I was at a public meeting last week about a parcel of land at 150 Stavanger Drive that is being considered for rezoning from commercial to residential apartment. The room was overflowing with concerned citizens who do not want this rezoning to happen.
As described in a Wikipedia article about Clovelly Trails, it "is a multi subdivision residential development; the area includes single-family homes, high-end homes and adult living complexes." Construction of the homes began in the 1990s and continues today.
Clovelly Trails borders the Stavanger Drive commercial district, which many of us know for its great shopping and horrendous traffic congestion. The development being considered today is right where the residential and commercial districts meet.
The proposed development is a 71-unit apartment building. The proponent - Northern Properties REIT - see a demand for higher quality rental units for retirees who would like to downsize. A similar example, according to the developer, is "Bennett House" in Pleasantville.
Residents of Clovelly, as I gather, are against this proposal primarily for three reasons:
- This development was not in the original plan when they decided to buy their home;
- Homeowners in Clovelly follow a strict "covenant" that restricts the design and use of their property, and this proposal does not follow the same standards;
Traffic on Stavanger Drive is heavy and adding this building would make it worse.
- For example, Clovelly homeowners cannot have basement apartments
I have been thinking long and hard about this development, as there are several considerations I'm making in deciding whether to vote approval or rejection of the proposal. [Click here to view a detailed PDF Report of the proposal]
First, our economy and demographics are changing dramatically. This means, among many other things, that housing affordability is a growing issue. The City of St. John's is adopting a mandate to address the lack of options in housing types and costs for people of all ages and lifestyles, and apartments are a critical component of a long-term solution.
Second, as our city grows and modernizes, there is huge pressure on City services and infrastructure. This is a trend the promises to continue, and a sustainable approach includes "intensifying" development with higher density options that utilize existing infrastructure like water, sewer, and electrical. The proposed building meets that goal.
Third, there is an expectation of residents that when they move into a new home that the plans that were determined will be adhered to. In the case of Clovelly, residents were under the assumption that this land would be used for commercial development. This means something like a retail outlet, an office building, a hotel, etc. Rezoning would change the plan.
Fourth, there's the issue of traffic. As I noted above, Stavanger drive is famously congested. Adding any type of development to the area would obviously increase traffic. Just how much depends on the development, but as I make my decision I have been researching typical impacts and apartment buildings are actually notably lower-intensity than if you built the same number of units in the form of single detached houses.
Finally, it's imperative that I consider the sentiment and input of the residents. The public meeting was attended by more than 150 people that had already organized themselves by going door-to-door and discussing the issue. They do not want this development.
This is what makes the decision especially difficult. The City as a whole needs more housing options that make best use of existing infrastructure and this proposal fits the bill. The density would also help us justify investments in public transit to that area.
As for residential or lifestyle impacts, they revolve around increased traffic and how the types of tenants in the building would change the ambiance of the neighbourhood. The first is somewhat predictable, the other one not so much although the building is intended to appeal to retirees aged 50+.
I'm really struggling with this one. We're considering altering our plan, so I want to be sure we're doing so for the best reasons. Listening to the residents, this proposal sounds like a bad idea, but viewing our emerging priorities as a booming municipality, it makes sense.
What do you think?