Council and Staff address neighbourhood concerns about former Cook Avenue School Site

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
November 7th, 2013

The next stage in the rezoning application process concerning the former Cook Avenue School site consisted of a Committee Of the Whole meeting.  City Council had an informal discussion about the concerns raised by citizens at the recent public hearing, and made recommendations that will come back to council at the next meeting.  A handful of community members, including the developer, were in attendance to hear their concerns addressed.


The Staff recommendation was to retain the density suggested in bylaw #2547, which is 10 equivalent units for each lot, for a total of 20 equivalent units.

Councillor Kathy Moore recommended that the density be reduced to 16 equivalent units, which was carried.  Councillor Kathy Wallace supported the recommendation, and wanted to take it a step further.

“I just see single-family dwellings that happen to be attached to one another,” said Wallace, referring to the intent that the site would have 14 townhouses on each lot.  “We know that we need more diversity, and I don’t see that we’re getting more diversity out of this plan.  If we’re looking to the future and what the community needs, I think that we should consider building in some incentives for affordable units.”

Later on in the discussion, the idea of incentives to build smaller, more affordable units was brought up again, and a recommendation was made that 4 affordable units, no more than 50 sq/m, be included on the whole parcel as a density bonus.  This means that the developer doesn’t have to build these smaller units, but if (s)he wanted to increase the density of the development, if (s)he built and included these smaller units, they would not count towards the total of 16 equivalent units for the site.

“I really think this is what this community has been asking for,” said Wallace.  “When you look at our OCP and you look at our directions, we’re looking for diversity of housing, and more affordable housing, and smaller units, and that’s why I support this.”

The recommendation was carried.


The Staff report recommended to ensure that building height be measured from existing grade, not from fill, and retain the bylaw’s 12 metre height.

Because the natural grade of the lots are so varied, Councillor Moore recommended that Staff work with the developer to come up with a lot grading plan, and then base the height off of that plan.  However, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne noted that the bylaw could not move ahead until said grading plan was completed.

Councillor Jill Spearn recommended that the 12m maximum height of the development be measured from the lowest natural grade point on the lot.  Lightbourne agreed that the bylaw could move ahead if the max height was determined this way.  The grading plan would still go ahead in this case.


The Staff report recommendation was to ensure only 2 accesses on Cooke Ave by changing the bylaw to include a 219 restrictive covenant, which would require that the owner not use any part of their land as an access point for the surrounding streets.

Councillor Moore recommended that staff recommendation be upheld, and it was unanimously supported.


There was concern expressed by the public at the most recent public hearing, that the design would not fit with the rest of the neighbourhood.

Councillor Jill Spearn said, “I understand the concerns of the neighbourhood.  Down in Redstone, the houses are varied in their colour and are set back in different ways.  I think that wise approach to what building looks like is really important for this whole community.”

Councillor Moore brought up that there are design guidelines in other development projects, like Redstone and Red Mountain Resort.  “This is a very important issue for the community and this neighbourhood in particular,” she said.  “What I don’t want to see happen is that we do all of these things to create guidelines, but this particular development gets their permit and they get going before we get through with the guidelines.  This site is particularly important because it is one of the largest development sites available in the town.

Councillor Spearn made the recommendation that Staff work on creating development permit guidelines that would be suitable to the Cooke Avenue development site prior to building permit issue, which was passed.

A final concern was expressed about construction timetables.  Councillor Wallace asked whether a timetable for construction could be imposed.  Ms. Lightbourne responded that there isn’t a way to force a developer to develop one.

All of the recommendations made during this Committee Of the Whole meeting will come back to council at a regular meeting, and there will be another public hearing before any changes to the bylaw are made.

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