Council approves affordable housing development
City of Cranbrook council last night unanimously approved zoning and official community plan (OCP) changes and amendments to allow for a 39-unit apartment with mixed use development on the edge of Slaterville.
The 2.47-acre property in question is located at the corner of Hurry Avenue W and 6th Street NW.
Meiklejohn Architects, representing the Aqanttanam Housing Society, outlined the apartment building will have a mix of market rental and affordable housing, as well as potentially a second 39 unit apartment on the property in the future.
Prior to passing third and final readings of Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 3933, 2018 (which changes the OCP land use designation for the property from ‘Park / Institutional / Recreation’ to ‘Comprehensive Development’ and Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 3934, 2018, changing the zoning designation of the property from ‘Public Institutional Zone: P-1’ to ‘Comprehensive Development Zone 9: CD-9 Apartment – Mixed Use, an almost one-hour long public hearing was held.
Council heard from nine speakers, including three neighbourhood residents who expressed concerns about traffic, parking, a rapid increase in population in the area, impacts to property values and lifestyle, the size of the proposed building and further strain on area infrastructure, as well as about a lack of prior communication of plans by the proponents.
Six other speakers, many representing city social services organizations, spoke in favour of the proposed apartment, with all of them noting Cranbrook’s lack of affordable housing, or housing of any kind. And several spoke highly of Aqanttanam Housing Society.
“We’re at an all-time low” for low cost housing, noted Nancy Lemire of the Salvation Army. “Aqanttanam are very good corporate citizens” who look after their tenants, she added.
Local United Way director Bill Barger said the affordable housing issue has been worsening in the city for years and “we have an opportunity here to build a needed facility.”
Issues of concern raised, he added, “don’t hold water. It is fear of change.”
The developer held an open house for the project in the church on the property on Tuesday, May 15, with approximately 40 to 50 people attending. The developer and Aqanttanam Society representatives spoke with people and answered questions about the project. They indicate 12 written comments were received – nine comments were positive and three comments were negative, the city report added.
“As a result of comments received from the open house, the applicants submitted revised, conceptual building and site plans to illustrate a 39 unit apartment and mixed use development for the property. Revised plans include: a larger front yard setback of 9.0 metres, a larger interior, side yard setback of 7.6 m, and a lower height, three story building in place of a four story building,” the city report explained.
“The existing building on site would be retained for use as a church, office and group day care. The applicant requested a reduced parking requirement of one and a half parking spaces per dwelling unit as part of the CD zone regulations – given the lower vehicle ownership among their clients.
“In support of the lower parking requirement, the Aqanttanam Society indicates they would construct a sidewalk fronting the Hurry Avenue and 6th Street NW property frontage.”
Councillors Wes Graham and Isaac Hockley did not take part in the hearing or the later vote, both declaring conflicts of interest.
The rest of council stated they hear and understand the concerns expressed by some area residents but had to vote for the greater good of the city.
“Don’t feel that we don’t listen,” said Mayor Lee Pratt, adding he believed some of the points made against the development were “not valid enough” to change council’s decision.
The city desperately needs more housing options, the mayor said.
“We’re losing doctors because they’re living in sub-standard housing they don’t like,” he said.
Additionally, supporting an affordable housing development such as this could open door to further provincial and federal government funding to further address city concerns, Pratt said.
Coun. Danielle Eaton said she has been an Aqanttanam Society renter and without it she doubted she would have been able to finish her education.
Noting she understands area residents’ concerns, she added, “Sometimes these changes happen and I get it. The reality is nobody wants to change their neighbourhood but we have to look at the community as-a-whole.”
Coun. Ron Popoff said the public hearing was the eighth one he’s been part of since being on council (the past 3.5 years) and they all featured push back from some area residents.
“We need to get places that can house people. I think the neighbourhood will be rewarded” with good new neighbours, he said.
Coun. Norma Blissett agreed. “We see it every time. There is always worry about change,” she said.
In its vote, council also took into account the city’s Advisory Planning Commission review of the proposed OCP and Zoning amendments, recommending council approve them. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure also indicated approval of the proposed zoning amendment, an Office of Innovation and Collaboration department report outlined.
Map and drawing from City of Cranbrook council package
– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW