© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Coun. Mark Tweidt, who lives next-door to a four-storey condo of residents he calls “good, good neighbours,” speaks in favour of a three-storey, 56-unit senior housing complex at 658 River St. E. during Monday’s city council meeting.
Despite a 42-name petition urging them against it, the city’s elected officials gave the go-ahead for a 56-unit senior housing development during Monday’s meeting.
The building, at 658 River St. E., will be constructed by IBP Properties Ltd. and operated by Kopera Care Homes -- a local company whose positive reputation was commended by various councillors during the meeting.
The three-storey building will initially consist of 20 full-time care and 36 assisted living units -- a ratio council decided is allowed to change as long as the building continues to operated under these two uses.
Area property owners almost unanimously disapproved of the contentious development, but in the end, six out of nine councillors deduced that the pros outweighed the cons.
“At the end of the day, there’s a need in our community,” Mayor Greg Dionne said before council voted down Coun. Lee Atkinson’s motion to deny the proposal.
“It’s privately owned land (and) it’s sat vacant for a very long time,” Coun. Rick Orr said. “We need infill. We need it to be productive for our city -- for our corporation -- so that it can bring revenue.”
Council’s final decision followed an almost two-hour public forum, during which some of the 42 residents who opposed the project, represented by property owner Irwin Martin, were given a chance to express their concerns before the developers made their case.
Martin outlined previously expressed concerns around parking, the building’s large size and the fact that it sticks out in the neighbourhood.
“The provincial jail is more inviting,” past city councillor Rod Thomson later said. “The very design of it is an insult to any city council who is expected to approve it.”
The proposed project is within Ward 3, which is represented by Atkinson, who spoke against the project after fielding a number of concerns from residents over the past few weeks.
“I do believe it’s needed, yes, but I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that where residents exist, and where we do in-fill … how well does it fit in that neighbourhood?” Atkinson said, adding that the neighbours have joined of a chorus of nearby residents in answering this question with “No.”
“It takes away from the neighbourhood,” Atkinson said, adding that he suspects nearby property owners will become less inclined to invest in their properties once such a large-scale housing project is in the vicinity.
“The density of the unit is too high for the area it wants to be located in,” he said.
At the end of the day, there’s a need in our community. Mayor Greg Dionne
“We already have a community there, and I don’t think this benefits that community.”
Some of the concerns that have been expressed about the project have operated under a sense of public entitlement to the land -- an issue a number of councillors addressed on Monday, with Coun. Ted Zurakowski the first to point out that the land in question is privately owned and is not part of the Pehonan Parkway.
“It is private property, and you can’t actually trespass through to the riverbank,” Coun. Tim Scharkowski said. “The idea that it’s there for the whole general public to enjoy isn’t there at the moment.”
Zurakowski also guided city planner Craig Guidinger into clarifying that under its current R3 zoning, a developer could build a few single-family houses or duplexes on the land, without coming to council.
The 56-unit senior housing complex came to council because it fits under the zoning’s “discretionary use” category, meaning it’s only allowed pending council approval.
Coun. Martin Ring later noted that the houses that are allowed on the property without council approval could be as tall as three-storeys and cause as great or greater a parking problem as the proposed senior housing complex might.
Responding to comments about past council’s wishes and past precedence that has been set regarding projects such as the 56-unit senior housing complex, Coun. Mark Tweidt said that if council always stuck to the guns of past elected officials, nothing would get done.
“There wouldn’t be a mall here, there wouldn’t be a church here, there wouldn’t be -- you name it,” he said, motioning to different areas of the city. “A city evolves.”
How they voted
The following councillors voted in favour of the housing complex;
The following councillors voted against the housing complex;