Three 72-unit apartments aimed at easing the housing demand in Vernon are putting the squeeze on neighbours.
Creekview Heights is a 216-unit, four-storey apartment complex proposed on Deleenheer Road, next to the BX Creek Delta Trail behind Wal-Mart.
The development, which backs onto Pleasant Valley Road, features 51 single-bedroom units and 165 two-bedroom units and also includes a community building, underground parking and two full-time employees on site.
It also includes green features such as solar panels, electric car charging stations, bicycle parking/storage and repair and a car-share program (with a supplied car).
The 5.29-acre property is zoned residential single family and Vernon council gave approval Monday for third reading to change the zoning to low-rise apartment residential and parks and open space.
“We need this, the community needs it,” said Coun. Brian Quiring. “I absolutely believe this is the right location for this project.”
The developer, Highstreet Ventures, agrees.
“With a 1.4 per cent vacancy rate we recognized a need for this in Vernon,” said Christina Wilson, vice president of sales.
The one-bedroom units will rent for $1,200-$1,250 while two-bedroom units will rent for $1,300-$1,400.
“Less than three per cent of our residents have children,” said Wilson. “Tenants tend to be young professionals and seniors.”
But following the recent developments of Bernard’s Village (77 units) and Regency Retirement Resort (150 units) in a three-block radius, many neighbours are protesting the development.
“Everybody is just so exhausted by the gravel trucks,” said Ruby Scott, who lives in Roxborough By the Creek. “We’re just quite fatigued by all that’s going on.”
“If it was just a one-apartment structure with 72 apartments, that is much more feasible,” said Hal Lepage, noting the current proposal would increase density 1,000 per cent in the area.
Jim Peacock has lived in the Eastgate Mews on Deleenheer Road for 14 years, and he said, “20th Street has become inundated with traffic and it’s going to get worse.”
A “promised” connection of Reimer Road to the area would alleviate that, said Peacock. City staff say the grade is too steep for a road but are looking at pedestrian access through the area.
With no other exit from Deleenheer, resident Valerie Hooper says the intersection at 20th Street needs to be updated.
“We need a flashing light, something there,” said Hooper.
“There’s going to be a caravan of cars stalled and idling waiting to get out of that area,” adds Patti Huculak, as there is only one stop sign controlling the area.
Eastgate Mews resident Linda Pomeroy has done her own research and says she counted 212 vehicles going south in under an hour on 20th Street on June 11 around 5 p.m.
Roxborough resident David Hopkins appreciates that there is a housing shortage and a migration of people moving to the area from the coast, but that area residents aren’t in favour of this magnitude of development.
“Most of the citizens around this area would prefer townhouses versus high density, and all the problems that go along with it.”
Dawn Hurry, who lives on 20th Street, is concerned about the safety of kids with the influx of traffic as Harwood Elementary is also on 20th Street.
“Cars and children just don’t go together,” said Hurry, adding that the apartments will add to the number of children as single parents will be attracted.
“It’s too much for the community it’s being placed in.”
Yet High Street owner Scott Butler has lived in Vernon since 2005 and says there is a real need for housing here.
“We’re just trying to create housing and we’re doing our best to create a community that people want to live in,” said the former West Jet employee.
Karen Fralick, a 20th Street resident, responds: “There’s no reason these aren’t going to be a spectacular place to live. It’s just the wrong project at the wrong place.”
If the project proceeds as planned, it could take approximately 16 months for all three buildings to be completed.
“Assuming we get started in the fall we should be open in a year with the first building open in fall 2019,” said Butler, who has built more than 3,100 homes in B.C. and Alberta (including Kelowna).
While there has been community upset over the project, Coun. Catherine Lord points out that most developments cause concerns among neighbours but are a necessary part of growth.
Recent approvals of housing developments in Okanagan Landing and on Hospital hill were examples.
Coun. Juliette Cunningham adds: “We’ve had to make some tough decisions over the past five or six years because we’ve never seen such a pressure for housing. I’ve lived here since 1966 and we’ve changed from everybody having their own house with a backyard, but that’s out of reach for so many.
“We wouldn’t continue to approve these if we didn’t see the demand,” said Cunningham, adding that businesses are having trouble attracting employees, as they can’t afford to live here.
Mayor Akbal Mund was one of the first to move to the Foothills and said at that time 20th Street had four homes along it before Wal-Mart came and changed the area.
“There is a demand for rental housing in our community and we’ve approved housing in different areas of the community to keep it spread out.”