Inc. to ensure concerns have been addressed. Sobeys’ planning consultant has provided correspondence to the Town of Amherstburg’s planning department on May 10, 14 and August 8 of 2018 raising concerns with reliance on a 2001 Traffic Impact Study and has requested an updated Traffic Impact Study for the site. To date, this request has been ignored.”

Rennie Rota, who runs the Amherstburg Sobeys, said he is pro-development as is Sobeys. They are also concerned about the safety of their customers, claiming the driveway off of Sandwich St. S. would be narrowed to customers going in and out of the store.

“I have no problem with Wendy’s going there,” said Rota. “I think it would be good for my business. What we’re saying is, if you are going to build it, build it right.”

DiCarlo said if the matter had been approved, the matter would have proceeded to the site plan stage where the issues between the parties could have been worked out. Fryer said the process was nearing an end and believed the decision to defer was “short-sighted by some people.” Commercial development is needed in Amherstburg, Fryer added.

“We need it,” he said, adding that decisions like Monday night’s could impact other developments. He said “Amherstburg will lose out” if developments such as Wendy’s don’t come.

Town moving forward with fast-food development

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The process to bring a new drive-thru fast food location to Amherstburg was moved forward by town council, but it appears there are issues that have to be resolved with the restaurant’s potential neighbours.

A special meeting of council was held last Thursday evening with the bylaws moved forward and that meeting and subsequently passed Monday night allowed for the Official Plan and zoning bylaw to be amended to allow for the fast food restaurant – identified as a Wendy’s – but while a draft site plan was shown to council and included on the public agenda package, that process has yet to be finalized.

The site plan process will likely involve Sobeys, which sits on the same parcel of land, as concerns were raised by representatives of the grocery store.

Joe Mikhail, whose company owns the 4.58-acre site at 83 Sandwich St. S., said he was glad to be back in Amherstburg but questioned Sobeys’ concerns.

“We haven’t been in these chambers for quite some time,” Mikhail remarked at last Thursday’s meeting. “We used to call it the chamber of horrors. We’re happy to be back. We want to do a lot more. This is just the beginning.”

Larger projects could follow, Mikhail suggested, and told town council “I think you will be pleased with what I bring to Amherstburg.”

Sobeys is “guided by our lease with them,” said Mikhail and that he was surprised to learn of the grocery chain’s concerns.

Councillor Rick Fryer had concerns over traffic but also welcomed the development to town.

“Welcome back,” Fryer told Mikhail. “Our mayor, CAO, staff and council have been open-minded about moving the town forward.”

The design of Wendy’s, which was approved by the heritage committee, is something Fryer believed is consistent with other locations across the province.

“Wendy’s always seem to be heritage-looking buildings,” he said.

Fryer believed it was a “huge opportunity for Sobeys” as well. Rennie Rota, owner of the local Sobeys franchise, said he approves of development but did voice concerns.

“I, too, am excited about development in Amherstburg,” he said. “I’ve been one of the biggest cheerleaders for development in Amherstburg.”
Rota said that Sobeys didn’t see the draft site plan until last Tuesday, two days before the public meeting.

“We at Sobeys had no time to do our due diligence,” he said.

Concerns for Sobeys raised last Thursday involved entrance and exit access, potential for conflicts with “daily loading operations” and the parking space reduction. Rota said he was disappointed that Mikhail didn’t approach them sooner.

“I know Toronto is very disappointed as well,” he said.

The process to bring a Wendy’s fast food restaurant to Amherstburg cleared an initial hurdle as council approved the concept of allowing a drive-thru at the proposed 83 Sandwich St. S. site. The image, included on the town’s agenda package for last Thursday’s meeting, shows the proposed design.

Sobeys wants time to look at the proposed site plan and have input, Rota added.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said the meeting was simply to move the concept of having drive-thru restaurants at that location forward and that “the final site plan can be amended.”

“I’m very excited about your proposal,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, “but we have to keep our people safe and we want our existing businesses to prosper.”

In addition to wanting to have Rota’s concerns dealt with, Pouget had other concerns she wanted to have addressed. Pouget wondered what will happen when General Amherst High School moves, noting there will be a lot fewer people activating the stop light at the crosswalk in front of the school. She wondered what that would mean for traffic at the Sandwich St. S.-Fort St. intersection.

“That’s going to be a very, very busy intersection,” she said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin told town council that there are “a number of things to prepare for” when the school moves to its Centennial Park location in a few years.

“I think the school leaving is going to create a different traffic pattern in town,” he said.

Mikhail said he tried to call Sobeys head office 15 times but didn’t get a call returned.

“For them to come in and cry wolf that they didn’t see it, they are crying big wolf tears,” said Mikhail. “We followed the rules. We gave them notice. It was in the paper. We did everything (the town) said we have to do. We will work with Sobeys if they will pick up the phone and talk to us.”

“Mr. Mikhail knows me very well. He has my phone number,” responded Rota. “If he wasn’t getting a response from Toronto, he has my cell phone and knows I am in the store pretty much every day of the week.”

Fryer said there will be more opportunities to “hash this out” and that last Thursday’s meeting was “just a stepping stone” along the way.

“We’ll work out the logistics later on,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche said it was a great development but hoped the proponents of the new Wendy’s and Sobeys could work out their differences. Meloche said he was concerned about town council having to “play referee” in the process.

Another issue was raised Monday night by Sobeys, with Rota indicating that while Sobeys is not opposed to the drive-thru restaurant on the site, they are “very concerned” wit the site plan proposed. He told town council Monday night that Amherstburg has “exploded” with development and that the traffic study used in the process dated back to 2001.

Pouget said 17 years “is too long for a traffic study” and questioned whether costs, should a stop light at Fort St. and Sandwich St. S. be necessary, be paid for by surrounding developers and not the ratepayers.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said the traffic study took into account if the Sobeys were to expand by 9,000 square feet and that the proposed Wendy’s is 2,200 square feet. Jeff Belanger, a consultant for Mikhail Holdings, indicated the traffic study is for the site itself and should not be looked at in terms of years but the size of the development. He said the study looked at a usage larger than what is currently there.

CAO John Miceli stated that Rebecca and Jeff Belanger are not related. He also cautioned council about getting in the middle of issues between a landlord and a tenant and said the site plan issues are between Sobeys and Mikhail Holdings.

“In my opinion, we are going town a slippery slope if we get involved with landlord-tenant issues,” he said. “We’re putting things way ahead of the cart. They can’t finalize the site plan until we give them the zoning.”