Despite considerable opposition, especially from those in a neighbouring townhouse complex, Vernon council voted 6-1 to support development variance permit applications for construction of a four-storey, 38-unit non-profit rental apartment development in the 5500 block of 27th Avenue.
The applications including varying side-yard setbacks on the south side of the property, the number of required off-street parking spaces from 61 to 55 and the maximum number of small-car parking spaces from 40 per cent to 62 per cent.
The Vernon Native Housing Society is hoping to get provincial funding for the project.
During a public hearing on the application, a number of residents spoke against it, including residents of the neighbouring Gracelands townhouse complex. A woman named Jill was upset that the height of the building will leave her property without any sunshine.
“From a shadow analysis, from September to March, my backyard will be entirely in shadow. Isn’t that exciting?” she deadpanned. She was also unhappy with the proposed site for placing large garbage bins for the apartments.
“I don’t want to sit beside a garbage can when I’m in my backyard.”
The plan calls for one-, two- and three-bedroom units. A woman named Edith said the four-storey structure — which neighbouring residents had hoped would be reduced to three-storeys – doesn’t have enough space for the number of people it wishes to accommodate.
“I’m not against low-cost development in my backyard, no doubt it’s needed, but what are you doing cramming so many people in such a small space?” she asked. “It’s not fair to them or to us, their neighbours.”
Coun. Juliette Cunningham fought back tears as she said the city deals with the tremendous need for housing in the community.
“We hear almost every day from people just looking for a place to live,” said Cunningham. “This development is going to permit, for the very first time in a long time, families to find adequate housing with the three bedrooms. We haven’t had that built for non-profit. People are doing whatever they can in communities across this country just to survive. We have to do this as a community to address this.”
Coun. Dalvir Nahal said it was a hard decision because you have people who worked their whole lives to buy a property on one side, and people who need affordable housing on the other.
“It’s not the most ideal project,” said Nahal. “But it’s something that’s needed in our community.”
Opposition came from Coun. Scott Anderson.
“With respect, when we put up a building, if the land doesn’t work for the size of the building for the number of units, it shouldn’t be built there,” he said. “We can’t keep building things and ignoring the wishes of the people most affected by it. We keep doing that. We keep saying, ‘well we have to do it because we need to do it.’ We don’t, and we shouldn’t keep ignoring the wishes.
“We have to start listening to people who live beside these things. They don’t want the development in the first place and they don’t want these variances that are making it worse.”
Consultant Jesse Alexander said reducing the structure from four storeys to three would all but take away B.C. Housing, which is the funding body for the project, from the table.
“We couldn’t go that route under fiscal reasons,” said Alexander.