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The construction of a large residential development on the former cinema property on London Road in Sarnia received the backing of city council on Thursday.

The official plan and rezoning by-law amendments were approved by a unanimous 8-0 vote at a special public meeting at 10 a.m.

Councilor Bill Dennis congratulated the developers.

“I couldn’t be more supportive of this exceptional development project for our city,” said Dennis. “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 means increased revenue for the town, many 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 nearby Blue Cross Animal Hospital at 1438 London Road, expressed privacy concerns and asked for the development to be fenced and provided with security lighting.

Councilor George Vandenberg requested that wooden fences be avoided.

“I just noticed that in some of the other subdivisions the fences crumble after a few years, unlike the masonry,” Vandenberg said. “If you go to London, along the old 22 [Highway] in masonville [area]you will see all these beautiful concrete walls and they are soundproof and long lasting.”

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

“I think the neighbors’ concerns are valid and important to consider, particularly in relation to the privacy and security issues that have been described, but I’m also very confident that I listened to the presenter, on behalf owners, that they are willing and friendly neighbors,” said White. “So I think the process will work well.”

Community Services General Manager Stacey Forfar said the group is motivated to move the project forward, but she could not set a specific date for receiving the site plan documents.

“There are a number of other agencies involved in these,” Forfar said. “But we can certainly work towards hopefully in the first or second quarter later next year, if I can get it out there widely.”

Southside Construction Management Limited, bought 1450 London Road, opposite Lambton College, in December 2021.

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

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

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

Councilor Margaret Bird was absent from Thursday’s meeting.