Sackville developer John Lafford is seeking changes to the municipal zoning bylaw so he can construct a six-storey, 71 unit apartment building at 131 Main Street, but judging from their initial reactions, Tantramar councillors have many questions and concerns.
Town planner Lori Bickford told town council today that for his plan to go forward, Lafford would need the back portion of the 2.3 acre property rezoned to Urban Residential 3 (R3) to allow for a multiple-unit building.
She said he would also need an increase in the maximum height permitted in the R3 zone from 50 to 65 feet.
“The development is proposed to be of non-combustible materials, so concrete construction versus wood, and it would contain a sprinkler system,” Bickford added.
She said the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House at 131 Main Street would remain on the property and retain its Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) zoning.
Bickford’s background report on the proposed development outlined further details:
A variety of units are proposed to offer a mixture of accommodations which include: 24 – 2 bedroom units with a den (~1400 sq ft) (corner units), 12 – 2 bedroom units with a den (1,087 sq ft), 17 – 1 bedroom units with a den (898 sq ft), and 18 – 1 bedroom units (682 sq ft). The smaller 1 bedroom units are being proposed as affordable housing options. A gym area is proposed on the ground floor for the residents. The building will also be serviced with an elevator…A combination of underground parking (54 spaces) and surface parking is proposed for the development.
Bickford noted that Sackville Town Council voted against rezoning the property when the late Gordon Beal proposed to construct a two-storey, 10-unit building in 2009 and again in 2014, when he sought approval for a three-storey, 18-unit building.
She said council could decide at its next meeting on May 9th if it wishes to consider Lafford’s rezoning applications and set a date for a public hearing or whether to reject his proposals.
The first thing to consider, she said, would be lifting the height restriction because without that, the project would not be viable.
“My first question is, what has changed from the two previous zoning (applications) to now?” asked Councillor Josh Goguen.
“From what I understand, it’s in the middle of a flood plain that could, especially if you’re putting parking down in the bottom, that could flood,” he added.
“What’s the definition of affordable? Is it 50 bucks off? There’s just so many questions.”
Goguen also expressed concerns about how close the development would be to residents in the co-op housing apartments on Main Street.
“Ms. Bickford, I think you know how I feel about this project,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney.
“I’m going to go back to what I said when I refused back in 2014 and 2009. I think it’s the wrong place for this project,” he added.
“The height makes no difference to me…but it’s the place where it’s being built and the impact that I feel that it will have on the people that live around there,” Phinney said.
“Do I like the idea of having 71 more units throughout the town? Definitely. But I also would like to know, what are the apartments going to cost and the…apartments that are supposed to be affordable, what’s the price of those?”
Bickford promised to seek more information on rents after Councillors Michael Tower and Matt Estabrooks echoed Phinney’s concern.
Barry Hicks was the only councillor to express wholehearted support.
“Obviously we all know, there’s a need for apartments in the town,” Hicks said.
“A developer’s not going to build a 71-unit apartment unless they know that they’re going to be able to rent some of it and I feel the more apartments they get around, it’s going to drive the price down on the older ones,” he added.
“I don’t see a problem with the site.”
To read Lori Bickford’s background report on the Lafford proposal, click here.
To read previous coverage on the aftermath of Gordon Beal’s 2014 application for rezoning, click here.