Dozens of Keewatin area residents rallied against a proposed zoning by-law change Tuesday evening on Ottawa Street.

Local residents say they are concerned that Ottawa Street will become congested if the developer of a proposed three-story, mixed-use building at 213 Portage Street receives a variance from the City of Kenora to reduce the total number of required parking stalls from 46 spaces to 20 spaces.

Concerned residents believe the reduction in required parking stalls would result in more vehicles parked on Ottawa Street and Twelfth Street, which they say would lead to further congestion in the area.

To show the potential impact of more vehicles parked in the area, residents gathered and parked along Ottawa Street and Twelfth Street to illustrate their point and the potential danger.

"We wanted to show that it's not safe to have such a big complex put up and wanting to use Ottawa Street and Twelfth as parking areas. You get cars parked on both sides of the street and it becomes one-lane traffic mostly," said area residents Sylvia Leischow.

Leischow noted that space on Ottawa Street is reduced in the winter due to snowbanks and pointed out that trucks with boat trailers often park in the area over the summer, further reducing parking spaces.

The proposed project will consist of 12 apartment units on the third floor, health hostel units on the second floor, and general commercial units on the ground level. In addition to the variance, the developer is also looking to purchase the road allowance, to the west of the building, to allow for additional parking.

Sylvia Leischow, who lives next to the proposed site, is against the variance and is concerned she'll lose access to her property on Portage Street if the project continues as proposed.

"I don't know how I'm going to get in and out of my place if they take away my roadway. They say it's an unused roadway, but it isn't. It's the street I live on. I have the grader come in the winter, I have garbage pick-up every week. I'm on Portage Street and I pay taxes."

In a letter obtained by KenoraOnline, Nelson Architecture Inc. says "we believe due to the nature of the housing proposed that the 26 spaces will adequately meet the needs of the facility. The apartments will be serving clientele who will typically not be multi-vehicle owners."

The City of Kenora says, "The city is following the planning procedures that we have in place and following due process. At this point, the city has not presented a position on the matter and there are processes in place to review these applications. Public notice is part of the proper process and the city will continue to process this planning file in accordance with these policies. At this time we have no further position on this file."

Residents will be able to voice their praise or concerns over the project next week when the Kenora Planning Advisory Committee, who hears applications and considers recommendations to council, hosts a virtual meeting via Zoom on March 16 at 6 p.m. that allows for public participation by telephone, computers, and mobile devices.