Regina Planning Commission: Low Rise on Montreal Street

The first Discretionary Use (DU) Application of 2011 (RPC 11-1) was a new low-rise apartment set to be built at 1747 and 1753 Montreal Street, in the Heritage neighbourhood.  The meeting to hear the application was last night and this matter took more than an hour for the RPC to address with five presenters and many questions to the administration.

For a discussion of the issue continue after the break

The citizens against the project laid out their worries with, they claimed, the backing of all the neighbours they spoke to.  Here is a run down of their concerns:

– The number of social service organizations already present in the neighbourhood.

– The architecture of the building being incompatible with the character of the neighbourhood.

– The speaker circulated to commissioners images of similar buildings from Winnipeg (which I did not see) suggesting they were detrimental to the neighbourhood.

– The design of the kitchens single unit sink-fridge-burner was condemned as known fire hazards in Winnipeg examples of pocket suits.

– Discussion of parking issues.

– The building would be without laundry facilities and none were located in the neighbourhood.

– There was concern that because an office was part of the plan city funding should be reduced from ten thousand dollars a unit to seven thousand dollars.

– Negative aspects of the Heritage community; prostitution, needles in parks and lack of grocery options.

Following citizen presentations a representative of the Heritage Community Association, who supported the application, spoke to the responses she received from the community. The community members they spoke to living around that lot were mostly in favour, with 4 out of 24 opposed and none opposed for reasons of design or parking.

The citizen group stressed that they weren’t opposed to the proposed occupants, only the building. The representative of the Heritage Community Association said that respondents she spoke to were only concerned with the behaviour/impact of possible tenants.

A representative from Ehrlo Community Services then spoke to commissioners about the plan.  He was asked many questions and he assured commission the apartments would not be a specialized facility but purely rental with young men in mind as they are an at risk group for homelessness.  The kitchen issue was recognized, with the speaker confirming that the kitchen unit with the fire issue would not be included.  Parking was not considered as important for the expected tenants.

He could not speak to why the architectural character of the building was out of step with the neighbourhood.  He also did not have answers to how garbage would be picked up, admitting he had not thought of it.

The Commissioners spent a great deal of time asking questions of the City about parking, sideyard distances, fencing, architecture and concerns about the drawings representing what was going to be built.

The vote was made on the property, 6 for approval and 1 opposed approval because of inconsistencies within the drawings provided.

After the vote, the two presentation groups got into a discussion within chambers while the next item on the agenda was being raised.  The topic of discussion was not clear to me, what was clear was that the ‘losing side’, the citizens, wanted to confront the Heritage community and Ehrlo representatives about the issue.  The conversation lasted a few minutes then wrapped up, with most leaving the chambers.

My take away from this discussion is that there seems to be a feeling among some in Heritage that they have done their share for at-risk people.  There are a lot of services in the Heritage neighbourhood already.  Is it unreasonable to have low-income, rental apartments targeted at young men placed in Lakeview, Hillsdale, Highland Park or Albert Park instead?   I wonder if the coming together of so many outreach and support programs doesn’t decide the location of specialty low-income developments for officials and the public in general?  Is it right that people expect Heritage to have low-income housing and social outreach programs and wouldn’t imagine it in University Park or Lake Ridge?  Even if low-income housing exists in wealthier neighbourhoods, I doubt more would be welcome as NIMBYist) attitudes seem to prevail (see Bob Bjerke in LP on NIMBY here).

Another concern is the disconnect between citizen groups, the community association, and the city.  The city report has nine responses to the city survey, seven of which were negative and there were concerns in the report was not raised in the meeting.  Perhaps the similarity to the concerns in the report and those made in person was the reason for this.  The commission did not ask any questions of the citizens either, which is quite common, but probably disappointing and frustrating for speakers.  Citizens might feel like their concerns, rightful or not, were given their due at these meetings (see also Coronation Park residents in last month’s LP here and here).  I sense increasing tension around that perception and I can only wonder if it’s a phase or a significant trend.

Regina Planning Commission: Low Rise on Montreal Street

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