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Residents of Summerside's Bluebell neighbourhood are worried about a proposed housing project in their subdevision.
Ontario-based company Robins Equity Group Ltd. has applied to change the zoning on a parcel of land at the end of Colin Avenue, from R1 to R2. The company intends to build 20 semi-detached homes on the 10 lots there. The zoning change is needed to allow for the higher-density construction.
The rezoning change is scheduled to go to city council on Thursday, Jan 28. The public will be able to find out more about the proposal there.
But Scott Drummond and some of his neighbours are not waiting to voice their opposition to the proposal. Drummond has started a petition aimed at keeping the zoning reserved for single-family homes, and as of Monday, Jan. 25, it had amassed more than 230 signatures.
Drummond and his family have been residents of Bluebell for 11 years. They like it. It’s a quiet suburban area, full of single-family homes, adjacent to Rotary Friendship Park.
The area, as it is currently configured, is not appropriate for R2 housing. There is currently only one road in or out of Bluebell, via Walker Avenue, said Drummond.
“It’s a detraction from the area. It’s so quiet up here. My kids get on their bikes here and go everywhere here and I don’t have to worry about them. Well, that will change completely when this gets going,” said Drummond.
Jamie Matheson and his family have lived in Bluebell for 10 years and are also concerned.
The fact that the development would be at the back of the subdivision, with only one road in or out, is his main concern.
“Development needs to happen, especially now that P.E.I. is becoming a bit more of a sought-after destination, just because of a lot of the luxuries that we enjoy. We appreciate and understand that. We just really have concerns about changing it to this different kind of (housing) makeup at the back of the neighbourhood,” said Matheson.
Dan Kutcher and his family are relative newcomers to Bluebell, having purchased their home in 2020. They share their neighbours’ concerns but are also frustrated with the city’s processes in terms of how the rezoning process works.
All residents have been told at this point is that there has been a request for a rezoning to a higher density housing type and that they can give feedback at the upcoming council meeting.
The city is not required to give neighbouring homeowners any other information related to what the developer plans to do with the land if it is granted the rezoning.
“So right at the outset, it’s difficult for us, from a process point of view, to have a really good idea of what’s really going on. There’s been no engagement from the developer, no one has said anything, nobody has knocked on anybody’s door or given an indication as to what their objective is here. Except to try to rezone what had been (slotted) for single-family homes into something that is a higher density,” said Kutcher.
The Journal Pioneer reached out to the proponents of the rezoning/development, Robins Equity Group Ltd., and spoke with its owner, Mike Robins.
Robins lives in Ontario with his family but is actively involved with a handful of small residential developments on P.E.I., mostly in the Summerside area. They visited the Island a few years ago and loved it so much they started pursuing some housing investments here.
The Bluebell project is by far the largest they have ever attempted, said Robins, and he is was hopeful at making a good first impression with the community.
It’s disappointing to encounter resistance right out of the gate like this, he said, but he understands the concerns of the current residents.
“It’s understandable, I mean this (property) has been empty for 30 years. It’s kind of disheartening to feel the resistance, but I’m kind of hoping that at the meeting we can put everybody’s worries at ease,” he said.
Robins Equity Group Ltd. has partnered with local company Warren's Carpentry for this project, said Robins, and since he can’t be on P.E.I. for the meeting due to COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions, he’ll be represented at the meeting by someone from that company. He has prepared an introductory letter about himself and his company though and that will be available for residents at the meeting. His email will be attached so they can reach out to him directly.
They want to work with the neighbours to address as many of their issues as they can, added Robins, and they want to reassure them that the homes they want to build will be high-end, executive-style that will fit into the rest of the neighbourhood.
He also has no intention of renting the homes, he said. That was a concern that was brought to his attention, but his intention is to sell the units.
Smaller, semi-detached units are what the market is demanding right now, he said, and he does not see that changing anytime soon.
“The prosperity of Summerside is important to me. I do want to continue working in Summerside and I do want my name synonymous with trust and a quality product. So, this is the start of that,” said Robins.
Thursday’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, anyone wishing to attend had been asked to pre-register before Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Anyone who registered before that deadline is guaranteed a seat, but residents can still call 902-432-1246 to see if there are any spaces left. The meeting will also be broadcast live on the city’s YouTube page and anyone with questions or comments can send them to the city via email at [email protected].
Colin MacLean is the Journal Pioneer's municipal reporter.