Rezoning should be based on impacts, not validity of the cause

Letter writer objects to housing development being out of synch with the neighbourhood


Re: “Rezoning for Hilltop Inn passes second reading,” Interior News, Jan. 21, 2021.

I want to start by saying I support low-income housing initiatives and believe that Smithers needs more low-income housing. I am not concerned about low-income families moving into my neighbourhood, I welcome them.

I recently moved back to my hometown of Smithers and my partner and I bought a house on the dead-end block of 16th Ave. Our home faces the back side of the Hilltop. We love living on a quiet street and love our neighbourhood. We were distressed to learn about the development proposed by the Dik Tiy society where the Hilltop currently stands: a massive three-storey, 41-unit apartment building.

The land is currently zoned C4 (tourist commercial) and Dik Tiy is requesting a rezoning to R3 (medium-density residential).

Rezoning this lot alone would not be unreasonable, since the R3 zone has many rules to protect the neighbourhoods of Smithers and keep our town small.

Unfortunately, the density of this project would be made possible by proposed changes to the entire R3 zone in Smithers, that would allow an increase in density of 140 per cent (25 to 60 units per acre) for low-income housing, and an increase of 16 per cent (25 to 30 units per acre) for any development.

Further changes to the R3 zoning to accommodate this mega-project include decreasing the required on-site parking by 50 per cent (1.5 to 1 space per unit). This change would also apply to the entire R3 zone for low-income housing projects. This will force residents with more than one vehicle per family and any visitors to park on the street.

The density of people living in our neighbourhood was already increased dramatically by the 19-Unit Harding Height development, which was subject to no density limits. I do not believe it is necessary or fair to neighbours to allow two projects of such inflated density right across the street from one another.

This previous development was also allowed to provide a reduced amount of parking spaces, resulting in near constant use of the spaces across the street at Ranger Park for visitors and contractors working on the building.

Zoning bylaws exist to protect the greater good of the community and provide consistency that residents of the town can rely on. All changes to town policy must be looked at with the same lens of fairness and impacts to the community, not backwards from the validity of the cause.

To do otherwise is disrespectful to all homeowners in Smithers who rely on zoning bylaws to protect their quality of life. The R3 zone is the highest density residential zone in Smithers and has a density cap for a very good reason: to maintain our small town feel and to keep our neighbourhoods lovely and livable.

I urge the members of the town council and my fellow Smithereens to imagine how they would feel if a massive development was going to block the sun and mountains from their homes and yards.

The height and density of this project will be no less than devastating for the surrounding homes. This particular project will only affect a few homes, but these proposed changes in zoning have the potential to negatively impact residents throughout Smithers.

I suggest that it would be better for both low-income families and their future neighbours if all housing developments are designed to fit into the neighbourhoods of Smithers, as opposed to being placed on top of them.

Thank you,

Claire Wright (formerly Hinchliffe)

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