Edmonton city council has given an initial thumbs down to a four-storey apartment complex in West Jasper Place at 95th Avenue and 153rd Street.
Approving the proposal would have needed council’s permission to amend the Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP), which identifies locations suitable for such a complex.
Council voted 10-3 to reject the proposal by Beljan Development to build a mixed-use building with 37 residential units on the northwest corner of the block, including five three-bedroom apartments on the ground floor and 15 two-bedroom apartments.
Councillors Jon Dziadyk, Sarah Hamilton and Tony Caterina voted to approve the development.
Irene Blain with the West Jasper/Sherwood community league was one of about 25 people at city hall Monday to tell council they think the proposed development isn’t good for the area.
During a public hearing, the residents argued that an apartment rental complex won’t invite families to move into the neighbourhood.
“We will no longer be a healthy community,” Blain said. “The apartment will not serve that population — the units are too small, and with the type of commercial uses, families will not go in.”
They were also worried about the potential impact of having a drinking establishment as part of the mixed-use building.
The proposal also included a bar, neighbourhood pub, restaurant or specialty food service with space to accommodate no more than 125 people.
I’m starting to get a little bit prickly about it– Coun. Scott McKeen
The location is kitty-corner to a large church, adjacent to a school and near future LRT stops.
City administration supported the proposal and would have to re-zone three single-detached residential lots to make room for the complex.
Brennan James spoke out against the proposal, saying he’s worried about safety with more people moving into an otherwise quiet neighbourhood.
He favours housing that requires people to buy instead of renting, insisting that the majority of people would ideally prefer to own.
“I lived in apartments and I absolutely hated it,” James told council. “Somebody’s walking above me, somebody’s smoking outside, somebody’s drinking and staggering in the parking lot, you come home and someone’s parked in your parking stall.”
Coun. Scott McKeen took issue with people renting instead of owning as being referenced as “subclass.'”
“We’ve had a number of people come through here over time talking about renters or ‘apartment people’ — and I’m starting to get a little bit prickly about it,” McKeen said.
“I’m not against renters — I’m not against renting,” James said. “I just think it’s better for a community to encourage ownership, and it does involve more caring.”
Coun. Andrew Knack also questioned if residents were overreacting to the idea of an apartment complex.
“I think some of the concerns are more fear of the unknown, than reality,” Knack suggested.
Mayor Don Iveson chimed in about the stereotype.
“I am disappointed by the stigma that I heard today, about the kind of people who live in apartments,” Iveson said, noting the attitude isn’t exclusive to West Jasper Place.
“This is a persistent issue in our city that we will need to get over.”
The proposed complex would require the city to amend the Jasper Place area redevelopment plan to allow for a range of housing options in proximity to services and transit.
The ARP was created about four years ago and encourages redevelopment along Stony Plain Road — many parts of which are considered run down.
The residents spoke against changing the ARP, which protects certain areas from this kind of development.
Iveson supported the rules in the ARP but said he thinks it needs a tune-up, to designate 95th Avenue as a main street.
Chris Dulaba with Beljan Development said the company will reconsider its plan and possibly return with a new proposal, adding he felt the complex was family-friendly and ideal for the future transit-oriented neighbourhood.