Developer frustrated with council as they reject proposed development in 6-2 vote
Sackville town council has shot down a proposed development on the SGCI property on Main Street. The proposal would have seen an apartment building constructed on the property, as shown in the above artist’s conceptual drawing.
SACKVILLE, N.B. – A local developer is seeking legal counsel this week after town council shot down his proposed rezoning Monday night for an apartment building development on Main Street.
Kathy Beal, who has been working with her father Gordon Beal on the proposed development for the former SGCI property at 131 Main Street, said her dad had contacted a lawyer Tuesday morning following council’s decision.
Beal said they are frustrated and surprised by council’s vote, as they had followed all the required guidelines and did what council had asked of them throughout the process – including spending thousands of dollars to hire an architect to ensure the design was in keeping with the heritage elements of the building that sits at the front of the site.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Beal “I don’t understand why, all of a sudden, they changed their minds. It’s nothing but a joke.”
Council had approved first and second reading last month for the rezoning request in a 4-3 vote (one councillor was absent) so Beal said she was taken aback by some councillors’ eleventh-hour change of heart Monday night.
The rezoning request being proposed was for the former SGCI property at 131 Main Street, on which local developer Gordon Beal was asking to build a three-storey, 18-unit apartment building. This was Beal’s second attempt at rezoning a parcel of land at the rear of the property from Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) 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.
Since that time, however, the developer had gone back to the drawing board and, with some help from an arctitect and the Sackville heritage committee, incorporated some of the elements from the former SGCI building – a Georgian-style manor which was built in 1841 – into his development.
The apartment building was expected to feature 15 two-bedroom units and three one-bedroom units (with two units being total wheelchair accessible), including laundry rooms on two floors and an elevator.
Last month, Coun. Bill Evans initially voted in support of the rezoning, stating there were several reasons behind his decision, including: encouraging higher-density housing (as per the town’s municipal plan); the location of the development, which provides the tenants easier access to downtown and other amenities; and he was confident the heritage component would be addressed since the developer would have to apply for a permit from the heritage committee before proceeding with the new building (because the property is located within a designated municipal heritage conservation area).
And although Monday night he said he is still not against the development itself, Evans said he has reconsidered his vote over the past few weeks, based on concerns he and others have about the “number, location and appearance of apartments in Sackville.”
He said he believes there is a need for further discussion amongst the community on this issue, including a review of the current municipal plan, before he would feel comfortable approving this rezoning request.
“I like this project . . . but I also want to be cautious about this, to be sure this is the right thing to do.”
Coun. Margaret Tusz-King also changed her vote Monday night, saying she was not confident there had been enough public participation or debate on the issues surrounding the development. In the past few weeks, she said concerns have come to light from local residents that suggest new developments around the Sackville Waterfowl Park may lead to more runoff and alter the conditions of the park.
Lori Bickford, director of the local planning commission office, said there are processes put in place within a development agreement to help alleviate those concerns, including an engineer-approved construction plan
Beal said this reasoning also doesn’t seem to fall in line with council’s decision last year to approve a multi-unit development along Waterfowl Lane, which abuts the Waterfowl Park.
“I don’t understand why they’re not giving us a permit . . .but there are other builders in town who have carte blanche,” she said.
Beal also pointed out that she is disappointed council didn’t follow due process for this rezoning, saying councillors accepted letters, phone calls and e-mails from the public way beyond the deadline for submissions of objections and concerns.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable, they were way too late.”
Coun. Mike Tower said he didn’t care that the concerns came in late, “they still have a voice.”
Tower said he doesn’t feel the proposed development is the “right type of development” for that site.
“It’s a beautiful property, a gem . . . right next to another gem, the Waterfowl Park,” he said.
Fellow councillor Bruce Phinney agreed, saying he’s not against development in general but “we need development in the right places.
“It’s too beautiful of a property,” he said. “I don’t think we should just put up developments for the sake of development.”
Councillors Joyce O’Neil and Ron Corbett were the only two councillors to vote in favour of the development.
O’Neil said the Beals had followed the proper process with the planning commission and had worked well with the heritage group to come up with a suitable design for the apartment building.
Beal said the apartments would have been affordable for seniors and area residents looking to live close to the downtown. She said she’s not sure what the next step is for the property but her dad has brought up the idea of obtaining a demolition permit for the existing building on site.
“We’ll see what happens,” she said.