Moncton council delayed a decision on a major residential development during the year's first council meeting that was dominated by housing proposals and policies, including plans for an 18-storey tower downtown.
The final vote for 512 housing units off McLaughlin Drive was delayed after council heard from residents opposed to the plans.
At several points through the 6½ hour meeting, planning staff emphasized they were recommending approval of the various proposals to accommodate a surging population.
Bill Budd, the city's director of planning and development, said Moncton forecast needing 4,500 housing units over four to five years.
"But our population growth has outpaced our projections, and we're already having a major shortage," Budd said.
Last year, the city issued building permits for 1,177 residential units, such as for apartments, townhouses and single-family homes.
A rendering showing the proposed 18-storey tower beside St. Bernard's Church in downtown Moncton with the Petitcodiac River in the background looking toward Dieppe. (Spitfire Design/Amico Construction)
On Monday, two large subdivisions went to city council for public hearings, which allow the public to speak for or against the proposals.
The largest was from ATMJ Properties Ltd., which wants to rezone vacant land near McLaughlin and the Trans-Canada Highway to build townhomes and apartment buildings ranging from 1½ to six floors.
The proposal drew opposition from residents, who urged council not to allow the buildings in their backyards. Residents said hundreds signed a petition against the plans.
Several spoke at the meeting, and written submissions from others were read by city staff during the public hearing lasting almost three hours.
Their concerns touched on fears of loss of privacy, increased traffic, noise, lower property values and crime. Several were alarmed that construction is expected to last up to nine years.
"So for all these years, the residents in this community will be subjected to noise, air pollution, increased traffic due to heavy equipment, road closures, detours," Donna McGuire told council.
McGuire said the rezoning notice delivered last month was a "real blow to my holidays." Coun. Paul Richard later said he would vote against rezonings in the future if notices went out just before the holidays.
City planning staff said the ATMJ Properties proposal was designed with smaller buildings close to existing homes. ATMJ Properties Ltd. owner Albert Boudreau said the plan had 25 per cent fewer units than they originally proposed because of that transition.
Some of the land adjacent to the highway would remain vacant. City staff said this was recommended by the province to allow future highway ramps to be built.
The proposal would see the larger apartment buildings closer to the highway, as well as a triangular portion of the site left vacant to allow for future highway ramps. (ATMJ Properties Ltd)
After hearing the objections from residents, Coun. Charles Léger said he was struggling with the proposal, given people bought homes based on how the land near them was zoned, only to now potentially face much larger buildings.
Budd consulted the developer briefly, then suggested council could delay its decision to give the builder time to consider cutting several floors off the apartment buildings.
Council is expected to revisit the issue Feb. 20.
Councillors then considered a 150-unit subdivision proposed along Salisbury Road. The plans were higher density than a subdivision previously approved, but not built, in the area.
One resident spoke out, saying the primary access road would abut her yard. Councillors approved the plans with a condition that the developer include a fence and trees to shield abutting homes.
St. Bernard's Church shown Monday with the vacant land where the 18-storey tower is proposed off Botsford Street. (Shane Magee/CBC)
Earlier in the meeting, planning staff introduced a proposed 18-storey mixed-use tower on vacant land downtown on Botsford Street beside St. Bernard's Church.
A 12-storey building was previously approved for the site before the land was sold. The new plans call for 181 residential units in a tower rising above a podium of commercial space and 136 underground parking spaces.
If approved and built, it would be one of Moncton's tallest buildings after the Bell Aliant Tower and 20-floor Assumption Place. A 30-storey building was approved by council last year, but construction has not started.
A public hearing for the proposal was scheduled for Feb. 20. Several councillors voiced support for the designs.
Planning staff told council that the builder hopes to begin construction this year and complete it within two years.
Councillors gave initial approval Monday to rezone property in the north end on Ryan Street for 24 housing units in four rowhouse buildings.
The proposed tower would be one of Moncton's tallest buildings if it is approved and built. (Spitfire Design/Amico Construction)
Councillors also unanimously approved a bylaw change to require fewer off-street parking spaces for housing built by government and non-profit organizations. The change is expected to allow smaller lots to be used for housing than previous rules would allow.
Near the end of the meeting Monday, councillors opted to delay their decision on another housing item.
Several residents spoke out about a proposed bylaw that would affect the approvals process for housing, saying such a major policy change should instead be considered when the city reviews its municipal plan in the coming years.
The changes would remove public notice provisions for some projects, as well as no longer require the city's planning committee to consider them at a public meeting. It's among several steps proposed to access $15 million of federal housing funding.
Councillors pushed their decision to Feb. 5.