Following an impassioned plea by neighbours, Vernon council quashed a development variance permit application attached to a proposed 29-unit apartment building in Alexis Park.
The owner of the existing Hilltop Manor Apartments at 4001-34A Street had hoped to build onto the existing site a 4.5 storey building that would house one- and two-bedroom suites. The existing site features 60 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with 85 parking stalls (40 underground, 45 surface).
The applicant applied for a permit with three variances attached: reducing the minimum rear setback from nine to 1.7 metres for the new building’s wall, and o.6 metres for the balconies; cutting the minimum west side yard setback from the ground floor parkade and first-floor deck from 4.5 to one metre; and varying the minimum number of required off-street parking spaces for residents from 40 spaces to 33.
Council rejected all three variances.
Over a nearly 90-minute public hearing into the application, nine residents of the neighbourhood got up and spoke to council, all against the application, including 50-year 34A Street resident Judy Elliott, who lives right across the road from Hilltop Manor.
“When we bought here, the apartment was a hole in the ground and we were told the apartment would be a park. There is no park,” said Elliott. “With parking, both sides of the street are used now and add snow to that and how does a fire truck get down here? We’ve had a couple of water main breaks. What’s the infrastructure like now?”
Jeff Worthington-White and his wife, Stephanie, have lived on the road for 14 years. They had a myriad of reasons for opposing the application.
“The building will block the natural sunlight at the rear of our yard due to the height of the proposed building,” said Jeff. “The proposed building will add additional white light visible 24 hours from stairwells and flood lights. The existing building’s lights are already visible from our home and it’s approximately 300 feet from our property line. The proposed building will be 100 feet away.”
Garbage collection on the already packed-with-parked-cars street was another concern raised by residents, and a city report that said the lane behind Hilltop Manor was hardly used was called into question by nearly every presenter to council.
“I walk behind there every day,” said Elliott. “Don’t tell me it’s not used. Lots of people use it going for walks.”
After the in-person presentations, a handful of letters and a petition against the plan were also introduced onto the record. Council voted 4-2 against the application with Brian Quiring and Kari Gares in favour.
“Alexis Park is a wonderful neighbourhood. It’s got the school, a church, my grandparents built a house there, my aunt owned a house that backed onto the lane way,” said Gares. “But we’re at a crossroads. We have such a shortage of rental homes.
“This complex will fill a need, albeit a small need, but it’s something the general public has been asking us to step up to the plate and help with affordable housing.”
The applicant can apply again for the same variances after six months or revise the project’s design and come back to council before the six months.