Residents voice concerns over rezoning request in heritage area

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Local developer wants to construct three-storey apartment building in behind former SGCI building

Pictured above is an artist’s rendering of the proposed new apartment development at the former SGCI property.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – A new apartment building development being proposed for a heritage property in town has drawn criticism from a number of local residents, who say they are concerned over whether the new multi-unit structure will fit in with the neighbourhood.

Sackville resident Peter Manchester says he is concerned the town is moving too quickly on approving multi-unit developments in the community without enough consideration for the architectural characteristics of the surrounding area.

“I think that Sackville has perhaps lost its way when it comes to the heritage landscape it once had,” Manchester told members of town council during the public hearing for the proposal last week.

Sackville has, over the past couple of years, experienced significant growth when it comes to high-density housing but Manchester said he’s disappointed there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive planning process in place for the approach council and staff want to take “when it comes to the look you want.”

“We want architecture that people can be proud of,” said Manchester.

Last week’s public hearing gave residents and members of council an opportunity to hear more about the proposed rezoning for the former SGCI property at 131 Main Street, on which local developer Gordon Beal is asking to build a three-storey, 18-unit building.

This is Beal’s second attempt at rezoning a parcel of land at the rear of the property from Residential Historic Commercial to Urban Residential 3 (R3). Beal’s previous rezoning request back in 2010 was denied, with town council citing the design of the proposed building as the main reason behind the rejection.

The initial building, which was said to be targeted toward professionals and seniors, featured two storeys that would have included about a dozen two-bedroom apartment-style units.

The new design, which will stand about 42 feet in height and measure 132 feet by 58 feet, will feature 15 two-bedroom units and three one-bedroom units (with two units being total wheelchair accessible). It will include laundry rooms on two floors and an elevator.

Kathy Beal, who is working with her father Gordon on the development, said their architect has been working with the Sackville heritage committee throughout the design stage this time around and has added touches and elements featured in the former SGCI building that sits at the front of the site. Also known as the Joseph F. Allison House or the Fawcett House, the building is a late Gerogian-style manor house which was built by local merchant Joseph Francis Allison in 1841.

“We’ve tried to accommodate everyone,” said Kathy. “We are willing to work with everyone in the community . . . we’re hoping to get to the same goal.”

But Manchester cautioned council not to approve what he describes as a ‘hotel-like’ development on the historic property.

“Heritage isn’t something you buy; it’s something that’s retained over the years.”

Alexandrya Eaton agrees. Her parents live next door to the site, which she feels is one of “the most prestigious and prominent of the residential heritage properties in town.”

The property, with the Georgian-style manor, has become a recognized landmark in the community and she believes any proposed developments for that area should be considered very carefully.

“The construction of a three-storey apartment building behind it would ruin the visual aesthetic of the site and the surrounding green space,” stated Eaton in a letter to town council.

Local resident Meredith Fisher said she was concerned that people directly affected by this proposal – the neighbours – hadn’t been “given the heads up” about the rezoning.

“Our neighbourhood has really suffered a hit in heritage architecture,” she said of the loss of several heritage buildings over the past decade.

Fisher also wondered whether the new design was much different than the previous one that was turned down three years ago.

Lori Bickford, director of the local planning commission, said the developer will require a heritage permit from the Sackville heritage committee before moving forward on the development since the property is located within a designated municipal heritage conservation area.

There are a variety of other land uses surrounding the property including institutional, commercial, single-unit residential and multi-unit residential.

Bickford said the proposed development is capable of meeting the proper R3 requirements – such as setbacks, building height, parking, etc. Buffering (fence and trees) around the property has also been recommended. The driveway that encircles the property will also be modified to be used as entrance and exit only lanes.

First (and possibly second) reading of the rezoning request is expected to come forward during town council’s regular meeting on Jan. 13.

 

 

Organizations: Joseph F Allison House, Fawcett House

Geographic location: 131 Main Street

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