Sackville Town Councillor Bruce Phinney voted last night to stop the development of a luxury apartment building in the downtown business core.
Phinney cast the only no vote. His seven council colleagues approved a resolution to move ahead with a rezoning application that would make the new building possible. The resolution sets Tuesday, May 15th as the date for a public hearing on the matter.
JN Lafford Realty Inc. has applied to rezone a small portion of the former United Church property at Main and York Streets to allow for construction of a third building on the site with up to 36 two-bedroom apartments as well as underground parking. The building would cater to tenants over 55 with monthly rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,700.
Phinney opposed the development on the grounds that it would add to traffic congestion in the parking lot that has entrances and exits off Main and York Streets. Under the Lafford proposal, tenants in the new building would travel through the lot to gain access to their underground parking spots.
“I go there quite often,” Phinney said. “I have people telling me they won’t drive to go to Service New Brunswick because there’s no place to park down that way,” he added.
“I look at the fact, actually even myself going in and out of there, it’s dangerous.”
John and Joe Lafford have said that if they can’t persuade the town to rezone a small parcel behind the old cemetery, they could still erect a building on the site with above-ground parking. They say that the cheaper building would likely cater to students.
Phinney said that while he realizes the Laffords could go ahead with construction, he’s hoping that denial of their rezoning application would result in a smaller building and less traffic congestion.
Councillor Megan Mitton spoke in favour of proceeding to the next step in the rezoning application.
“The proposed use does fit the town’s plans to promote downtown development and have a variety of housing options, especially for seniors,” she said.
Both Mitton and Councillor Bill Evans said that when the Laffords bought the United Church property in 2012, nearly all of it was rezoned for high density, mixed-use development except for the small parcel behind the cemetery which retained its institutional zoning because the boundaries were unclear.
Evans called it a “fluke” adding that town planning staff would ensure that any new building would have to meet Sackville’s traffic safety and parking requirements.
“I’m confident that we have the proper rules in place and staff is capable of making that decision,” Evans added.
Oldsters drive less
Councillor Joyce O’Neil also spoke in favour of going ahead with the public hearing next month. She suggested that older tenants would not increase traffic congestion.
“I know that it means that there’ll be more vehicles,” she said. “But it’s certainly not like everybody’s going to be leaving at 7:30 or 8 o’clock to go to work and back in at 5.”
Meantime, town planner Lori Bickford assured Councillor Andrew Black that the new building would be at least 30 feet from the cemetery boundaries so there would be no disturbance of nearby graves.
At its meeting last night, town council gave approval in principle to rezoning about half an acre of land beside the Westmorland Animal Hospital on Robson Avenue to permit construction of a new Ambulance New Brunswick station.
Councillors approved first reading of a bylaw amendment that would change the zoning from highway commercial to institutional use.
The Nova Scotia development company Parsons Investments is in the process of buying the land and a large chunk around it near TransCanada Exit 506 from Sackville businessman Percy Best.
Councillor Evans spoke in favour of amending the bylaw, but said that even though the station itself would be on high ground, Ambulance New Brunswick should be warned of potential flooding in the area that could cut it off from downtown.
Exit 506 final report
Council also voted to accept the $27,000 report it commissioned from Ekistics Planning and Design and directed town staff to come up with a strategy for implementing it.
The report, posted on the town’s website, recommends that the town spend more than $610,000 over a number of years to improve public facilities near Exit 506 including new sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parks and trails.
In response to a question from Wendy Alder, co-owner of the Tantramar Gas Bar, town manager Jamie Burke said some of the spending may be included in next year’s capital budget.