City council approved the rezoning of vacant land to a high-density designation in the southwest area of the Cranbrook after a long and contentious public hearing saw pushback from neighbouring property owners.
The zoning change was requested by the property owner, Terry Segarty, who plans to build an apartment building on the lot — a proposal opposed by many of the neighbouring property owners.
Issues raised by neighbours included traffic safety concerns, potential for decreased property values, increased crime, and a fear that the scale of the development would skyrocket if the rezoning was approved.
Following the public hearing, city council approved the rezoning request after discussion around the table. Votes in favour included Mayor Lee Pratt and councillors Wes Graham, Norma Blissett, Danielle Eaton and Ron Popoff, while Councillor Isaac Hockley was the lone holdout opposed.
All those who voted in favour cited housing affordability concerns and the low vacancy rate at 1.1 per cent in Cranbrook.
“I’m always talking to industry about moving here and the first thing they ask me is ‘What’s the accommodation like? Where are my people going to live?’” said Mayor Pratt.
“And the answer is, I don’t know, because right now, there is no place for them to live and we’re losing professionals in the community now who can’t find proper accommodation so they’re leaving.
“Whenever you’re talking about change, man is a creature of habit and a lot of us, we buck change no matter what. I think this proposal has some very positive implications for the vibrancy of the community, it will help the housing affordability and availability in Cranbrook and I support it.”
Popoff echoed the affordability concerns, noting that it’s a problem the entire province is facing.
“Those times have changed where a single 900-square foot house, detached, is now considered a starter house in most communities, and that includes Cranbrook,” Popoff said.
“The new housing that’s affordable is duplexes, quads, row housing, apartments, modular homes, and those are the pieces that this council and all councils across British Columbia are needing to build into that mix that meets the needs of our community.”
The proposal, as outlined in documents within the city council agenda package, calls for a three-storey, 24 unit apartment building with a large parking lot. Segarty, who was present at the meeting, pledged a commitment to build only 20 units for now — telling council and the public gallery that there isn’t currently a market for any more than that — and capping the building at 40 units.
“Twenty units now, it could be 20 years until the next phase comes in, but it would not go beyond those [additional] 20 units,” said Segarty. “I’m prepared to come back and meet with council, make a presentation to them, this is where we are going, this is what we can do, and there is already a covenant on the property that doesn’t allow me to do anything other than a single-family home and I can’t do that because its zoned for duplexes at the present time.”
However, under the high-density residential zoning designation, up to 86 units can be permitted.
The possibility of what could happen drove much of the discussion from concerned neighbours.
Residents living on 9th and 10th St. and in the immediate neighbourhood cited concerns such as the potential for increased traffic and that safety issues could arise, the potential of decreased property values and a fear of unfettered development in the area.
Residents were also upset that the existing neighbourhood has mixed-use residential properties with duplexes and fourplexes, in addition to single-family dwellings.
“The neighbourhood already has plenty of multi-family dwellings and housing for people with modest incomes. Mixed in with these rentals and freehold properties are middle-class single-family homes too. There is no need for an apartment in the neighbourhood,” said Dawn Fenwick, a neighbouring property owner.
“The assessed value of my residence has been stagnant for many years now. I’m worried that having a large parking lot and a large apartment at the end of the street will cause my property’s assessed value to decline.”
Nick Barton, a property owner in the neighbourhood, said the immediate area already has mixed residential properties with six duplexes and four fourplexes in a two-block radius.
Barton added that he was concerned about what the future of the proposed apartment building will look like if the rezoning to high-density was approved.
“If the property is allowed to build this apartment, from what I understand, there’s nothing stopping him from going ahead, once he gets the zoning change, to put in another floor on that building and adding a number of apartments and parking spaces,” said Barton.
Harold Williams, who also lives nearby, circulated a petition, gathering 42 signatures — all opposed — to the proposed rezoning. Another petition was included in council documents that listed nine names, all opposed to the proposed rezoning as well.
Other issues like snow removal came up as residents complained their streets weren’t plowed in the winter, which affected traffic and parking along the two streets.
The property for the proposed apartment building site used to be owned by the Catholic Church where it had a covenant placed on it allowing only one residential building.
An initial proposal for the property included three duplexes, downsized from five, when it was rezoned to R3 Cluster Development Zone in 2015.
However, according to Segarty, that plan was cost-prohibitive and scrapped in favour of the apartment building that would allow for higher density to spread out and cover the construction and development costs to bring the cost-per-unit to a more marketable condition.
Hockley, the lone vote in opposition to the proposal, said he was uncomfortable about how the property had progressed from R1 to R3 to a potential R6 zoning and the resulting backlash from the neighbourhood.
“I think you’re a great developer and a great asset to this community,” said Hockley, addressing Segarty during the discussion. “Saying that, I’ve watched the zoning for this property go from R1 to R3 and now to R6. So looking at that and hearing the public over this, I’m sorry Terry, but I’m not in favour of this zoning change.”