St. John’s city council Monday voted to rezone land on Mount Cashel Road for townhouse condos, despite heavy opposition from the project’s future neighbours.
The application from KMK Capital would put 27 townhouses on vacant land on the road, requiring rezoning to a new zoning designation by the city: residential medium density condominium.
The application has drawn stiff opposition from residents of Mount Cashel Road, and their concerns — regarding density, shadowing, snow clearing and traffic patterns — prompted two councillors, Bernard Davis and Art Puddister, to vote against the rezoning.
“I fully believe that the property from 12-20 Mount Cashel Road needs to be developed, no one doubts that. We must be sure it’s the correct development,” said Davis, adding he shares residents concerns about traffic and snowclearing.
“We all understand density is important, but this development will virtually double the size of the current road.”
Coun. Dave Lane said he’s in favour of increased population density, but he voted against the rezoning because of what he sees as the unwillingness on the part of KMK — which also developed Westfield Condominiums — to work with neighbourhood residents.
A report from city staff notes the developer was approached about removing four lots to allow space for snow storage and a small park.
“Staff discussed this with the developer, who asserted that he would not be amenable to losing four proposed lots,” reads the report from Ken O’Brien, the city’s chief municipal planner.
“I just feel that there were so many suggestions offered, points made by staff, by residents, by others, as to small tweaks that may have made this a bit more palatable, and maybe even a better development. I just didn’t get any sense that there was any willingness to nudge,” said Lane.
“Today, my vote is going to be a signal that we’re here to work with developers, but it doesn’t just mean helping you meet regulations; it also means a back-and-forth between residents, council and the developer to have some sort of meeting in the middle.”
The rest of council voted for the rezoning to go ahead.
“We have to get used to density. Our population is growing,” said Coun. Tom Hann. “As we continue to grow, we can’t continue with unlimited urban sprawl to solve our housing needs, and urban expansion, as we all know, requires more and more expensive infrastructure, especially below the ground.”
After the vote, Mount Cashel Road resident Jessica Dellow — who commissioned a separate assessment of the project, which found more problems with the application than the city assessment — said residents need to decide what to do now, and said the developer is “holding council hostage to ‘my way or the highway.’”
“The view of myself and my husband is that they’re limited, legally, to 13 units on that piece of property,” she said.
“So we’re going to be considering whether or not to seek judicial review of council’s decision. … It would be preferable to have houses there, but not preferable to have 27 houses there.”
Resident Paul Doucet — who called the density of the city’s new zoning “insane” — said he wasn’t surprised council approved the rezoning, but said he was hoping to see changes in the project based on suggestions made by residents.
“I just couldn’t help but notice that all of the councillors that attended those (public) meetings were all convinced. They saw there were issues and they voted against it,” he said.
“The only councillors that voted for this were the ones that weren’t involved in the process whatsoever.”