Rossland council hears neighbourhood thoughts on Cooke Ave lot

Neighbours to the empty Cooke Avenue lot had a chance to have their thoughts and concerns heard on a possible rezoning.

Cezary Ksiazek explains his plans at Rossland City Council Monday. The City held a Public input session on an amendment which would see the Cooke Avenue School lot rezoned for multi housing units.

Neighbours to the empty Cooke Avenue lot had a chance to have their thoughts and concerns heard on an amendment to the Official Community Plan. The amendment  would allow the lot to be rezoned into a 24 unit housing complex. The lot has been vacant for some years now.

Developer Cezary Ksiazek hopes to build a total of 24 units on the property while keeping the price tags of the units below $300,000, the amount deemed ‘affordable.’

The input session followed an information session last week where details of the plan were discussed.

The input session only concerned the amendment to the OCP, and so Mayor Greg Granstrom kept the discussion on that topic, and away from the building part of it.

The city received one written submission, from Kimberley Joines, in which she expresses her concern about the development.

Ormond Jobin, who lives with Joines echoed the concerns. He said he feels like his back is in a corner with this emotional issue.

“I’m saddened for the failure to purchase the old lot for next to nothing and do something amazing for all of Rossland,” Jobin said. “The possibilities were endless. We could have had an amazing park, skatepark, playground for families, the list goes on for what we could have done for Rossland to set us apart from surrounding communities.”

Jody Ouimet read a letter from the Rossland Chamber of Commerce, which supports the rezoning proposal.

“This proposal is according to the City’s Official Community Plan, the City’s vision for the future growth and development of the community, and it reflects the ideas and input of the people that live and work in Rossland,” Ouimet read. “Cezary’s plan is to build multi family town homes with affordability in mind to keep the costs as low as possible in order to attract young families. The attraction of young families to our community is essential to sustain our current school and community population and local businesses. This project would also create jobs in our community.”

Patricia Marshall Thompson, who has worked with the Sustainability Commission and Regional Attainable Housing Committee worried that the word ‘affordability’ is vague with respects to its association to the project.

“I think it has not been clearly defined,” Thompson said. “Perhaps different perceptions about the word affordability have made people attribute qualities to the development that may not be there.”

She said that housing can be considered affordable if monthly shelter costs do not exceed 30 per cent of gross household income.

“So, for housing ownership that would be the mortgage principal, interest and property tax,” she said, then asked if the City of Rossland has a definition for it.

“It’s not clear if it will be affordable or attainable, those numbers are not in front of us,” she said. “It’s not clear that putting 24 homes on that site will attain any level of affordability. Perhaps an alternative it’s that it is developed with 16 single family homes, and two of those are attainability restricted for families that would qualify and the City would set that criteria.”

The City could then create restrictions. For instance, they could state that the property could only be bought and sold at 10 per cent below the market value, to ensure that it remains attainable for those who meet the requirements.

Thompson said that there was a need for this type of housing in Rossland. She stated a 2006 study that showed over 18 per cent of households  were spending more that 40 per cent of their gross income on housing.

Ksiazek came forward during the input session saying that he still wanted to work on both the City and his proposals, as he felt neither was perfect. He did say that he feels the rezoning is in accordance to the OCP.

Ksiazek said that in terms of affordability, he came up with the $300,000 number, after speaking with a bank manager form CIBC.

“She told me: If you build something one dollar more than $300,000, you (won’t) sell,” he said, quoting that most mortgages are not accepted if they are over $300,000.

In terms of building time he said he has no idea.

“Probably no one can answer how long this takes,” he said. “Before I can start building, I have to do the final project -all development, where the units will be exactly, next put water and sewer which costs at least $350,000, which will also be beneficial to the city.”

Next he would have to pre-sell.

He doesn’t expect that to happen by next summer, but once the land is rezoned, he can ask investors for more money and head to the next step.

“We have to do something to bring more people here,” he said.