A property owner in possession of several acres of agricultural land on Graham Avenue is closer to his goal of developing a residential complex there after successfully getting the land rezoned at the city council meeting July 11.
After a public hearing report and some opposition from concerned residents on the matter, council unanimously passed the recommendation to rezone the land and amend the city’s official community plan bylaw to allow Rod Pelletier, the landowner, to move forward with his development project.
Councillor Lynne Christiansen abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest, and Mayor Carol Leclerc and councillor Brian Downie were absent.
Pelletier initially applied to amend the official community plan and zoning of his property on 4643 Graham Ave. on May 18 and it came to council June 13 for an initial reading.
Pelletier has said his intention is to use four of his six acres of land to build 52 residential units there.
He said a main focus of his development will be to provide housing to adults and seniors over 55-years-old.
“We have a need for retirement living,” Pelletier said. “I think this proposal is fitting the needs of the community in more than one way.”
Pelletier’s property, which he has owned for three years, was zoned as agricultural prior to the July 11 council meeting. His goal was to rezone his property into low density multi-family residential and get it classified as urban residential under Terrace’s official community plan.
He also added that since two acres of the southern portion of his property is in the agricultural land reserve, meaning it must remain there for farming or green space usage, it could be used to provide a food source or natural space for his development and the community at large.
Speaking after the council meeting, Pelletier said it was “fantastic” that council voted for the rezone.
“There’s obviously a need for it. We have an opportunity to create a project for seniors that is affordable in a beautiful place,” Pelletier said.
City planner Tara Irwin said Pelletier’s proposal presented opportunities as well as potential challenges for the city.
“The proposed bylaw amendments could help to meet some of the demand for diversity of dwelling types in our community, and especially aging residents.”
“However, we know we have a number of large properties that have been rezoned, that have been through a similar process… and are now sitting undeveloped,” Irwin said.
She also read some letters the city had received from residents who were concerned that rezoning the land for the purpose of a development could be harmful to the community.
Many of the letters from residents expressed concern over removing agricultural land, arguing that it was important to maintain Terrace’s farming potential.
The city has approximately 1,042 hectares of land zoned agricultural. However, much of that agricultural land is located near the Northwest Regional Airport.
Other residents took issue over the potential for noisy, disruptive construction work and increased traffic congestion in their neighbourhood.
Irwin said that overall the city had not received too much feedback over the proposed bylaw and official community plan amendments.
While Irwin said properties have gone undeveloped following a rezoning in the past, Pelletier said he would be moving forward with engaging engineers and seeking a development permit approval in the next couple months.
Councillor Stacey Tyers said it was a challenging decision for councillors because of the difficulties in striking a balance between developing housing and maintaining agricultural land for farming.
“But it is such an awkward property to be doing farming on,” Tyers said. “I wish we didn’t have to pick between food and housing – that’s not a nice place to be. But in the end, I will support the recommendation simply because the property is such an awkward property for farming.”
Tyers explained in an email that the property is “awkward” for farming because of its shape and location.
“Essentially it would take a fairly big commitment to change it to farming and if the owners have no interest in that, then it’s not ever going to be used for food,” Tyers said.
Pelletier’s property at 4643 Graham Ave. is adjacent to several single-family detached residences as well as a nearby strip of land zoned for mobile homes.
If everything goes according to plan with building permits and getting buyers interested in the development, Pelletier said he would like to start construction on the project springtime next year.