The committee of adjustment, which handles smaller planning matters, voted in favour of deferring the decision to exempt a developer from the line-of-sight Basilica bylaw on Thursday, an exemption that would allow a four-story apartment building to be built at 9 and 11 Cork St. downtown.

An eleventh hour effort by community activist Susan Watson brought other residents of Guelph out to the early empty public gallery and seven of them — led first by Watson — spoke to the committee, all of them speaking out against a development that would block sight of the Catholic church.

All of them had only heard about the developers application a few hours earlier. Watson had sent out an email and made phone calls to raise awareness for the application. All of the delegates criticized the developer for not corresponding more with the community.

The developer’s representative, Brian McCulloch, said that his team corresponded since last fall with staff at city hall about the building. The followed the rules surrounding public notice by putting up physical signs at the site and notifying property owners within 60 metres of the application.

Watson and many of the other delegates argued that there was not enough community input on an issue that impacts the entire city, as the Basilica is a local landmark. Anne Gajerski-Cauliy, who described herself as a lay historian, said she felt the developer was trying to “sneak something in”.

A few of the delegates added that the issue itself should be instead considered by Council and not the appointed members of the committee of adjustment. However, staff maintained that, under the planning act, it was the legal prerogative for the committee to address the issue.

Michael Finoro aims to build the four-story development at 9 and 11 Cork St. on the hill that leads up to the church, which would break a bylaw limiting the height of buildings to 343.51 metres within a specific viewing area. If the building is later approved as-is, it would be 2.5 metres over the limit.

Committee vice chair David Kendrick attempted to find a procedural way to pass on the application to Council, however, the options were to refuse, pass or defer without discussion. He made a motion to defer, that passed with four votes in favour. The application will now return at a later date.

Watson said after the application was deferred that she hopes now there will be more awareness raised and community input will happen. The developer’s team was approached by The Post, but they said they could not give comment.