City council gets earful at public hearing

Residents’ concerns come too early in the process

City council listened to an earful of concerns from residents at a public hearing, demanding more time to review a proposed zoning amendment.

At issue is the request to allow a setback on 4407 Sparks Street to be reduced from 15 m to 7.5 m, allowing for a proposed multi-family development on the property.

Two of the property’s neighbours voiced concerns over how the amendment might affect current flooding issues.

Dan Mussell, who lives at 4401 north Sparks, said he only knew council would be talking about the topic when he received a letter the previous Thursday.

“I request on behalf of the residents of Sparks and myself more time to review before this [development] goes forward,” said Mussell to council.

Keith Piper, who lives at 4411 north Sparks, said his property is prone to flooding.

“In the spring, it’s not a little creek, it’s a big pain in the butt,” said Piper.

City planner Tara Irwin said the property is about 0.8 acres (3,200 square metres) in size with Heek Brook zigzagging its way through the middle of the property. It’s a tributary of Spring Creek and is relatively small and often has little to no water flow in the summer, she said.

McElhanney Consulting Services was hired by Vista View Holdings, who wants to develop the property, and studied the stream, providing recommendations for mitigation of potential flooding of the proposed development. Although the zoning bylaw requires a setback of 15 m from the natural boundary of Heek Brook to construct structures on land adjacent to the stream, a section of the Local Government Act allows local governments to exempt property owners from the bylaw flood regulations if a professional engineer or geoscientist reports the land can be used safely in the manner intended, said Irwin.

Council, at its July 24 meeting, had given the amendment first and second readings leaving it for a third reading and vote on adoption at its Aug. 14 meeting.

Notice of a public hearing had been advertised along with details about where the bylaw and documents could be viewed. At that time, the city hadn’t received any public responses to the notice.

But that didn’t deter Mussell from asking for a delay on the vote.

“In the past, it looks like this creek was diverted once before. We need to look at that. Our concern is looking at how water comes down off the mountain into the creeks and can cause flooding. A lot of us up there have sump pumps. The storm drains are too high and the water can’t go up. We want to ask if development does go through that you run some storm pumps up to it,” he said.

“So what I’m asking is to give more time to the residents of Sparks plus myself to investigate the proposal put forward,” said Mussell.

Piper said the culvert that goes under his property has a cage to stop debris from going through it but it’s never cleaned.

He said he bought his property to raise a family and the area was rezoned against the residents’ will.

Irwin said the concerns were very close to, but not directly related to, the topic council was looking at, which was the text amendment to the zoning and not the development permit.

“If it gets to the development stage, then we will have to take a more holistic look at drainage on a neighbourhood scale,” said Irwin.

See VOTE on Page 2

She added that it’s a sequential process and that at the development permit stage, the city needs to look at storm drainage and properties and the applicant is aware of that.

“We don’t do that now because this process is what gets us to the next stage,” said Irwin.

Mayor Carol Leclerc said the city needs to make sure that the neighbourhood’s concerns are addressed as well.

Chief administrative officer Heather Avison noted that the city is not required to notify the community but the city can consider doing that anyway and Irwin agreed.

During discussion before voting whether to accept the resolution with recommendations to contact the community, director of development services David Block said if development goes through that there will be some improvements that will benefit some of the property owners with regards to drainage.

“Some work on Sparks Street and the existing culverts and ditching, when development happens, should improve drainage for some of those properties, not all but some on the east side of the road opposite the site,” said Block.

Council voted in favour of amending the zoning bylaw.

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