Duplex denied - fears Rossland could become the next West Vancouver
Four area neighbours of the redevelopment project at the corner of 5th Avenue and St. Paul spoke out against the project at this past Monday’s regular council meeting. Ultimately council sympathized with the neighbours and denied the motion which would have created a new zoning bylaw allowing the developer to construct a duplex on the lot in question.
Over the past several months City staff had been working with the developer of the site to come up with solutions that would allow a duplex to work on the site. A number of design elements were incorporated in the proposed development including making sure there was ample off street parking, trees re-planted where they were to be removed, a roof designed to hold snow among other requirements. During the public hearing prior to council reading the bylaw for a third time immediate neighbours to the lot spoke passionately about a series of reasons why they believe the duplex should not be permitted. “I think it means the trees would have to go,” commented Renate Fleming. “That concerns me. As a neighbour the trees are nice and make a nice climate when it’s hot out… The street is busy with lots of kid traffic. Snow removal is another issue. I feel that even with a small single detached small lot the goal of the city with having more infill would be addressed and more sensible than a duplex. It seems forced onto this neighbourhood.” All four neighbours speaking to the issue noted safety as a primary concern as all had had either accidents or near misses at the street corner in question. “St Paul is a very busy street when school goes in and out I’ve seen lots of close calls on that street,” added Garth Fleming. “People drive fast and that makes me nervous. Snow removal is a big problem. They dump a lot of snow there with the blowers in front of that lot and on the side. I guess the citizens will pay to have it trucked away in the winter? There is nowhere else to put it. It’s a steep grade. I’ve gone down their backwards and am and lucky I never hit anyone. Maybe that needs to be addressed?” Another common concern to all presenters was the snow removal in the area. “I’m not philosophically against increasing the density in our neighbourhood,” spoke Linda Shultz. “However; I’m looking at the proposed design and I see he’s planned for off street parking for both units and its two cars each but providing off St Parking doesn’t mean people use it. As already mentioned there are a lot of children that walk down St Paul and no sidewalks. Having more vehicles on St Paul including the buses makes it that a more dangerous commute for kids.” Tugging at the heart strings of council Garth Fleming concluded by asking how much is enough “How much infill do we want? We need infill I guess. Infrastructure is cheaper so a duplex is ok. Is a four-plex, six-plex, high-rise ok? Will the neighbourhood become West Vancouver someday? Why did people move here? Where are we going with the infill? How far do we go? I can see a single family dwelling there. If we’re allowing that now on a small lot what are we allowing next year and the year after?” The project’s developer Kevin Fairweather also weighed in on the discussion. “This goes back 16 to 18 months ago we had a meeting in the Miners Hall concerning affordable housing and sustainable living. I feel this hits that goal on the head. There was a lot of money spent on the Visions to Actions plan and a lot of action formed around it. The OCP talks about affordable housing, economic housing, low impact to the environment and being sustainable to the city. That’s what this proposal is. Lots of people sing the song and dance of this is great but not in my backyard. Well someday something is going in somebody’s backyard. Mike Maturo and I have put together a plan that meets with this bylaw. We would max out total lot coverage, have enough space to park two cars and It’ll be a low impact building, the driveways will be non-permeable.” “This provides affordable units under $200,000 for bran new 1,000 square foot condos. That’s extremely affordable. This is the wave of the future. I appreciate some people don’t agree with it but I would appreciate if council supported this. It would be good for the community.” The fear of what could happen to Rossland if this duplex was allowed seemed to strike several of the councilors including the Mayor in swaying their decision. “I agree that we live in a rural area,” discussed Councilor Jill Spearn. “Yes we can have infill in our community, but is that at the peril of our neighbourhoods and our children walking to and from school… I am highly in favour of sustainability however is this the best site for that kind of a duplex? I’ll have to reconsider my opinion based on the gallery tonight.” “The only question (on the new zoning bylaw) I can’t answer is Mr. Fleming’s. Infill… how much do we want? Do we want infill at the sake of destroying neighbourhoods? That is my concern also…I am not a big fan of over infilling and putting something that doesn’t fit into the neighbourhood into the neighbourhood it’s zoned small lot right now and a small lot house could become an affordable house. The only concern I heard that made sense to me was how much do we want to infill this place. I hate to say it but I’m not in favour of this.” There was support from a few councilors who recognized that this plan fits with the sustainability and community plans the City has worked the last several years on to create a vision of what Rossland’s want their city to become. “This follows the SSP (Strategic Sustainability Plan) follows the work of the community over the last ten years with visions to action and I think this is good a pilot project for us,” added Councilor Kathy Wallace who also lives in the neighbourhood. “I think it fits in that neighbourhood. I heard the concerns expressed by my neighbours tonight and the height has been taken care of. The Issue of safety of streets is another matter staff has to take care of, snow storage is taken care of, as far as I know there are no plans to remove trees. All of the concerns I’ve heard have been taken care of. I’d like to see the city put our money where our mouth is and view this as a pilot project.” Questioning whether worries of becoming the next West Vancouver were unfounded as the pace of development in Rossland remains at a crawling pace Kathy Moore suggested the City live by the plans and guiding documents it has put in place. “We have to have the courage of our convictions. I don’ think we have over densified Rossland by any stretch. I also don’t think this is some tipping point for us leading into peril.” The discussions and effort for Rossland to stick with staff’s recommendation as it fits with the OCP was defeated in the end. The motion to create the new zoning bylaw allowing the duplex died on the floor. With Councilors Laurie Charlton, Jill Spearn and Mayor Granstrom voting against it. Councilor Stradling was absent from the meeting creating a 3-3 draw which kills the motion.