SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville residents and town council will have an opportunity to hear more about a developers’ request to build an ambulance station on a piece of property on Robson Avenue during a public hearing for the proposed rezoning next month.
The hearing is set for April 9 at 7 p.m. in town council chambers, when the public will have a chance to learn more details about the project and offer their views on the proposal.
The applicant, Parsons Investments Ltd., is proposing to rezone a portion (about half an acre) of the 6.6-acre Robson Avenue property, next to Westmorland Animal Hospital, from Highway Commercial to Institutional to allow for the operation of an ambulance service. Parsons is in the process of buying the land from Sackville resident Percy Best.
Councillors learned last Monday night during their monthly meeting that, rather than the 70-foot setback Parsons originally requested for the building, the company adjusted its plans and the station would now be built 50 feet from the road.
“This would bring it more in line with the veterinary clinic,” said Lori Bickford, planning manager with the local planning commission office.
This setback adjustment may assuage some of councillors’ concerns that were raised at their discussion meeting the previous week, with the conversation focusing on how a building that would be set back 70 feet would fit with a draft plan for the Exit 506 area that recommends setbacks of no more than 20 feet.
Although the Exit 506 plan has yet to come into effect, or given any official approval, the setback limitation was recommended in the plan to create a more “pedestrian-oriented” concept, which also includes ne
w walkways, bike lanes, parks, and shops. The plan is expected to come forward for council’s consideration sometime in April.
Councillor Bill Evans said although he is generally in support of this development, as it would see the ANB station relocated from its current site in the industrial park (and the concern of an ambulance being blocked by a train on the CN Rail line during an emergency), he pointed out that the whole idea of commissioning this Exit 506 plan was to avoid the piecemeal approach taken at Exit 504.
He said he would rather wait to see how council votes on the recommendations in the plan before proceeding with a rezoning that may not fit in within those guidelines. But he also understands there may be time constraints the developer is working within.
“I don’t want to stymie something that’s really important and time sensitive but this sort of defeats the purpose of the planning first and the acting second,” said Evans. “That’s my dilemma.”
Bickford agreed it would be more ideal, from a planning perspective, to wait until the town decides on its approach for that area, so that any new requirements could be incorporated into the new development.
“When we’re looking at a request of this nature, we suspect a building like this will be there for years to come,” she said.
She did note, however, that Ambulance New Brunswick likely needs to be setback a certain distance from the street in order for turning on site and for safely entering/exiting the property.
Councillors Megan Mitton and Andrew Black said, given the station’s location on Robson Avenue, they didn’t see any significant concern with setting it farther back than the recommended 20 feet.
Mitton said Robson wasn’t one of the main areas focused on in the plan so “the streetscape wouldn’t be affected as much.”
“I don’t think that allowing this institutional use will prevent us from achieving the goal of an attractive, walkable and well-planned development.”
She said she’d rather see the ambulance station located on that site than on its current property, which could pose a problem “if the train stops and the ambulance couldn’t get out.”
Black agreed with Mitton, noting that it’s a similar setback to the neighbouring vet clinic and he doesn’t foresee that it will interfere with the plan’s overall goal.
“I don’t know how often you’re going to be walking by the ambulance station,” he said.
Councillor Joyce O’Neil said council should do all in its power to help ensure the ambulance station is moved from its present location.
“When I see the chance that the ambulance service would be moved out there . . . I feel that we should do everything we can on our end to have this happen,” she said. “This has got to happen so we get them on the other side of the tracks.”
O’Neil said there is no assurance when the Exit 506 area will see the type of development suggested within the plan and she’d rather see this project move ahead sooner than later.
“I just think this is a good thing for us.”