The way is partly paved for 11 new multi-family strata buildings to go up in Smithers.
Mostly consisting of four-plexes, West Fraser Concrete can now go ahead with purchasing the property from the Christian Reformed Church and start planning the development’s design.
While council unanimously passed the rezoning and official community plan amendment, the form and development permit still needs to be approved. Council also made it so that the advisory planning commission (APC), made up of community members who normally only look at projects that want a variance, get a chance to approve the development permit first.
Council also unanimously passed a motion to look at a parks plan while forming its strategic priorities for its four-year term.
The council chambers gallery was full with neighbours to the proposed development. Some took the chance to voice their concerns, and others wrote letters to council. While some were worried about what the look of the 40 units planned would be, which is to be approved in the development permit process, most mentioned increasing housing density in the area and the loss of potential green space at the end of Second Avenue, between Vancouver and Victoria Streets.
One Turner Way resident at the public hearing March 12 said she expected something to be built at the location eventually, but believed moving ahead now was premature.
“There is R3 land available nearby at the Ambleside development. Even if that land is ready to go, it seems like a poor decision to clear a well-used green space. There doesn’t seem to be a need for that amount of that type of housing given that there is land available but also units available in a previous development nearby on Third Avenue,” she said.
Mayor Taylor Bachrach did not agree with her that the decision was being rushed, and councillors voiced their belief that more multi-family housing was needed in town.
A second Turner Way resident added a few more concerns.
“This is Canada and the North, so everybody wants a place to park their car … But mostly I would say for the community feeling,” she said.
“People come to Smithers because they like the green space, and it’s so nice that we can step out and in less than two minutes you’re walking in a park … it’s our piece of wilderness.”
The plan so far is well below the allowed building coverage for an R3 development, but does not specify what the rest of the area may look like.
As a strata, technically only people living on the strata have access to the privately-owned land whether a park or forested area is on it or not. Being members of a community often means those rules are not necessarily strictly enforced, of course, but they can be.
One of the letters of concern came from another developer: Chandler Park Estates Strata Corporation.
It also brought up Ambleside, and pointed out that it was having difficulty selling its units.
“The Chandler Park Estates development still has vacant units six months after they were ready for sale. This is a sign that the market for this style of development may be close to saturation, further emphasizing the need to ensure there is demand for this,” read the letter.
Representatives for the West Fraser Concrete developer said in February that they would like to start construction this summer.