Fredericton may need more housing, but a proposed 19-unit development looks set to be rejected after city staff deemed its location unsuitable for residential living.
Councilors gave first and second reading on Monday to a resolution that would rezone a property on Acorn Street to allow for the construction of a commercial plaza.
But a second part of the resolution has councilors following a recommendation from the city’s planning advisory committee to reject the inclusion of 19 apartments – five of which would be designated affordable – on the second floor of the building.
In an earlier report filed with the Planning Advisory Committee, city staff also recommended that the apartment portion of the proposal be denied.
Staff acknowledged the city needs more affordable housing options, but said the Acorn Street proposal “does not provide an appropriate environment for residential development due to incompatible adjacent uses and lack of ‘support elements in the immediate area’.
The decision comes as Fredericton is plagued by a housing shortage, with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation pegging the city’s rental vacancy rate at just 1.8 per cent last October.
A housing needs assessment completed last fall also determined that the city needed about 2,500 new affordable units and about 1,500 new subsidized units.
Paul Dayton, director of Dayton Engineering, is the applicant for the proposal, which is to construct the building at 15-35 Acorn Street as part of an extension to Bishops Gate Commercial Plaza.
Dayton, who made the request on behalf of a developer, said the original business plan simply involved creating an additional commercial building, but was changed to include apartments when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. forced businesses to close.
He said he hoped to have the property rezoned from industrial to commercial, as well as a rezoning to allow second floor apartments.
He said staff told him early on that the application would have a better chance of being approved if it included affordable housing, so the plan was to designate five units as affordable under a program of CMHC.
“So we said, well, we’re going to maximize it, we’ll give it the maximum affordability requirement, we’ll give it the maximum environmental consideration with greater [insulation] low-power values and units,” Dayton said.
“And so we took that angle while providing barrier-free, lift-free access everywhere. So we tried to make it an attractive option for the city. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t see it that way. .”
Speaking to councilors on Monday, Marcello Battilana, the town’s community planning manager, said staff were not taking the need for affordable housing lightly and debated whether or not to recommend the zoning variance. .
“From our point of view, at the end of the day…it’s not a suitable place, whether it’s affordable or not,” Battilana said.
“The condition of the areas is such that it’s more of an industrial area because there’s commercial industrial zoning right now, and then there’s the commercial component as well.”
Battilana acknowledged the high-density residential development taking place across Bishop Drive, but added that these properties have sidewalks and parks to serve residents.
“This [Acorn Street property] is a bit of an island unto itself and doesn’t really lend itself to the kind of immersive environment we want to put people in.”
The resolution for the Acorn Street proposal will go to councilors for third and final reading at the next meeting on August 8th.