Modeland plaza plan gets rough ride

The future of the west side of Modeland Road south of Michigan Avenue will be discussed by city council on June 30. Journal Staff

If Sarnia council allows commercial plazas to be built on Modeland Road it must do so against the advice of city staff and some very vocal residents.

About 80 people expressed virtually unanimous opposition at St. Anne’s school last week to two proposed commercial developments, saying shopping plazas on the arterial road would forever alter the area’s residential character and clog traffic on Modeland with new access points.

“We are against it, and we will always be against it. And we don’t know when (the developers) are going to understand that,” Jeff English told a lively meeting hosted by city planning staff.

A London company has applied for a 26,000-square-foot commercial project northwest of Modeland and Michigan Avenue, requiring three private accesses onto Modeland.

And Sarnia developers want to build 46,000-square-feet of commercial space south of the lights at Berger Road.

In a show of hands just one person said they support the proposal.

Should those two projects be approved, commercial in-fill could result in a long, uninterrupted block of stores and business on the west side of Modeland requiring nine access driveways, said Kevin Edwards, of the city’s planning department.

Approval requires a change in Sarnia’s Official Plan, which currently designates Modeland an arterial road to connect north Sarnia and Bright’s Grove with areas south.

Council is to discuss the plan June 30, and residents at the meeting erupted in applause when Edwards said staff would recommend the new Official Plan follow existing policies.

As it stands, Sarnia has a 15% commercial vacancy rate, which is two to three times what’s considered healthy, he said.

And an “urban edge” road featuring trees and bikeways it is in keeping with the best practices of other cities.

East of Modeland is floodplain from the former Lake Wawanosh that’s prime agricultural land unsuitable for development.

– Journal Staff