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Sidney council backtracks on proposed 4-storey, 63-unit rental building after public hearing

Residents opposed to the White Birch Road development cited traffic, parking, density concerns
The Town of Sidney has pushed back a proposed zoning amendment which would allow the construction of a four-storey, 63-unit rental apartment building at 2060 White Birch Road following feedback received at a public hearing Monday (Feb. 27). (Courtesy of Alston Properties)

Sidney council narrowly voted to set a proposed four-storey, 63-unit rental development back a step in the approval process following feedback received during a public hearing.

On Monday (Feb. 27), council was scheduled to vote on third reading and adoption of a proposed zoning amendment bylaw which among other things would alter the density calculation used to limit the number of units at 2060 White Birch Rd. and allow for a restaurant or cafe. Following a public hearing during that meeting, and after much debate amongst council and several motions, council decided instead to rescind the bylaw’s previously passed second reading and remove permission for a restaurant from its wording.

With that vote, the amended bylaw will now return to council at a later date for a new second reading discussion and vote – a result which also means a new public hearing will be required once that second reading passes, and ahead of any new third reading and adoption.

Property owner Mark Lindholm, who also owns the Marina Park Marina adjacent to the property, sought to change the way maximum permitted density on the property is calculated from the current formula based on the number of residential units per hectare of land – which limits this property to 34 residential units – to the more modern floor area ratio used for most of the town’s existing and upcoming multi-family residential developments – which would allow for 63 units. He told council during the public participation period he had included the request for a cafe space on the recommendation of town staff, who also made the recommendation the bylaw be adopted by council.

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But during that same public hearing, residents in the surrounding area made it clear they were not supportive of the zoning change. Most of the residents who spoke during the hearing raised similar concerns, primarily focused on the proposal bringing too many new residents to the tightly spaced area, which existing residents argued would aggravate existing parking and traffic challenges on what they describe as an already too-narrow road.

Residents also raised concerns over potential blasting for the building’s parking area damaging neighbouring buildings since no geotechnical study has been completed at this stage in the project, to which Lindholm responded by clarifying the proposal does not feature fully underground parking, rather under building parking which would involve digging down less than a storey into the ground.

Council spent significant time debating the bylaw following the public hearing, with councilors having mixed feelings on how to proceed. In the end, a series of motions were made, rather than proceeding to a vote for third reading and adoption as scheduled.

Coun. Chad Rintoul moved council rescind the bylaw’s second reading, arguing public feedback had made it clear residents in the area had concerns over the project, especially with regards to the restaurant and parking and traffic issues partially tied to that. Despite some debate over whether it would be worth setting the development process back that far when Lindholm had indicated he was fairly indifferent about a cafe being included in the zoning allowances, that motion passed 4-3 with Couns. Steve Duck, Sara Duncan, and Scott Garnett opposed.

Rintoul then moved that the restaurant element of the bylaw be removed, pitching it as an easy compromise council could make to satisfy the wishes of both the developer and residents, though he admitted that if he was a resident in the area, he would personally like to have a restaurant or cafe in the new building. His colleagues agreed, and that second motion passed unanimously.

Coun. Richard Novek, however, felt more needed to be changed in the bylaw, and made a motion to remove the requested change in density calculation which, if passed, would have the effect of killing the bylaw altogether as the remaining requests would be handled through more common development variances not requiring as much involvement of council. That motion failed by a vote of 5-2, with only Novek and Coun. Terri O’Keeffe in support.

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