Cranbrook city council voted to adopt rezoning amendments to a proposed housing development on Innes Ave, following a debate at the table and a lengthy public hearing on Wednesday night.
The majority of council supported of the amendment, citing the need for more housing in the community, while Councillor Mike Peabody was the lone vote in opposition, with concerns focused on the impact of four-storey apartments to a neighbourhood of single-family homes.
Mayor Lee Pratt touted the city’s ability to maintain the current level of services without significantly raising taxes, but added that for the city to increase revenue, it needs economic development, which means more people moving businesses and families to the area.
“When we talk to people about coming here, moving their businesses here, the first thing they ask is ‘Where are my people going to live?’ And we don’t have an answer for them, so they’re not going to come here,” Pratt said.
The proposed project plans feature four apartment buildings and 10 four-plexes on a 10-acre property. At full build-out, the project features 292 dwelling units of market-rental housing.
Councillor Ron Popoff echoed Pratt’s concerns over attracting new residents and business to foster increased economic development, and said that resident concerns would be addressed through the building permit process.
“I’m in favour of this proposal,” said Popoff, “because I think when we finally go through the building permit application process, the issues of sidewalks and curbs and getting rid of the ditches and traffic studies and improving the road network and the drainage issues and everything else that we’ve talked about — and thank you for identifying those things in your letters — those will be addressed.”
Councillor John Hudak expressed concern about urban sprawl in the rural areas around Cranbrook, while highlighting the need for housing within the community.
“It’s important to note that we haven’t had a development of this nature in Cranbrook probably since the 70’s when we had the last big building boom,” Hudak said. “The fact that we’ve had somebody come in with some outside knowledge with a lot of credibility and not only on Vancouver Island, but throughout Western Canada, I think we have somebody here who will bring a quality product to the table, should everything be approved.”
Councillor Wayne Price also spoke out in favour of the project, pointing out that any elected council has to make decisions based on the best interests of the entire community
“We’ve been told over the last year numerous times by people in the province, people in the community, that we have a housing crisis. When they start using terms like ‘crisis’, now that makes our job pretty tough,” Price said.
“…When I look at what our mandate is, and what we’re being told by the professionals, by the community in general, when you’re talking crisis, I don’t think we’ve got a choice, we’ve got an opportunity with a development like that.”
The lone vote in opposition, Councillor Peabody said he was concerned on the impact to privacy that four-storey apartments will have in the neighbourhood.
“I believe medium density in this area makes sense, but I believe it makes sense if it’s townhouses or four plexes or duplexes,” Peabody said. “To put four-storey apartment buildings across from single family residential homes, that does not make sense to me.”
Concerns raised at public hearing
Prior to the discussion and the vote, local residents had the opportunity to voice their perspective on the project, whether in favour or in opposition.
Many of the issues raised by local residents included fears of increased traffic and safety issues for pedestrians on a narrow road with no sidewalks. Parking was also an issue for local residents concerned that a reduced variance of two cars per dwelling unit would lead to increased on-street parking.
Further concerns included emergency vehicle access with only one proposed road entrance, as some local residents suggested the city negotiate a second entrance from 9th St. on the east side of the property.
One resident pointed to the Wattsville Neighbourhood Plan as described in the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), which recommends the land use for the area be limited to single family residences, among suggestions relating to traffic and pedestrian safety, reducing storm water flooding and identifying appropriate spots for road and sidewalk improvements.
She asked how council can approve the rezoning application when it runs contrary to the neighbourhood plan recommendations.
Mayor Pratt responded that the OCP is a conceptual plan and ‘not written in stone’.
Another resident, with a young family, expressed concerns that the property would be bottle-necked by one entrance and that traffic congestion around T.M Roberts and Parkland Middle School may pose increased risks to students walking to schools.
One resident spoke about storm sewer draining, noting that water flows back from Elizabeth Lake during high precipitation events. His concern focused on excess water flowing over pavement to property edges and potentially impacting neighbouring homes, rather than soaking naturally into the ground.
Staff is currently undertaking a city-wide study of the storm water drainage system. Mike Matejka, the city’s infrastructure manager, said ‘it would only make sense’ for the city to address some of the outstanding stormwater issues on Innes Ave in conjunction with the developer — who would share a cost — when the project gets underway.
With the adoption of the zoning and OCP amendment, the process now shifts to negotiations between the developer — Broadstreet Properties Ltd — and the city relating to a building permit. Those negotiations will determine the cost-share for both parties and responsibilities for addressing some of the issues raised by residents and city staff.