Local developers are taking the city to task over its moratorium on building in the Blackfriars neighbourhood, and taking it all the way to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The city’s plan was to stop single family homes from being replaced by what some call big-box residential buildings.

But  now it seems council will have another neighbourhood fight on its hands.

John Darnell’s parents built their home in the area in the final days of the Second World War, and his is one of many families who've been in the Blackfriars neighbourhood for generations.

“It was built in '45…a lot of people in this area have been here for a number of years and the character of the homes all seem to fit in. You know the big boxes I don't think would fit in.”

But big changes are knocking on the door. City council has been called to the Ontario Municipal Board by developers - over its decision to place a moratorium on any development in Blackfriars.

The freeze includes demolition of buildings like this burned out boarding house, but it also affects anyone in the middle of major renovations.

Councillor Paul Hubert, who sits on the planning committee, says with such unintended consequences they just can't win.

“It seems like every time we try to protect the character of something, put constraints around what development might look like, people almost reflectively go to the OMB.”

The problems began with this unassuming home on Wilson Avenue. Residents cried foul when a developer proposed to tear it down and build a multi-unit complex in its place.

Concerned residents in Blackfriars often point to the Biggs neighbourhood just to the north across Oxford Street. 

What's happened there is what they refer to as box-style housing - big multi-unit residential buildings right next to single residential homes original to the neighbourhood.

The one year freeze is accompanied by a heritage study of Blackfriars and the Petersville neighbourhood on the west side of Wharncliffe Road.

Don Menard, London’s heritage planner, says if declared a Heritage Conservation District some restrictions would be as permanent as the stone foundations that gave birth to the neighbourhood.

“It's when you start to change the character of a heritage streetscape that the control may exhibit itself.  And even then it's not absolute, because any property owner can come to council and request an alteration.”

The planning committee is receiving the OMB notification Tuesday evening but no date has been set for the hearing.