Armstrong councillors have rezoned a parcel of land near the Nor-Val Arena and now they’re looking for a partner to move forward with the development.
Or at least, that’s what city staff are recommending council do.
A staff report for council’s consideration is suggesting the city prepare an Expression of Interest (EOI) after learning its Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) application wasn’t successful in the first round of grant announcements.
Staff say although the city wasn’t selected this round, it’s likely that further rounds of the program, developed by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, will be considered.
“There are also options to move forward under the regular CMHC programs, and BC Housing funding is still available under the Housing Hub program,” the staff report reads.
“For these reasons, council has expressed interest in the idea of expanding the scope of partners, by releasing an Expression of Interest for developers to consider partnering with the city for an affordable housing project on the city lands.”
Staff said in partnering with the city, the rezoned 0.85-hectare portion would be offered for a long-term lease to provide affordable rental housing.
Council will direct staff at its Monday, April 26 meeting.
The rezoning of the property on Adair Street from park to multiple-unit residential was a contentious issue as several residents spoke out against the motion in a two-part virtual public hearing. But it was passed on Jan. 25 with only Coun. Jim Wright opposed.
Many voiced concerns of the loss of parkland and increased traffic in the area.
To speak to the first concern, Mayor Chris Pieper released a statement two days after the rezoning to explain the site selection.
Pieper said the city had never had any intention to use the parcel for park purposes, but rather it was zoned as such in a 1994 parks and recreation plan.
“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,” he said. “The reason for this was so the city could ensure that natural areas received protection under development permit requirements.”
But that separation between parkland and open spaces was never carried out. A new official community plan was then adopted in 2014 but it didn’t delineate between active park space and more passive open spaces.
A local greenspace group and Coun. Wright raised further concerns questioning the legality of the rezoning. This was answered by Armstrong’s chief administrative officer Kevin Bertles in a two-page release underscoring the processes were all done by the book.
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.
If successful, the project could see up to 80 new units in two buildings up to four storeys.
Staff, if directed Monday, will forward an EOI to trade publications and potential partners and compile responses to present to council at a future in-camera meeting.