A narrow council decision means future residential development on parts of the current Cedarwood Inn and Suites motel site won’t exceed 2.5 storeys in height.
Cedarwood owner Les Tait hasn’t been paying that much attention to council’s deliberations, as his hands are full just keeping the motel going amid a straining staff shortage and rising property taxes.
“It’s a wait-and-see game. Realistically I hope the deal (with GMC) goes through,” he said.
On Monday, Couns. Barbara Fallot, Scott Garnett, Chad Rintoul and Peter Wainwright voted in favour of changing the western, non-ocean facing side of the property to the neighbourhood townhouse designation in Sidney’s draft OCP – now going to public hearing on June 27 following two unanimous readings of the OCP bylaw. The smaller, ocean-facing front part of the property will retain the designation of neighbourhood commercial, allowing for up to three storeys.
Exactly two weeks earlier, councillors voted 5-2 with Garnett and Wainwright opposed to designating that portion multi-residential after staff had brought forward revisions to the draft OCP which had designated that portion neighbourhood townhouse following feedback from the public. But the apparent revision of the revision sparked another round of neighbourhood concerns, including a petition with more than 100 signatures and a large volume of correspondence prior to Monday’s meeting.
“I recognize that we have had this discussion with sort of various options for this large property,” said Rintoul, who moved the change after having favoured the multi-family designation. “Certainly, the feedback that came before us at this meeting is very personal to many residents. We all understand that and appreciate that and sympathize with helping to want to mitigate the level of change that happens at this site.”
While Rintoul acknowledged the townhouse designation offers less density, it will still add “very significantly” to the housing stock in Sidney, he said.
Gerry Moffat, an area resident, said the updated OCP proposal will bring moderate densification to Sidney’s low-density neighbourhoods.
“The Cedarwood won’t become a jarring exception to that vision and policy,” he said in an email. “The new townhouse residential land use category is an excellent Goldilocks solution to achieving growth without damaging the charm and character of Sidney’s residential neighbourhoods.”
Fallot, who had also earlier favoured the multi-residential designation, acknowledged the need for additional housing. “But we also have to think about the other parts that are written throughout our OCP and that is that new developments, new structures, blend and fit in with the surrounding area,” she said. “If we were to put a condo building in there, it would be a stark contrast.”
Those comments drew the strongest disagreements from Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith and Coun. Terri O’Keeffe.
McNeil-Smith said Sidney has evolved in pointing out that the community is now home to 120 buildings either three or four storeys tall, including the Blue Water Apartment complex mere feet away from the Cedarwood site.
He also said earlier that no formal development is currently before council in directly addressing criticisms from area residents. “I disagree with the comments that council has been unduly influenced by a developer’s proposal,” he said in reference to plans by GMC Projects.
Council is considering the site as if no formal proposal exists, because none does, he said. “We want to do what is in the best interest of the community … I believe that with this OCP and what is in it, if we give it multi-unit residential (designation), we can have a development come forward that will be acceptable to the community.”
He also noted that approval of the multi-residential designation does not automatically approve any project since any project on the site would still require a rezoning. “There is still a very thorough process to go forward.”
O’Keeffe said the economics of the housing favour greater density and Sidney finds itself in what she called a “desperate situation” when it comes to housing, pointing to the inability of doctors and police officers to find housing. Like McNeil-Smith, she acknowledged the neighbourhood’s concerns, but also noted those concerns came from people who already have housing.
Back at Cedarwood, Tait has seen several groups come to him with proposals over the last five years or so, with none ultimately getting the green light. He noted an initial redevelopment concept of only rentals seemed to make sense to him given the local shortage. But for now, the ball is in council’s court.
“If it happens it happens,” Tait said. “It is what it is – hurry up and wait.”
GMC Projects, which last November presented plans to the neighbourhood for a mixed-residential development with a height of five storeys in places, said through representative Jordan Milne that it does not have a comment at this time.
– with files from Jake Romphf
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