Wendy Bissky, resident of the Park Street lot directly beside the proposed eight-unit townhouse, made an impassioned speech at a public hearing Monday. She urged council and the developers to take into account her love for the hundred year old trees on her property, the view of Mount Ogilvie and the privacy so important to her family. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Council votes against townhouse development

Tensions high at public hearing on plans for eight townhouses at 548 Park Street

District council has voted against plans for an eight-unit townhouse complex at 548 Park St., after an emotional public hearing Monday.

Twenty members of the public attended the hearing Monday evening in council chambers, including neighbours and the developers of the proposed townhouse complex. Councillors voted unanimously against the original rezoning application, but did express a willingness to work with the developer to modify the plans, after neighbours expressed strong opposition to the project.

NEIGHBOURS OPPOSED TO SIZE OF DEVELOPMENT

“I accept change is here, but I don’t want to be annihilated,” said Wendy Bissky, a resident of Park Street for over 30 years and homeowner of 540 Park St., the property beside the proposed development. “We are asking for this plan to be modified, so the present residents, those of us who’ve been here a long time, will be able to live in harmony with the new residents of the future.”

In order to accommodate eight units on the 0.38 acre parcel of land, it would have to be rezoned from the single family residential it is now (RS-1). A new comprehensive development zone (CD-5) was proposed: it would be a site-specific zone which would allow an eight-unit townhouse. An amendment to the official community plan was also proposed, as CD-5 is a new zone not previously included in the community plan.

548 Park Street Development Application by Ingrid Peacock on Scribd

Neighbours Jeff Kuhn and Carrie Martindale objected to the creation of a new zone.

Martindale warned it would create a precedent which could end up affecting many other lots in town.

Kuhn said he was not opposed to a rezoning to multi-family residential (RM-1), but an entirely new zone was not needed.

“Council is proposing a new zoning that we’ve never had before…As a property owner on that street I would assume that other things are going to go RM-1 because there’s RM-1 all around,” said Jeff Kuhn, a resident on Park Street for 18 years. “I just don’t see the need to inject a new zone that would bring eight units in instead of five.”

RM-1 zoning was considered by the developer, which would provide enough space for five townhouses, but “the developer felt that they needed a minimum of eight units in order to make it financially viable to develop the site,” the rezoning application stated.

The neighbours agreed a less dense development, with five units, would be acceptable. The developer, citing affordability, argued for the eight-unit density.

“This proposed development could house 24 people in something that they could afford in a neighbourhood that is planned for this type of development,” said Ryan Anderson from OTG Development Concepts, representing the developer Lordlet Investments at the hearing.

“That’s affordable, one single family house on this property is just not something that’s affordable for most Canadians.”

Sharlene Harrison-Hinds asked the developer what affordable housing meant and how much the three rental units would rent for. Part of the development plan designated three of the units as rentals for five years, to be rented out at market rates.

Anderson replied he was not willing to go over dollar values of the project as the meeting was concerning land use.

“It’s really not our business what they end up selling for, because we really don’t know how much the market is going to be like anyways when it’s completed,” said Mayor Wilfried Vicktor, weighing in on the affordability discussion. “There’s nothing affordable about housing in this day and age.”

Anderson argued the eight-unit development was in line with the goals outlined in Hope’s official community plan including the goals of a mix of housing, density to meet housing needs as well as promotion of market and non-market affordable housing.

Neighbour Nancy Schultz said even if there are several RM-1 developments around the neighbourhood and densification is called for in the community plan, it doesn’t mean that this particular development must go ahead. She said she is not opposed to growth, but it must fit with the existing community.

“It aesthetically does not fit the neighbourhood,” she said. “It’s too big to fit amongst those single story homes, that’s the point is that it’s out of place, it’s really out of place.”

Neighbours were also opposed to the height of the proposed structure. Bissky said it obscured Mount Ogilvie, the view of it snow-capped and glowing pink in winter a beautiful sight.

“You were saying you could have the same height house and it would still block the mountains,” Bissky said. “But a house wouldn’t go on for 200 feet, so my view of the mountain is totally obliterated.

I feel like, if this goes ahead the way that you’ve proposed, that I will be living in a fishbowl.”

Anderson countered that the height of the current zone, RS-1, had the exact same height restrictions as the proposed zone.

RS-1 has a maximum height of 10 metres, as did the proposed CD-5 zone, whereas the RM-1 zone has a maximum height of 12 metres.

ISSUES ARISING FROM DENSIFICATION

The neighbours argued several problems would arise from the number of townhouse residents, including pressure on street parking, garbage collection as well as ambulance access to Park Street Manor. The lack of play space for children was also a concern, as was drainage and grading.

Bissky made an impassioned plea to keep the hundred-year-old trees on her property safe during development.

“Some of these trees are over 10 feet in circumference,” Bissky said. “One of them, Wilfried stopped by and I asked Wilfried, my husband Tim and I if we could join our arms around this tree and we couldn’t do it. It’s 12 feet 5 inches in circumference.”

I would be devastated if those trees were killed”

Anderson said the developer has commissioned an arborist to create a plan to prevent tree damage, and an expert would stay on site during construction to ensure the trees are “retained and are not damaged in any way.”

Despite heated moments during the public hearing, the parties wrapped up the meeting in a characteristically Canadian fashion — apologizing and thanking each other for listening.

COUNCILLORS VOTE AGAINST REZONING

The unanimous vote against the proposed rezoning and amendment to the community plan was held at a council meeting Monday evening following the public hearing.

Councillors agreed the size of the development was too much and too soon for the neighbourhood, however they were in favour of working with the developer to modify their plans.

“I want to support you in that process, for taking the initiative to seek out Hope,” said Coun. Gerry Dyble. “I don’t want you to go away thinking that we don’t want your development. I think that we want to modify it and we want to work with you.”

Councillors Kropp and Erickson agreed the lack of green space and play area for children was worrying. Erickson added he was gravely concerned about the elevations proposed by the developers, as the trees on the side of the lot would be affected, and how water drainage would function.

The developers will now need to work with district staff on new plans, which will be submitted to council and will go through another public hearing process.


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emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com

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