SACKVILLE, N.B. – A rezoning request that would have allowed for another multi-unit development in an area of town neighbours say is already congested with student housing was shot down by town council Monday night.
In a 5-3 decision, council voted against a rezoning application to allow for a six-unit, three-storey building at 40 King Street, a property that currently houses a five-unit structure as well as a single-dwelling unit and is home to about 30 university students.
The decision comes after a group of residents voiced their objections to the proposed rezoning during the public hearing last month, saying they were concerned about the excessive noise and partying that already occur on the 1.5-acre site, as well as the increased traffic congestion.
The council members opposed to the rezoning said although they realize the town’s municipal plan encourages an increase in higher-density and more diverse housing options in Sackville, including multi-unit residential buildings, they felt this proposed development didn’t necessarily fit with what the community is looking for.
“I understand we do need development and I would like to see a broader base,” said councillor Mike Tower. “But with this development, I don’t think we need any more in that area. The property is already congested.”
Tower said cramping too many students into one area decreases the quality of life for everyone involved.
“It’s not just what we’re looking for in development for that area.”
Councillor Bruce Phinney agreed, saying sometimes there are projects that “come forward that just don’t work within that plan and I think this is one of them.”
He said he understands the growing concerns coming from longtime residents in the King Street area and believes the town needs to start saying no to some of the proposals coming forward.
“It seems that actually it’s becoming more of a student town than it is actually a resident town.”
Councillor Allison Butcher disagreed with Phinney on that point, saying Sackville can still be a community town that includes the university. But she said she also recognized the residents’ complaints and shares those concerns with the homeowners.
The rezoning request from Sean Doucette was asking to change the land use of his 40 King Street property from Urban Residential 2 (R2) to Urban Residential 3 (R3). R2 zoning only permits up to six units, the R3 would have allowed up to 12.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said although he recognizes the town’s municipal plan does call for more multi-unit residential housing options, he said he isn’t convinced there is a strong enough argument to change the rezoning on this particular piece of property.
“All I can see is that somebody wants to add a higher density to obviously make some more money off rents when the residents have already commented on the problems they’re having with the buildings that are there,” said Aiken. “And I can’t see where doubling the capacity is going to get rid of any problems.”
Councillor Joyce O’Neil said there were just too many problems with the property and the proposed development to vote in favour.
“I am certainly in favour of development and community growth . . .but due to the congestion and so on and the other problems there seems to be in this area, I’ll be voting against that motion as well.”
Councillor Bill Evans argued, however, that many of the concerns raised by the neighbours could have been addressed by conditions attached to the project or by existing bylaw regulations. He said he feels the problem lies more with the residents opposing the development simply because they don’t want it in their neighbourhood.
“I understand that and I’m not criticizing anyone for feeling that,” he said. “Not In my Backyard (NIMBY) is an acronym because people regularly feel that way. They’re not saying they’re against doing it at all but they just don’t it where they are.”
Evans pointed out that it’s council’s mandate to look after the interests of the entire municipality, not just certain neighbourhoods. He said projects like these should be encouraged because not only does Sackville’s latest municipal plan call for an increase in multiple housing units but the development could add to the town’s tax base (by about $1 million, according to his estimates).
Councillor Megan Mitton said she has been conflicted over the project as she recognizes there are issues with the property, particularly relating to noise and the environmental concerns over the stream that flows along the border of the property. But she agreed with Evans that these issues could be minimized if existing bylaws and conditions are enforced properly.
She said she decided to vote in favour, saying she liked the idea of increasing the diversity of housing options close to downtown, as well as contributing to the tax base.
Mitton, Evans, and councillor Andrew Black voted yes for the project while Aiken, Phinney, O’Neil, Tower and Butcher voted no.