By Trevor Busch
Town council has approved a zoning change that could allow a potential commercial development to go forward in Westview Estates.
Under existing Land Use Bylaw 14-2016, Residential Single Dwelling District (R-1) and Residential Single and Two Dwelling District (R-2) both currently have an allowance as a discretionary use for a Neighbourhood Commercial Development. This use is defined in Bylaw 14-2016 as “a small-scale commercial centre consisting of retail stores and other service and retail uses located within a residential area.”
According to administration, this gives the ability to provide amenities to a neighbourhood, which enhances the quality of life for residents. It also ensures the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) has discretion in determining which types of services will meet these requirements and which locations are best suited for this kind of use.
An applicant — identified later in the meeting as Dr. Ryan Torrie — approached administration to request that this use also be included as a discretionary use in the Residential Medium Density District (R-4). Administration would be “supportive of having this ability for an applicant to include minor retail or service opportunities for a neighbourhood.”
According to the application presented to council at their Feb. 10 meeting, the property subject to the amendment is 5030 Westview Gate.
“This location is currently under a purchase agreement by the applicant who has approached administration to initiate this application,” said planning director Phyllis Monks. “The location is a corner site with good traffic flow, and is currently undeveloped. Given the size and zoning of this location, if it were to be built out with residential units the land use bylaw allows for a maximum of 50 dwelling units per net hectare. The site is 1.5 hectares. However 20 per cent landscaping is required, as well as parking and circulation for the site. This could potentially allow for over 100 additional residential units, or an apartment unit up to four stories or 14 meters, whichever is lesser. The applicant is in the very preliminary stages of design, and considering a 30-unit residential building with parking, as well as buildings located adjacent to 50th Avenue that would provide office and minor retail space for clinics or other personal service. Landscaping and pathway connections will be provided, as well as on-site parking. The area has potential to provide them with amenities that will benefit them greatly.”
The approval is for Land Use Amendment Bylaw 3-2020 only, which allows the applicant to proceed with a development permit application and requires them to demonstrate their proposal meets with the intent of the neighbourhood commercial development definition. The MPC will then decide on the application, and the decision will follow an appeal process which ensures opportunities for public input.
This would allow applicants with R-4 zoned properties to consider the addition of neighbourhood type service and retail amenities as part of their development while still requiring development permit applications to come to MPC for final approval.
“This gives an opportunity for growth and economic opportunities by providing a development for a site that has sat dormant for some time…allowing clinics and service offices in this area will continue the growth of Taber as a healthy and safe community,” said Monks.
According to administration, most of the other R-4 locations in the community have already seen extensive development and are unlikely to be significantly impacted by the zoning change.
This includes Area 2 (50th Street and 60th Avenue), Area 4 (35 Fairway Village), and Area 5 (4800A 48th Avenue).
However, Area 1 (5610 43rd Street) is currently undeveloped but is considered unsuitable.
On Jan. 20, the MPC reviewed the application and recommended council pass first reading.
First reading of Land Use Amendment Bylaw 3-2020 was passed by council on Jan. 27.
Following this, the proposed change was advertised, and residences within 100 metres of each of the five locations impacted by the amendment were circulated with notifications.
During the public hearing later in the Feb. 10 meeting, Monks indicated approximately five citizens had approached the planning desk to seek clarification of the changes, while Ray Sheen submitted a written objection prior to the meeting and would later speak questioning why the town needed to take a blanket approach to rezoning R-4 districts throughout the community when the proposed development in question is only targeting one specific parcel of property in Westview Estates.
A handful of citizens from Westview Estates opposed to the rezoning would also speak at the public hearing, including Keith Lawlor, who wanted to know more about what kind of project was being proposed.
“I feel that we have a very busy entrance to Westview already,” said another resident, Mandy Wojtowicz. “There’s a lot of noise on the corner late at night, all through the day, I find it very noisy. I feel that adding extra traffic in that area is not something that I’m interested in. If we’re revitalizing downtown and spending money to update that area to make it more beautiful, and yet there are many, many empty buildings in that area, why would we build more commercial areas in a residential area rather than using the ones we have?”
Jeff Smith also asked why the town was considering rezoning this portion in Westview Estates when other areas, including the downtown, might be more suitable.
CAO Cory Armfelt replied that the impetus for the change had originated with the applicant and not the municipality.
Area resident Stefanie Lauwen had a litany of complaints which ranged from crime to property values.
“I have some of the same concerns. The traffic over there is already very busy. I’m worried about overflow parking. If there’s not enough parking in that area, are they going to start parking in our crescent? I’m worried about loitering, there’s a bus stop right on that street right down from where they’re proposing this. There’s also a park supposed to be built a block away. I’m worried about added crime. I’m worried about property value maybe decreasing. Also, when we purchased our property, we purchased it thinking that the rest of the area would be developed residentially and not commercially. I’m concerned about what kind of businesses might be put there.”
The applicant, Dr. Ryan Torrie, spoke on behalf of the zoning change and provided some preliminary details on what might be planned.
“We saw this piece of property as a nice piece of property in a nice area on 50th (Avenue) that would be a nice spot for some residential development. I’m not a big fan of huge residential developments, and with R-4 I think you can put a fairly big unit there — I think 50 units is allowed — which would be a lot of traffic, and finding 50 tenants can be difficult in one area. Our goal would be to have seniors housing here with a nice common area on the main floor. We’re looking at the possibility of a small work-out centre for those tenants with a spa area and sauna, that type of thing. And then a nice unit with elevators that would be affordable. They wouldn’t be large units — maybe 400 to 750 square feet — that would allow us to keep the price affordable for seniors, but still be a very nice, brand new unit. Similar to Signature Pointe, except a rental unit for the community…there’s lots of parking space. All parking would have to be accommodated according to code.”
Fears the proposed development might be unsuitable for the location are unfounded, according to Torrie.
“Just to have only housing, if you look in the community — if you go west of 50th (Street) there’s no commercial…it would be nice to have some other opportunities. Generally around a hospital, there’s other medical/dental suites, and usually some light commercial. This isn’t for a used RV dealership, this would be for a pharmacy, optometry, a lawyer’s office, something like that. We’re in early planning, we have an investment group that would be interested in bringing this development to the community. Its value as currently proposed would be around $8 million for local tradesmen and the community. So not only jobs, but future services for that community…it wouldn’t be an eyesore. I certainly don’t think this would detract from any land values. There’s always some traffic, whether you had a 50-plex or some smaller unit.”
Almost as an aside, Torrie had mentioned an idea of having a potential bar or pub as part of the commercial offerings, but this drew a degree of opposition from some councillors following the conclusion of the public hearing.
“I have some concerns when I heard somebody say a pub might go in there,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “I think there’s enough establishments in town as it is. I don’t really think the town can afford another pub at this point, so I’m not totally in favour of everything that was discussed there. I think this area is a good area for development, the seniors housing, the clinic, dentist/doctor’s office, whatever — I think it’s a good addition across from the hospital.”
Coun. Louie Tams agreed.
“I have the same concerns as Councillor Strojwas, if we’re going to put a pub there I’m not in favour. They would have to come and apply as a discretionary use, which would have to go before the Municipal Planning Commission.”
Following this exchange, Coun. Garth Bekkering put forward a motion to approve second and third reading of Land Use Amendment Bylaw 3-2020.
“Just because this motion might pass — or not pass — doesn’t mean it’s an automatic go ahead,” said Bekkering for the benefit of the public. “We received an application from a person — Dr. Torrie in this case — and the MPC will look at this with large glasses, and as Mr. Armfelt said, through a large lens. All kinds of conditions could be attached to this permit, or this possible development, and council has the final say. So I would assure all the people that live close by this proposed development not to worry too much about it.”
Both motions would pass by a 6-1 vote, with Tams in opposition.
Approval of the zoning change allows the applicant to proceed with a development permit to be considered by the Municipal Planning Commission as a discretionary use.