A large development proposal in Fredericton has been given the green light by council after a months-long approval process that saw objections by councillors and neighbours alike.
The 870-unit development on vacant land between Golf Club Road and Prospect Street is allowed to go ahead after a vote by city council on Tuesday night.
The necessary rezoning, recommended by city staff, needed the support of seven councillors to succeed, since the planning advisory committee had voted down the proposal earlier.
The motion passed 8-3, with Coun. Ruth Breen not in attendance.
Coun. Steven Hicks acknowledged that neighbours’ concerns about the project’s size were genuine and that approval would mean the area would change.
“It affects those neighbourhoods, but we have to do this for the greater good of our community,” Hicks said.
He added that large developments similar to Golf Club Road are being approved elsewhere in the city, and with traffic across the bridges getting worse, it only makes sense to take advantage of limited development opportunities on the city’s south side.
“We’ve got to develop for the next 50 years, not just the next five years,” Hicks said.
The plan calls for the construction of seven apartment buildings on the southern two-thirds of the property, with those closest to Prospect Street containing commercial units on the ground floor.
The apartment buildings are to be shorter going north along the property, with townhouses and detached homes built on the northern third of the plot.
Cedar Valley Investments, led by president Louie Youssef, purchased the 35-acre parcel last spring for $6 million and applied to council to have part of it rezoned to allow for taller residential buildings.
First and second readings at council were lengthy and included a no vote at the planning advisory committee, public objections being expressed for over three hours at one meeting, and the proposal being sent back to staff.
Council later added conditions to the proposal, including a cap at 950 units and a requirement that the developer work with the city on an anticipated federal housing grant that could possibly see affordable units included in the development.
Before the vote Tuesday night, several councillors, including Eric Megarity, said they were undecided.
But Megarity also said that if council denied the proposal, it could be a “pivotal house of cards” for future development in the city.
“I know there’s other projects coming like it, and these same arguments could be used,” he said.
3 councillors opposed
Councillors Henri Mallet, Kevin Derrah and Margo Sheppard all voted no on the proposal.
Mallet, whose district includes the development, told council he didn’t think the development would add much value to the neighbourhood.
“The current neighbourhood just wants to be respected and engaged throughout the process, and I don’t believe this was the case with this process,” Mallet said.
He said he supports development but only when it is “good, planned development.”
Derrah agreed with Mallet and voiced many concerns about the development in what he called “one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city.”
He said he was concerned the proposal was too car-centric, doesn’t plan well enough for water run-off and does not respect the neighbourhood.
Sheppard voiced concerns about increased traffic and a change to the neighbourhood, calling the proposal “too much, too fast for Fredericton.”
“I don’t view the concerns of the neigbourhood to be NIMBYism, but rather attachment to place and a justified fear of the unknown,” Sheppard said.
She tried twice at council to introduce an amendment that would see the city save several butternut trees and see the farmhouse on the property used for affordable housing. It was voted down both times.
Intense campaign against development
There has been a large outcry among residents against the development. A letter-writing campaign focused on councillors supporting the proposal, and more than 150 letters against the project were sent to council.
“I must say, that was probably the most well-organized letter-writing campaign that I’ve seen,” said Coun. Jocelyn Pike.
Several councillors, however, objected to what they considered questionable concerns raised by residents.
Deputy Mayor Greg Ericson said he had been hearing many complaints that infrastructure in the area, particularly transit and roads, were not suitable for such an influx of new residents.
Ericson said this complaint doesn’t make sense, because the city doesn’t build infrastructure ahead of development.
“We do this stuff after the fact. It’s not a failing of the project, it’s an element of our process.”
For Pike, the outcry from residents was for more consultation from the developer, which she said is not required.
“Is it a good practice that he does? Absolutely,” Pike said. “But it’s not a requirement.”
Coun. Bruce Grandy said he took offence when he received complaints that city staff were on the side of the developer.
“That really bothered me. … It’s far from the truth, and I’m very disappointed when I saw those.”
He also noted that complaints about the local schools not being large enough to handle so many new residents was misplaced, because schools fall under the province’s jurisdiction, not the city’s.
If the school needs to grow, that’s an issue the city will take up with the school district when it happens, he said.
A motion from Grandy that staff look into traffic-calming measures around the new development was passed unanimously.
After the vote, Mayor Kate Rogers expressed her support for the development and said the city is growing fast.
“And we do not have housing for these people, and we are not going to solve housing with single detached and duplexes,” Rogers said.
“We need density, and every part of the city needs to play a part in that.”
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