Plans for a five-storey development at the corner of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17 in Sidney will not undergo any additional review until the municipality has completed its Official Community Plan (OCP) review.
Councillors, meeting as committee of the whole on Monday, unanimously voted to table OCP and zoning amendments that would allow for a five-storey multi-residential development with 141 units at 2180 Beacon Ave., until after the municipality has adopted its new OCP, now undergoing public review.
According to staff, the proposal is consistent with the draft OCP, which designates the property and others fronting onto Beacon Avenue West and Highway 17 as multi-unit residential, as per the West Side Local Area Plan, which seeks to “establish a higher density multi-family residential area along Beacon Avenue West and adjacent to Highway 17.”
In other words, an OCP amendment would no longer be necessary, if council were to adopt the draft OCP. The proposal would still require a zoning amendment and a development permit application.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the proponent is asking for an OCP amendment that is already in the draft OCP in justifying his support for tabling the proposed amendments, as recommended by staff.
“I believe it would be confusing to the public and inappropriate to go through an OCP amendment process, including a public hearing, for this property at the same time the community is being asked to review and comment on the updated OCP,” he said. “We initiated public engagement just last week.”
He also stressed that adoption of the OCP does not automatically greenlight the project, as the developers would still have to apply for a rezoning and a development permit application.
These comments came after members of the public criticized the project itself but also the draft OCP. Perhaps the most withering critique came from Gerald Moffat.
“Considering this project in the context of the draft OCP and the staff report, it is very clear that (municipal) planners have thrown the Galaran (Road) neighbourhood under the bus,” he said. “Galaran (Road) would be surrounded and overwhelmed by gigantic walls — Amazon to the west, this enormous project to the east with future high-density walls extending unbroken to Henry Avenue and to Galaran Road, encircled on three sides.”
Moffat later accused town planners of being deaf to the concerns of citizens in the area as well as from other parts of Sidney, “but all ears to the developers” in later calling the draft OCP a “developer’s manifesto.” He added that the project “betrays” the goal and ideal of maintaining Sidney’s character as a seaside town.
“But beyond destroying one neighbourhood, this enormous over-development would have wider negative impacts for all of Sidney,” he said. It would become the public face of Sidney, he warned. “An immense billboard that screams, ‘this is just another soulless bedroom community of enormous bland and bleak high-rises, nothing of interest here, no reason to stop,’” he said.
Councillors also heard comparable concerns from area residents about the size of the project as well as its impact on traffic.
Coun. Barbara Fallot raised questions about the future quality of life of individuals living in the building given its proximity to a major intersection. “Will these tenants actual be able to open up a window?” she asked at one point.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe questioned plans for a housing agreement that would see the 141 units remain rental units with 20 below market rent for a minimum of 10 years. “For me, that is a concern,” she said. “I would be more interested to see rentals on that property in perpetuity.”
Deane Strongitharm of Strongitharm Consulting, representing Kothari Group, said he would bring up the issue, along with other issues raised during the presentation.
While Strongitharm noted the Kothari Group is aware of the OCP review, he nonetheless asked council to forward the application to Sidney’s advisory planning commission to get some feedback with an eye toward making any possible changes prior to filing a development permit application in the not-so-distant future.
Council’s decision, however, means that the project won’t go to the advisory planning commission until sometime after Sidney has adopted the new OCP, expected for June.
Coun. Peter Wainwright said a lot of comments about the project were actually comments about the OCP. “It’s rare in my time on council for a development to come forward and actually make it through the process unchanged, particularly if there are meaningful concerns from the neighbourhood such as we have heard tonight. The concern I have with parking it until the OCP is done is that those concerns basically just fester.”
A different project could emerge if the project were to go through the approval process, he said. But that would require a development permit application, he said.
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