A malfunction with the wheelchair elevator meant one supporter of the Sonja’s Garden development plans couldn’t make it up the stairs to council chambers on Monday night. And so mayor and council went down to hear Mike Gauthier’s comments.

A malfunction with the wheelchair elevator meant one supporter of the Sonja’s Garden development plans couldn’t make it up the stairs to council chambers on Monday night. And so mayor and council went down to hear Mike Gauthier’s comments.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Sonja’s Garden, an affordable family housing complex on Kootenay Street, is planning expansions.

Cranbrook city council chambers were filled with supporters and citizens with concerns regarding public hearings on the housing development plans by Sonja’s Garden. Sonja’s Garden, an affordable family housing complex on Kootenay Street, is planning expansions.

There were two chances to speak for or against the proposed bylaws: the first which changes the land use designation from Medium Density Residential to Park/Institutional/Recreation; and the second which adds a new zone Comprehensive Zone 6: CD-6 Sonja’s Garden Housing Development.

Later in the meeting, council gave third reading and adopted both bylaws.

City staff noted in the report that there had been nine items of correspondence opposed to the proposal.

Coun. Ron Popoff said he supported the recommendations on the OCP amendment. He said for him it all came down to one thing.

“Right now, Sonja’s Gardens, the owner can legitimately do those two buildings, it’s currently in our zoning bylaw that they can build those two buildings,” Popoff noted. “The key issue for us is really just to do with the additional client services they wish to offer. I think we can all agree that more client services for the people in those properties is a good thing, and would probably alleviate or should alleviate some of those concerns.”

Coun. Danielle Cardozo said having support services on site would be more of a benefit than not having them. She supported the amendment.

Coun. Tom Shypitka said there is a need for more affordable housing and client services.

Janice Ivan, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kootenays, spoke about the development plans. The CMHAK is a charity, non-profit organization with longstanding ties to the community. The main administration operates out of Cranbrook and works throughout the Kootenays.

“The nature of our services are much more what you would call upstream, as opposed to services that are more for persons with very serious needs,” Ivan said. “If we have someone who we’re serving or who comes to our door who has something very clinical and very specialized in nature, we refer those people on.”

CMHAK is multi funded in nature and not reliant on any one ministry.

“Over the years we have been very prudent with our finances and we have some surpluses that we’re proposing to dedicate to this project,” she said. “We plan to do this, if it goes through, without any government funding.”

In 1996, the property was approved to be finished in two phases.

“We were going to have 35 units, plus another two blocks of units — a total of 12 more,” she said. “At the very end that didn’t happen, but all of the services went in and that was considered a future phase.”

The complex is currently a mix of individual and family units, but she said over the years there has been a surge of needs for seniors housing. They also operate a number of seniors housing complexes around town, and she said there is an active wait list of 100 between the two.

“So what we thought was we need to proceed with phase two, but what the real need is is for single units for older adults who need affordable housing,” she said, adding that they decided on bringing more services, for seniors and families that live there, to the site as well.

The first bylaw is an OCP amendment that expands uses for the property by adding community amenity area, supportive service program space, and office space at 1000 – 21st Avenue North.

The second bylaw is a zoning amendment bylaw to create a new zone, “Comprehensive Development Zone 6: CD-6 Sonja’s Garden Housing Development”, and to rezone the subject property from “Multiple Family Residential Zone: R-5” to “Comprehensive Development Zone 6: CD-6 Sonja’s Garden Housing Development”.

In the report, city staff noted they had reviewed the letters and identified key areas of concern expressed by nearby property owners or tenants. Concerns include: implications for future property values; noise arising from construction and post-construction; street parking and traffic congestion; potential of future instances of domestic discord or unrest; potential for further future development on Sonja’s Garden and loss of green, open space.