Sackville Town Council voted on Monday to delay considering a rezoning application that would allow more student housing on King Street after several neighbours complained about noise, garbage, excessive traffic and outdoor fires.
“It used to be a nice street to live on, but it’s not any more,” Pat Sheppard told councillors during a public hearing last Monday.
Sheppard, who lives at 46 King Street next to a student housing building, said she loses sleep some nights because of the noise.
“They’ve had a few parties back there where the parking lot was packed with vehicles and the police had to come and break it up,” she added.
Sheppard was one of four residents who spoke against a rezoning application that would enable property owner Sean Doucet to add another apartment building at 40 King Street.
The new, three-storey building would contain six rental units. There are already six units on the 1.5 acre property, one in a dwelling that fronts on King Street and five more in an apartment building behind it. Doucet also owns a one unit building next door at 42 King Street.
Reg Hanson, who lives across the street at 39 King, told councillors that at times he’s watched hundreds of students pouring out of the residences.
“I’ve seen this summer and this fall, five squad cars in there trying to control some things,” Hanson said adding, “We as taxpayers are paying for this extra policing.”
Margaret Hanson complained about the number of students living on the properties. Each of the six rental units at 40 King Street has five bedrooms.
“There is already 31 students on lot 40,” she said. “How many more students can we accommodate on that lot?”
Hanson also mentioned outdoor fires in spring and fall with no fire boxes to contain them.
“I wonder if there’s really been any environmental studies studies done on this place,” said Norm Cole of Pringle Street referring to part of the property at 40 King that borders on the Sackville Cemetery and a fast-flowing stream.
Cole pointed out that the back of the lot is heavily sloped.
“This land does not exist as we speak, as far as usable land. It’s all over a bank,” he added.
Design meets town requirements
Town planner Lori Bickford told council that the proposed design for the new six-unit building meets town requirements given the size of the lot and the amount of land that is vacant.
She also pointed out that the proposal fits in with the Municipal Plan which encourages a wide range of housing options, directs high-density development to main roads such as King Street and also meets the town’s target for increasing the development of multi-unit buildings.
However, she recommended that the town impose conditions to ensure that the lot would have no more than 12 units; that there be access for fire trucks off Bowser Street and that a licensed engineer devise a plan to manage storm water.
Councillors vote for delay
After the public hearing, several councillors expressed concern about the rezoning proposal.
“It’s a residential area and it’s supposed to be a nice mingling of apartments and residential houses,” said Councillor Michael Tower.
He added that the town seems to be moving away from encouraging more single-family homes instead of apartment buildings and he also expressed worries about increased traffic.
“King Street is a nightmare for us right now,” Tower said. “It’s going to cost the town as it is right now to try to find a way to alleviate the issue on that street and now we’re going to add more to it. I think we’re looking at more trouble.”
Councillor Bruce Phinney, who proposed a successful motion to delay consideration of the rezoning application until next month, said he needed more time to look at the property, check with the fire department about safety, confer with the police about what’s been going on there and talk to local residents.
Not going to ruffle feathers
Meantime, property owner Sean Doucet, who did not attend the council meeting, says he hadn’t heard any complaints from residents about such issues as traffic and noise.
During a telephone interview, Doucet said he wanted to construct the new six-unit building on the property at 40 King because he doesn’t have any two-bedroom apartments, only five bedroom ones. He said some students prefer two-bedroom units and that building them would help the town.
“At the end of the day, it helps with the tax base in Sackville, it creates jobs, it creates sales for hardware companies while it’s being built,” he said, adding however, that he doesn’t want to get into an argument with the neighbours and that he realizes students do have a reputation for being louder.
“I’m not going to ruffle any feathers. If people are that upset about a new development, I just won’t go ahead and do it,” he said. “I’ll move on to something else.”