More pavement, fewer trees around luxury downtown apartments

Information compiled by Sackville resident Sharon Hicks and confirmed by town planner Lori Bickford shows the proposed luxury apartment building in the heart of downtown would have fewer trees around it and more above-ground parking behind it than I have previously reported.

The V-shaped building would be constructed in an area that now has a number of birch trees on it and it appears from the site plan that there would not be much space to plant replacements.

As the diagram below shows, the land that would need to be rezoned to permit the high-density residential development is large enough to contain about half of the new building overlooking Main Street plus a fairly large area around it. Previous reporting indicated that rezoning would be required on a much smaller parcel.

Rezoning area outlined in red includes at least half of the proposed new V-shaped apartment building next to the Monuments area. Additional above-ground parking is proposed in the yellowed area behind the building. Entrance to the underground parking is indicated by arrows at the top centre — diagram courtesy of Sharon Hicks. (click to enlarge)

According to Lori Bickford, JN Lafford Realty Inc. is now proposing to construct a three-storey, peaked-roof building with up to 36, two-bedroom apartments. She says plans call for six, 960-square foot units with the remainder between 1100 and 1300 square feet. The building would cater to well-off tenants over 55. The number of apartments will depend on how much underground parking the Laffords can build on the site, which is part of the former Sackville United Church property.

The building would border on the Monuments property leased to the town by the Laffords. It would also be closer to Main Street than previously reported with one end of it approximately 33 feet from the paved part of the street. Bickford explained that town bylaws require downtown buildings to be fairly close to the street.

Current plans call for the building to be 30 feet from the property line of the old Methodist cemetery and about 55 feet from the nearest grave.

Approval process

In April, Sackville Town Council approved a resolution calling for a public hearing on the proposal. That hearing is set for tomorrow, Tuesday, May 15 at 7 p.m.

In order for the rezoning to be approved, it would need to pass three readings during at least two separate council meetings.

It remains to be seen whether council will consider first reading after tomorrow’s public hearing or whether the rezoning application will be put off until later.

Diagram showing traffic flows in the parking lots off York and Main Streets — courtesy Sharon Hicks

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14 Responses to More pavement, fewer trees around luxury downtown apartments

  1. tuxemal says:

    Please keep in mind that there will be a building placed there whether the rezoning for the adjoining parcel goes through or not.
    Also there are regulations around parking that the developer has to meet based on the municipal planning act. The planning commission provides a report to council with their blessing or not based on the planning act requirements. It is also up to the planning commission to ensure that once the development is finished that the developer continues to comply with what was approved. The existing parking flow and number of spaces would have been approved by the planning commission. As would be the case with the current proposal.
    Can you publish that information along with exactly how many trees would be removed and how many trees would be added.

  2. Too opset says:

    What is the defenition of “luxury apartment”? Are these apartments luxury because their rent is set so high? I am wondering how the proposed apartment can be considered luxury in a parking and cemetery setting (after those trees are gone) with view of a brick building full of efflorescence.

  3. No.

    I didn’t like the idea before and I really don’t like it now. It removes too much of the nicer part of downtown to fit their “luxury” apartments.

    Sackville might need more apartments, but luxury ones are NOT needed, by a longshot.

    Look at the shaded area; that area is where a lot of people go for pictures because of the birch trees and the hill; the entire setting is peaceful and just an overall amazing greenspace.

    All that would be ruined by the rezoned area for an apartment building.

  4. Erna Ricciuto says:

    Thank you Sharon Hicks for finding this information and passing it on to Bruce. The new plan also doesn’t have retail space on the main floor which I thought was a priority for bringing people to the downtown area. Underground parking will be hazardous for a Seniors building. The lighting is not very good in underground parking lots and I personally wouldn’t feel safe using it. From my experience, parking in the downtown underground lots in Ottawa, (where I lived before moving to Sackville), I found it very difficult to avoid fender benders with the large pillars and small parking spots. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to dealing with that daily?

    • Sharon Hicks says:

      I share similar concerns about underground parking … not only for the poor lighting and tight parking spots, as you mentioned, but also I wonder about snow removal problems in that tight corner area where the entrance would be, as well as slippery winter conditions on the ramp leading down into the underground parking area – and then up out of it again.

      We haven’t seen the actual building plans yet of course, but one might wonder how many elevators there would be. If there was just one central elevator, for example, and if they do get the go-ahead to build the v-shaped structure they want to erect there, that could mean quite a hike for seniors to get from their parked car, to the elevator, up the elevator to whichever floor houses their living quarters, and down however long a hallway it takes to get to their doorway.

      Consider a grocery shopping foray, for one example, or maybe packing to go on a trip, which could easily result in more bags or parcels than a person could carry at one time. Then you’re looking at two or more treks up and down the hallways, and the elevator, and then to their parking spot.

      Now for comparison, consider the townhouse-style units on Waterfowl Lane, and other similar developments around town, where each unit has its own garage, or a parking space just outside their door, resulting in easy access into the living quarters.

      Which of those two options would you say is more “senior-friendly” ?

  5. Erna Ricciuto says:

    I agree with all your comments, Sharon. Someone mentioned to me yesterday the huge concern about a fire. How could people evacuate with the ONE entrance that is situated by the V in the building. And how could the fire truck enter the parking lot without hitting other vehicles?

  6. tuxemal says:

    The concerns that have been noted in the last 2 posts are ones that should be posed to the planning commission and fire chief.
    Buildings have to be built to a standard code that reflects tenant safety, which includes lighting, fire, access for emergency vehicles.
    Remember if the rezoning is not approved, another apartment will be placed on the land available. The building would have to be built to the same code.
    A person who is considering renting there would want to know it is safe otherwise it becomes about personal choice on an appartment being placed in that location.
    This is why people need to get involved when the municipal plan is being reviewed. That is what guides the planning commission. As for the building code, that is provincial and if there is concern about safety issues for buildings, then maybe those could be investigated with questions posed to your candidates in the up-coming provincial election.

    • Percy Best says:

      I truly wonder how the Town’s aerial truck would ever be able to get close enough to rescue residents living on the upper floors in the rear of this proposed wood frame building if a major fire ever did break out. However, with the other two buildings on site, one has access on four sides, the other on three sides, while this one has proposed partial access only on the front. Quite difficult to arrive on site with fire trucks, while vehicles are zipping up the ramp and out of the only basement entrance/exit. Don’t know how this would ever pass the scrutiny of a Fire Chief. Shades of Mount Allison’s great fire of 1941 in which four students lost their lives. I would at least hope that this building would have to have a full sprinkler system in this day and age.

      The requirement NOW imposed by the Regional Service Commission is that any new multi story buildings have a sloped roof which I believe negates the opportunity to be rescued from a flat roof top once one passes through the roof access door.

      Instead, I could certainly see a seniors’ apartment complex such as this being erected across Main Street behind the Fawcett Professional Center at 131 Main Street and finished as to blend in with the surrounding buildings. (That is if one was ‘needed’ to begin with). With the existing tree cover one would barely be able to see it from the Academy Stretch of Main Street.

  7. Rima Azar says:

    Thank you Erna, Sharon, and Percy. Great points.

    Thank you also Tuxemal. It seems logical to post these comments to the Planning Commission, as you suggested. Indeed, in the public hearing of the re-zoning case on King Street (Mr. Doucet, I believe), the Town planner recommended against increasing beyond 12 units because of her concern about fire. Would the planning commision be consistent across re-zoning cases?

    I say this whilst also thinking: Each case is different, true, but if politics is sadly in the justice system, why wouldn’t it be in the planning too? I would not be surprised if it is. The old beautiful white church is no longer in our downtown for a while now. However, human shenanigans are more resistant to change.

  8. Susan Dales says:

    Excellent, well-considered arguments against re-zoning from all who have posted to date. What their observations highlight for me is that there are several areas of serious concern that need much more in-depth investigation before Town Council can even consider holding a final aye/nay vote. But beyond all this is the simple truth that whatever beauty we can hold safe in the heart of this community, it is our responsibility to do so for everyone, residents old and young, students, visitors, wildlife, for now and for the future.

    • tuxemal says:

      Susan, my comments were neither for nor against rezoning. They were to hopefully bring to light what governs development and the structures built.
      Ultimately a building will be placed in this area, the type will depend on whether the parcel of land needing to be rezoned is approved for rezoning.
      There will be another rezoning request coming at the June 11 meeting affecting a parcel of land at the far end of York St. almost to Crossman Road.
      It could potentially change the look of that area if the land were to change hands if the club looking to build there chose to sell the land instead.
      However, there will be little to no interest in that outcome because those so passionate about the Lafford development likely may think that change near Crossman Road will not affect their interests.
      If people are going to stand for responsible development in their municipality, then they need to engage in all rezoning requests not just the ones they are opposed to.

  9. Erna Ricciuto says:

    Hello Tuxemal, I wanted to say thank you for some of the advice you have given in your comments. I did send an email of concern to the Mayor and Town Council, Lori Bickford at the Southeast Regional Service Commission, and to the Fire Chief about the emergency vehicles (fire and ambulance) being able to access the new proposed seniors building through the Main and York Street entrances. I have also asked Town Hall for the most recent traffic flow survey that was done for downtown. I haven’t heard back from anyone yet. I’ve also written the Secretary of the Board of Regents for Mount Allison University to forward a letter to members of the Property and Facilities Committee to make sure they are aware of the situation.
    You sound very knowledgeable about this. Do you have any other suggestions? I have also tried to contact John Lafford to put a bid in to purchase the parcel of land. I feel that strongly about trying to save the beautiful grove of birch trees and lovely green openness that we are so fortunate to have right downtown. My vision would be to share this property with everyone in Sackville and keep it as a park for future generations, including my own grand-children. However there was no reply to my request about the sale of this property. The sad fact is that we will be stuck with another apartment building there and the revised new plan shown at the Public Hearing doesn’t even have retail on the main floor to attract business.

    • tuxemal says:

      Hello Erna, glad that the comments were helpful.
      My experience and knowledge is limited so not sure if there is anything else I can provide.
      Although we can be passionate about certain things understanding a process, regulations and requirements allow us to better understand the situation.
      It can help us put perspective on matters of this nature and what controls development, safety, construction and outcome.
      It is a shame that we only see people take interest in our municipal activity either when it is to oppose or support something.
      Politicians become complacent when citizens do not make the effort to stay informed and take advantage of opportunity to participate in forming policy such as the municipal plan. They also like to make it sound boring so as to deter public engagement. Lack of public participation allows politicians to say things must be fine as if it were not we would have seen many more participating.
      We also have to open our minds to seeing things from the perspective of others.
      When it comes to any topic it should never be one side or another.
      We must keep a clear head and be informed and not necessarily pass judgment but ensure all regulatory items are applied.
      If the process raises questions that are not addressed within current policy then it could signal a need to review policy and gather that much needed public input. The trick is to make sure all walks of life are given the opportunity to bring their thoughts to the discussion table and that their voices are not lost among the louder voices at the table.
      Thank you for taking time to ask questions and learning more. A step in the right direction. I hope you receive answers to your questions to the town council, planning commission and fire chief soon.
      Also thanks to Sharon, Percy and Rima for taking the time as well to be informed and ask questions.

    • Rima Azar says:

      Dearest Erna:

      It is admirable all what you are doing for our town. Bravo to you for being such an engaged citizen with a forward-looking vision!

      This being said, had this story been happening elsewhere (not in Sackville), I believe it would be perhaps more likely to make a difference.

      Mind you, I say this and I understand Mr. Lafford. He is being a businessman looking out for his interests. This is normal. However, any money that he could earn with a possible land sale transaction must be worth it beating his expected benefits from the building project, whether the large one (“luxury”) or the smaller alternative one.

      As for the Board of Regents, I personally doubt they would care about this issue (for obvious reasons, namely that at least 2 members I can think of would have a conflict of interest). Let’s also not forget that everyone is busy, dealing with pressing issues.

      Had I had more faith in our town (i.e. its Town Hall), I would have been interested in supporting your noble idea by co-sharing expenses with you (and maybe with others, if interested?). I guess my (investment) priorities are elsewhere, I must add.

      Although I will not see my own grandchildren playing in Sackville for sure, I would be delighted if I end up being wrong on this matter…because this means that your grandchildren would be playing there with all their little friends in this protected green spot :)! It would be a dream come true. An impossible dream?

      Anyhow, please allow me to thank you again for your care and your time.

      I also thank Tuxemal for replying to you, for his balanced ideas, and for thanking me (with Sharon and Percy).

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