A decision to rezone parkland to make way for an affordable housing project has proved controversial in Armstrong, and the city’s mayor is now addressing some of the concerns among residents.
At its Jan. 25 meeting, council voted in favour of rezoning a city-owned parcel on Adair Street, located behind the Nor-Val Sports Centre at the rear of Memorial Park, from park to multi-use residential. This will allow a maximum of 80 affordable rental housing units on the site, something Armstrong said is lacking, according to a housing needs study.
The decision attracted criticism from some locals due to a lack of green space.
In a press release Thursday (Jan. 28) Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper said council has had affordable housing as its top priority for several years, citing the housing report adopted by council in August 2020, which identified a local requirement for 140 rentals and 65 ownership units.
Pieper said council had long been considering the nine lots along Poole Street as the ideal site for such a project due to nearby schools and recreation sites but opted to go with a larger parcel.
Some have questioned why the parcel on Adair Street was zoned as parkland in the first place if there was no intention to use it as such. The original zoning stemmed from a parks and recreation plan in 1994.
“This plan identified the need for the city to inventory all natural and open spaces and to separate them from the other portions the city was intending to use for park purposes. The reason for this was so the city could ensure that natural areas received protection under development permit requirements.”
Pieper explained the separation between parkland and open spaces was never carried out. A new official community plan was adopted in 2014, but it did not delineate between active park space and more passive open spaces.
“The city has no documentation that the property was ever considered to be for future expansion of Memorial Park and therefore council considered it for civic purposes…”
The now rezoned land has been largely devoid of development since it was purchased by the city in 1964.
“This land has remained largely unimproved by the city, except to install a storm interceptor ditch to benefit the arena project,” Pieper said.
Armstrong council voted 6-1 in favour of the rezoning. Coun. Jim Wright was the lone opponent on council, saying he was disappointed the property will no longer be parkland.