Thirty-six people tuned into the first of two virtual public hearings regarding the potential rezoning of 0.835-hectares of green space near Armstrong’s Nor-Val Arena.
The property rezoning from parkland to medium-density residential would allow for the development of an affordable housing project.
A clerical error in notification letters, however, means the public who may have missed their opportunity to speak for or against the proposed project will have a second chance to have their say Jan. 25 at 4:45 p.m.
The City of Armstrong received 39 pieces of correspondence from residents.
All but four of those submissions urged councillors to vote against the rezoning, which could allow for the build-out of two four-storey buildings totalling 80 units.
Concerns around the loss of green space, increased traffic and population, the lack of supporting infrastructure, parking, employment and transit opportunities were raised in the Jan. 18 hearing, which was held on the Zoom platform in accordance with the provincial COVID-19 health orders.
At the Sept. 28, 2020, council meeting, staff recommended council enter a partnership agreement with either Armstrong Spallumcheen Attainable Housing Society or Anhart Community Housing to support the reaffirmed strategic goal to provide affordable housing.
Council then directed staff to align the Official Community Plan and zoning of the green space on Adair Street, which would allow for future development.
Residents, however, take issue with the seeming lack of transparency as potential developer Anhart Community Housing (ACH) is a privately-funded charity that checks the social housing box while limiting other demographic groups who may require affordable housing.
ACH works with local investors and partners to build affordable housing projects. With projects in Hope, Vancouver and Merritt, ACH’s aim is preventing homelessness by creating housing opportunities for those who earn less than $40,000.
But some Armstrong residents worry this type of project may bring undesirable neighbours, increase crime rates and open drug use.
“We are glad to hear that you recognize that Armstrong needs more ‘affordable’ housing,” wrote resident Tannis Sawatzky.
The city’s recent housing needs assessment showing a need for 205 units, with affordability for rent being the need for most of those units.
“Do you think Anhart is the right developer for this project, given that they are a social (low-income) housing provider and knowing that Armstrong needs more affordable housing, not social housing?”
Residents raised issue with the speed the city appears to be advancing the project, lack of public consultation, the proximity of the property to sewage ponds while others stressed the importance of local bid opportunities.
Resident Patti Noonan voiced her concerns stating the loss of green space would be devastating as it contains urban forest and wildlife trails that should be protected.
“Green space is a draw for new residents…” she said, noting it’s used by families, organizations, educational groups and more. “This space is referred to as a gem.”
The public hearing was moved to recess after all residents registered to speak said their piece.
The Jan. 25 meeting will allow council to review and consider written submissions received since the Jan. 18 hearing and the Jan. 21 noon deadline.