Owners of an apartment complex in North Port Alberni are hoping to expand, but residents aren’t too happy about some of the proposed changes.
The owners of the Creekside Apartments on Gertrude Street are seeking relief from parking regulations in order to add eight more rental units. They are proposing to reduce the number of required parking spots on the property from 1.25 spaces per unit to 1.08 spaces per unit. This will bring the number of parking spaces down from 33 to 28.
Port Alberni city council voted to issue a permit to Creekside Apartments during a meeting on June 22, which will allow the owners to reduce parking.
City planner Katelyn McDougall explained that the city does not have any specific policy guidelines when it comes to evaluating parking lot requirements.
“The owner has indicated that they believe the parking lot to be underutilized,” said McDougall. Although no specific parking analysis has been undertaken, McDougall agreed that this appears to be the case after a few site visits.
She pointed out that public transit is available on Gertrude Street, as well as public parking. The two apartment buildings also border the Kitsuksis Dyke, which allows for access to the walking path.
During Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Debbie Haggard agreed that the area is “walkable” and has options for public transit.
“There is such a strong need for rental units in our community,” she said. “I would never want to jeopardize rental units for a few parking spaces.”
However, council received a pair of letters of opposition against the project. One of these came from a neighbour, who believes the area is too densely populated already, while the other was signed by multiple tenants of the Creekside Apartments.
In a later interview, tenants of the apartments said that despite assertions from the property owner, the parking lot is “well-used.” At this time, there are only four tenants in the 18-unit complex without vehicles. One tenant, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the parking lot is frequently used by people walking along the Kitsuksis Dyke or visiting the nearby playground.
“Some people here have two or more cars,” he said. “You want to knock out five [parking spaces] and bring in eight more people with eight more cars?”
As for public transit and street parking, tenants say this is not possible for everyone. A number of seniors with mobility issues live in the apartments.
“They can’t park in the street,” said one tenant.
“It depends what age you are,” added another. “The grocery store is a 10-minute walk away—if you’re a young person.”
The placement of the new unit will make the parking lot narrower, and tenants are worried that entrance and exit traffic will become congested.
Although parking is “the No. 1 issue,” tenants had a few other concerns related to maintenance of the building. The laundry room, for example, only has two washers and dryers that are “poorly maintained” and won’t be enough to accommodate eight more units.
“I’m not opposed to having more housing, but we want this place to get fixed up first,” said one tenant.
“We all have to share this space,” said another tenant. “We don’t want to live like sardines.”
According to council, concerns outside of the parking lot can be addressed during the development planning stage for the project.