A proposed rezoning request that would see a residential property converted into a parking lot area has drawn concerns from some members of Sackville town council as well as local residents.
Councillors Bill Evans, Shawn Mesheau and Bruce Phinney voiced their opposition to the rezoning request during council’s monthly meeting Feb. 11, although first and second reading for the proposal was approved in a 5-3 vote.
The proposal calls for the property at 1 Copp Avenue to be rezoned in order to accommodate parking and green space for a proposed 25-unit apartment building on the neighbouring property at the corner of Copp and Bridge Street.
The councillors say they are worried about the impact a new multi-unit development could have on an already-busy, residential neighbourhood.
“I don’t like the idea of a big box going up there,” said Coun. Evans. “I don’t think we need that building, I don’t think it fits in there.”
Evans pointed out that the Bridge Street area for which the development is being proposed is a primarily residential neighbourhood with a lot of older, stately homes. He said, unfortunately, the property on which the new apartment building is being built was zoned as “mixed use” years ago when it housed the former Baughan trucking office and can therefore be used for multi-unit residential purposes, without town council approval.
The developer is asking that the property next to the Bridge Street lot is rezoned from its current use as R1 over to R3, in order to have enough space for the necessary parking requirements for the development.
Coun. Phinney said his concern lies with the possible over-saturation of apartment units in the community.
“To me, it seems like it’s in excess of what we need,” he said, noting the majority of the units in the new building will be bachelor apartments.
Coun. Mesheau questioned whether town and planning staff had taken the increased traffic into consideration as well as whether any additional infrastructure would be required to support the new development.
Lori Bickford, director of the Tantramar planning commission, said the fire chief, RCMP and public works director conducted an evaluation of the Bridge/Copp area for the rezoning request and reported no concerns over traffic safety issues.
Bickford said since there would be on-site parking for the apartment building, there shouldn’t be any issues with on-street parking interfering with the already-busy parking conditions that exist when the two funeral homes on Bridge Street host services or visitations.
As well, the visibility and sight lines were deemed acceptable coming off of Copp Avenue onto Bridge Street.
Erin Campbell, director of the Campbell Funeral home on Bridge Street, said she also has reservations about the proposed development, noting that it will not only add to the busy traffic area but will also negatively impact what is primarily a residential street.
“Bridge Street is already very busy, becoming even more so when there are funerals at the two funeral homes on the street and events at Marshlands Inn,” Campbell stated in a letter to the planning commission.
She also pointed out the corner of Copp and Bridge is a challenging intersection with a poor view of approaching traffic coming from town.
Despite these concerns, council passed first and second reading for the rezoning request during its monthly meeting, with some councillors pointing out that the proposal conforms to all the planning requirements and also received staff approval. There really aren’t any valid arguments as to why it should be turned down, said Coun. Ron Corbett.
“We appear to be rejecting certain types of development because it doesn’t meet the norm of single-family residential,” said Corbett.
He said council should be willing to accept a range of housing types in Sackville.
“There is a need for this type of development in Sackville,” he said, noting an apartment market report last year revealed that the vacancy rate in Sackville last year was still fairly low. “We have very few apartments in this town for singles only.”
Coun. Margaret Tusz-King agreed that it wouldn’t make sense to turn down a development that fits within the town’s municipal plan and that seems to be “responding to a housing need.” But she also stressed that council should perhaps review the municipal plan to better assess what the town would like to pursue for future developments.
If the town approves third and final reading of the rezoning request next month, the property at 1 Copp Avenue will be restricted to parking and green space requirements for the new multi-unit building. The developers will also be required to provide a five-foot fence along the southern property boundary to limit headlights shining onto the adjoining property.