Charlottetown council’s decision to allow an 18-unit apartment building at 38 Palmers Lane has been overturned on appeal.
The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) recently released a decision saying council’s reasoning that there was an ongoing housing crisis was not reason enough to give the project the green light.
“This is not to say that the availability of housing within the city is not an appropriate consideration for council,’’ the commission wrote. “It is relevant. However, it is not an overriding principle capable of sustaining any or all development without regard to the other relevant factors or sound planning considerations.’’
Planning board recommended council reject the application. And, the commission took that into account, explaining the department considered the development history of the property, compliance with the official plan, the existing neighbourhood context, potential conflict between low- and high-density developments in the area and the demand for housing in the city.
The commission wrote planning board’s recommendation to reject suggested to it that board members turned their minds to planning-related issues raised by the department.
“There was a concerning lack of discussion by council about these planning-related factors when making its final decision on the application,’’ the commission wrote, adding it appeared the housing crisis was the sole reason for not following the recommendation from planning board.
The commission also pointed out only two councillors spoke to the issue during the discussion.
The city’s planning board felt the apartment building was not appropriate for the neighbourhood because of the existing character of the neighbourhood and issues with respect to transitioning and buffering.
Coun. Greg Rivard, who was chairman of the city’s standing committee on planning and heritage when council voted, said he has mixed feelings over the commission’s ruling.
“I have to believe as a council, any decision that isn’t upheld when challenged is disappointing as it would suggest a breakdown in either the process or the debate when the decision is being made in chambers,’’ Rivard said. “In the same breath, I respect IRAC’s role and I think it is important that the community and its citizens have an opportunity to have a decision of council reconsidered.
“This is a first for me as it would be for many members of council and should be viewed as a learning experience as we move forward; debating and voting on future applications.’’
The ruling quashes the property owner’s attempt to have the property rezoned from R-2 (low-density residential) to R-3 (medium density).