Castlegar city council has chosen housing over park space in a decision that many of them said was one of the hardest of their political careers.
At the April 4 council meeting, council adopted a zoning amendment that will allow a housing/commercial development proposed for 2405 Columbia Ave. and 2404 6th Ave. to move forward. The development will include 43 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, 11 live-work units, and four-to-eight commercial spaces.
The amendment was required because the developer’s plans called for fewer parking spaces than the existing bylaw requires.
Throughout the process, city staff has noted that the city’s parking bylaw is outdated and under review, and is not in alignment with many other municipalities.
According to the bylaw this development requires 118 spaces and the developer proposed 83. If the same project were to be built in Penticton, only 76 spaces would be required; Summerland, Rossland and Osoyoos would each require about 90 spaces.
Some of the reasons given in the staff report contained in the council agenda for recommending the project were that it was in alignment with many of the city’s objectives including the 24th Street Specific Growth Area and Transition Land Use Area, policies in the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and other strategic objectives.
The main area of contention during the public consultation phase of the zoning amendment procedure has been that part (approximately one-third) of Brandson Park will be sold to the developer in order to build the project.
The public hearing held in relation to the amendment lasted more than four hours with a steady stream of speakers voicing opposition to the proposal.
The current park is 4,160 square metres. Once the development is completed, the remaining park space will be 2,805 square metres.
According to the staff report, the city currently maintains 49 hectares of parkland that exceeds the four hectares of parks and open space per 1,000 residents recommended in the city’s Open Space Study. The city’s population based on recent census data is 8,338 persons, requiring 33 hectares of parkland.
The city has committed to redeveloping the remaining park and dedicating the space as park land under the community charter.
Council passed a series of additional resolutions related to the project.
The applicant will be required to provide off-site works necessary to provide as many parking spaces as possible along 24th Street fronting the development and in front of the remainder of Brandson Park at 2412 6th Ave. (including sidewalk).
The applicant will be required to enter into a reciprocal easement with the city to ensure public access to the greenspace/public space within the proposed development and landscape screening between the remainder of Brandson Park and the development’s on-site surface parking.
The remainder of Brandson Park will be dedicated as a park by bylaw under Section 30 of the Community Charter.
Public consultation will be held to determine what the community prefers in terms of replacement or re-purposing of the play equipment located on 2404 6th Ave., with commitment to undertake the work in conjunction with the construction schedule of the proposed development using available park reserve funding.
Local historians and community members will be contacted to better capture the story associated with Brandson Pool and to commemorate these memories on site with historical story boards similar to those at City Hall and Millennium Park.
Council discussed the proposal for more than an hour, but in the end, councilor Bergen Price was the only councilor to vote against the amendment.
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff said that in her 11 years on council, this was one of the hardest decisions she has had to make. That sentiment was echoed by councilors Maria McFaddin and Cherryl McLeod.
Heaton-Sherstibitoff said she had to make the decision she felt was for the “greater good of whole community.”
Councilors McFaddin, Heaton-Sherstibitoff and McLeod all said that the majority of calls, emails and comments that they heard on the street were in favour of letting the project proceed.
“Is the loss of 33 per cent of the park a reasonable loss for a need that is housing?” said McFaddin. “This isn’t something we can wait another year or two years to start this process again.”
Several of the councillors also stated that they believe that the redeveloped version of Brandson Park, though smaller, will be better than what it is now.
Regarding the city’s current housing situation, councillor Bryan Bogle said, “If we don’t do something now — there will be no place for those young people to come …”
Mayor Kirk Duff summed up the discussing by saying it was a decision of competing priorities — green space versus housing.
“It’s all about balance … For me, that means creating opportunity for housing and maintaining greenspace in the same neighbourhood.”
The next step for the City of Castlegar related to the project will be the development permit process.