A rare instance of the mayor asking council to reconsider a decision made after a public hearing, breathed new life into a defeated residential housing project proposal for Cook Street Village.
On Thursday (Dec. 10) council approved Lisa Helps’ motion to revisit Aragon Properties’ proposal to construct a four-storey, multi-family building on lots at 324/328 Cook St. and 1044, 1048 and 1052/1054 Pendergast St., after several amendments to the wording.
The majority approved a version directing city staff to work with the developer to “try to address affordability in the project,” and bring the results back to committee of the whole before it goes again to public hearing.
Helps explained her decision to use her authority under the Community Charter to bring back the application.
“This is the first time in our 16 months as eight, rather than nine [on council] that we’ve had a tie vote on a substantial land use application,” she said. With a new councillor (Stephen Andrew) chosen in the Dec. 12 byelection, the next vote will not be tied.
During the discussion, Coun. Sarah Potts said her difficulty with approving the applications after the Nov. 26 public hearing arose not from the absence of affordable units in the new building, but with the lack of specifics around replacing the four affordable rental units in three older homes on Pendergast slated for demolition.
Helps said the developer told her including affordable units on site would require a fifth storey, something Aragon previously determined the community would not support.
Coun. Ben Isitt preferred a fresh application come forward, rather than making minor amendments to the previous application, a stance supported by Coun. Sharmarke Dubow. Both argued that a new application would have potential for the project to be more in line with the city’s recently approved inclusionary housing policy, despite the fact the application was made long before the policy came into force.
Aragon development manager Luke Ramsay said having Helps bring the project back gives them another chance to assess the configuration of community benefits in the proposal, which were hotly debated unlike the design aspects of the building.
“We hope to find a solution which addresses the concerns we heard, while [keeping the project] viable given the density and height the community feels is appropriate,” he told Black Press Media.
Council’s committee of the whole next meets Jan. 7. A new public hearing would be scheduled sometime after that.