Neighbours aren’t too happy about an apartment complex that has been proposed for a residential area in Port Alberni.
More than a dozen neighbours turned out to a public hearing at council chambers on Monday, Aug. 8 to express their opposition to a proposed apartment building on Athol Street.
The applicant, Kim Rai, is applying to amend the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws to facilitate the development of a three-storey apartment building with six units, made up of one, two and three-bedroom apartments. The proposed development is for a small lot on Athol Street, and neighbours argue that the lot is too small. The lot is approximately 443 square metres, and the proposed building will cover more than half of the lot.
The new complex, said one neighbour, will “completely dwarf” the house beside it.
Neighbours expressed concern that the development will change the character of the neighbourhood, with multiple people stating that they purchased their homes specifically because of the zoning in the area. Others expressed concern about rentals leading to an increase in property crime, while others said the property could lead to a fire hazard because of its proximity to the houses beside it.
A major concern was parking. The proposal includes six parking spaces, but many people noted that most families have more than one car. This could lead to more street parking and congestion in the area.
One neighbour pointed out that the city’s current zoning bylaw says that the property in question is too small to consider an accessory suite. He added that it seems strange to consider this application while the city’s OCP is still under review.
“It seems like it’s putting the cart ahead of the horse,” he said.
The frontage proposed for the lot (12 metres) is less than half of the minimum size for high-density multi-family zones (30 metres). Rai has included plans for a rooftop balcony area for renters, but many neighbours were concerned about this leading to noise and shadows.
The city’s planning department supports the application, given the need for rental housing in Port Alberni.
Development planner Brian McLoughlin said on Aug. 8 that the lot is “ideally located” at the edge of the city’s commercial core and two parks are located within walking distance. Although many of the houses in the neighbourhood are single-detached houses, the four-storey King George Apartments are located just across a laneway.
The development will also provide six units of purpose-built housing, which was identified as a need in the city’s Housing Needs Report.
Rai is applying to changing the zoning of the property to a comprehensive development (CD) zone, which will allow the creation of multi-family rental housing where it would otherwise not be permitted due to the dimensions of the lot.
McLoughlin explained that high-density infill properties like this are “very common” in larger urban centres.
“It’s something that Port Alberni hasn’t experienced yet, but it is very common in other cities,” he added.
But on Aug. 8, neighbours also criticized the city for a lack of notice throughout the process. There have been a few delays and miscommunications since the project was first announced. A public meeting scheduled by the applicant back in December had no attendees, but neighbours say this was due to snowy weather at the time and a lack of communication. The city’s public hearing was originally scheduled for July, but had to be postponed to August after the city discovered that signage was missing at the property site.
“It was very difficult for us to follow the process,” said one resident.
A total of 90 letters were mailed out to property owners and occupants within 75 metres of the property, and 15 responses were received. McLoughlin said one of these responses was in favour of the application, while the rest were opposed.
Council has given first and second readings to the amendments. The input from the public hearing will be brought to the next regular meeting of council (Sept. 6) before a final vote is made.