Trail council cleared the way for the Birchwood Drive seniors development, despite a concerted push-back from residents.
After a public hearing on Dec. 13, city staff deferred the third reading of the rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaws to Jan. 10 council meeting due to public opposition to the proposed development.
The city contacted 34 homes within 50-meters of the proposed construction of a 45-unit seniors condominium behind Waneta Plaza, and in response council received ample verbal opposition and 17 written submissions from nearby residents that opposed the development, with just one in favour.
“The predominant concern that was raised at the public hearing related to traffic,” said Deputy CAO and Corporate Administrator Michelle McIsaac. “There most definitely will be an increase in traffic generated by the development.”
In addition, residents presented a petition containing the signatures of 69 individuals opposed to the rezoning of the property from R2, single-family and two-family residential, to high density multiple family residential zone – R8; and the OCP designation of the land in question from single detached residential to multiple residential.
Questions were raised about loss of privacy, the blockage of the view and sun exposure, as well as the impact on water and sewer services, which the city public works department confirmed would not be an issue.
Developer Cezary Ksiazek proposed to make the development available to Greater Trail seniors only. He was hopeful, yet, unsure it would pass given the opposition, and after a similar seniors development went unsupported in Rossland in 2021.
The five-acre parcel of land is accessed off of Birchwood and Devito Drives, and the proposed five-story condo will house three one-bedroom units, 23 one-bedroom units with den, 10 two-bedroom units, four two-bedroom with den, and five three-bedroom units.
McIsaac reminded council that the selling price of the units is not relevant to land use and shouldn’t be factored into council’s decision making.
“You are making a decision as to whether a 45-unit apartment building is suited for that site.”
Coun. Robert Cacchioni voiced his support for the development pointing to other developments that have increased traffic in certain neighbourhoods, as well as missed opportunities such as Chances Casino and the opening of Violin Lake which were opposed by a contingent of Trail residents.
“I understand the concerns raised, but I do intend to support this particular bylaw and the 45-unit residence on that particular site,” said Cacchioni. “Whenever I vote, I always try to make a decision what I consider is in the best interests of the city, not for specific instances for particular groups.”
Coun. Sandy Santori disagreed, citing inevitable traffic congestion and the form and function of a five-storey building that is inconsistent with the design of the current neighborhood.
“I’ve gone up to that site at least seven times in the last 10 days,” said Santori. “I totally understand the need for seniors housing, but I do have a real difficult time accepting the density increase.”
The R2 plan envisioned 16-dwelling units such as townhouses or single-family homes, a much smaller density than the 45-unit condominium, and one that would conform to current design, added Santori.
Coun. Carol Dobie and Coun. Colleen Jones echoed Cacchioni’s support.
“I don’t know where else right now we could put that when I look at the location up there,” said Dobie. “I see that lots of seniors have access to shopping, access to banking, access to medical support, a church and also an eating establishment and food court in the centre of the mall. So there are a lot of things that are going to help seniors.”
Mayor Lisa Pasin cautioned council, reminding them that the development was not affordable housing and would be priced accordingly.
Council amended rezoning bylaw-2910 and the OCP bylaw-2911 with a vote of six to one.
For Ksiazek, the news is welcome and says he hopes to start breaking ground by February.
“I’m very happy,” said Ksiazek. “I expected more than one vote against.”
For seniors interested in learning more about the development, they can call Ksiazek at 250.362.7716.