Apartment building in the works for Fairbank House land


The grounds of one of Petrolia’s most iconic home could soon be changing.

The owner of Fairbank House on Petrolia Line wants to build a four-storey apartment building between the historic home of the former oil baron and the Tank Street Apartment on the corner of Tank and Petrolia Line.

David Burnie of Kalmazoo, Michigan has filed papers with the Town of Petrolia for a minor variance. The town’s bylaws allow just one main building on a residential property. Burnie wants approval to build the second.

Drawings provided by Burnie to Lambton County planner show the 16-unit building on the west side of the historic home with a parking lot for 24-cars behind it. The building has a footprint of 542 square meters – larger than Fairbank House by 75 square meters

Messages left for Burnie about the project were not returned at press time.

Petrolia Mayor John McCharles and Chief Administrative Officer Manny Baron say the application came without warning about a month ago. Up until now, McCharles says the relationship between the owners of Fairbank House and the town have been “non-communicative.” The town attempted several years ago to have the building designated under Ontario’s Heritage Act but the Burnie family said no.

“I was surprised to see they wanted to develop that property,” says McCharles. “We want to see the details and we want to be able to work…cooperatively with them, but it is a surprise.”

There are a number of technical concerns about the application. The driveway for the apartment building would be off Petrolia Line and on a relatively steep angle near the corner of Tank, creating traffic flow difficulties, says Baron. He’s also concerned the original drawings show only one exit from the property.

McCharles says the municipality’s planner, Rob Nesbitt from the County of Lambton, is looking at the application now and will outline what challenges or concerns he sees for the Committee of Adjustment meeting slated for Dec. 7 in the council chambers.

But aside from the planning issues, Baron admits his “personal concern” is the optics of a property owner building a brand new building while the current home is in obvious need of work.

McCharles says landowners have the right to apply to build on their property under the Planning Act. He’s hopeful that the process will deal with any concerns council and community might have.

And he says residents are welcome to “suggest things to change” at the Committee of Adjustment hearing.



  1. This is my favourite house in the whole world!!! It speaks to me of the stories and memories made their, I am not in favour of building a new complex, if the owners don’t want to donate it to the heritage act and don’t want to fix it they shouldn’t be aloud to build new! The money for a new building should be used to fix this beautiful neglected home up! I hope to win the lottory some day I would buy it and restore it to its full natural beauty! I would even start fundraising to help fix it! Don’t let it die!!!

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