People lined up outside Salmon Arm’s recreation centre Monday night, July 13, waiting for the chance to register their opposition to a proposed rezoning of 3.9 hectares of land on 11th Street SE.
The public hearing, which adhered to social distancing restrictions so restricted the number of people attending, stretched over more than three hours.
None of the speakers other than the applicants were in favour of allowing the proposed housing development on that particular property.
However, as the clock neared 11:30 p.m., the majority of council voted for the rezoning.
Mayor Alan Harrison and Coun. Sylvia Lindgren were alone in voting against it.
Applicant Gary Arsenault was applying for rezoning on behalf of a B.C. numbered company to build on the 9.6 acres just south of Okanagan Avenue E on two adjoining parcels, 70 11th St. SE (parcel A) and 200 11th St. SE (parcel B).
Parcel A was split-zoned with both R-1, single family residential, and R-4, medium density residential, while Parcel B was zoned only R-1.
The properties are designated ‘high density residential’ in the Official Community Plan and have been since 1995, city staff said.
Partnering in the plan to create an active-living, aging-in-place seniors’ housing project, which would feature up to 120 units under the R4 zone, is the Vancouver Resource Society.
The society owns Andover Terrace and Shuswap Lodge in Salmon Arm.
At the hearing, 40 people were seated in chairs arranged in a distanced checkerboard pattern on the gym’s gleaming new floor. In addition to an estimated 20 of them who addressed council in person, the city received about 50 other submissions beforehand along with a petition containing more than 135 signatures.
Recurring themes were addressed in the presentations, such as environmental concerns centered on the possible moving of the existing creek into pipes or ponds and the effects of the loss of greenspace on the abundant wildlife which frequent the area.
Entomologist Art Borkent said streams don’t have to have fish to be vitally important to fish in the lake, because they contain insects.
Such streams also provide food and water for birds.
He urged council to leave the stream alone; “the alternative is to trash it…”
Dangers of a slide due to the steep terrain on the parcel were also mentioned.
Another concern raised repeatedly was traffic and the difficulties accommodating more than 100 new units.
Speakers also questioned the rationale for placing a seniors’ development next to steep Okanagan Avenue, where walking downtown, particularly in the winter, would be problematic.
Following all of the concerns being expressed, Martin Gardner, with the Vancouver Resource Society, spoke of being moved and impressed by the speakers.
Gardner said he has been busy working with all the seniors’ residences the society runs in order to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19, which they’ve done, but he neglected the need share his vision with the community. He said the speakers have motivated him to rethink their plans.
Coun. Tim Lavery suggested council could adjourn the hearing in order to modify plans, but that idea was not supported.
When those council members in support – Lavery, Kevin Flynn, Louise Wallace-Richmond, Chad Eliason and Debbie Cannon – gave their reasons for their support for the rezoning, several pointed to the requirements which the developer must meet in order to proceed.
Before final approval, a Riparian Areas Regulation report regarding the creek must be compiled by a qualified environmental professional (QEP), a traffic study must be completed, a road reserve must be finalized and a greenway link created.
Because of the steep terrain, the project may also require a Potential Hazard Areas development permit.
Councillors also noted the city has more control in terms of what’s done on R4 properties than it does on R1.
Harrison based his no vote on the creek.
He said it’s within the realm of possibility that a QEP and the ministry of environment could approve altering the creek, which he cannot allow.
Lindgren, who was initially going to vote yes, changed her vote when hearing Harrison speak, saying she too cannot vote yes for the proposal if moving the creek could be a possibility.