After three years of deliberation, the council approved the re-zoning of the old Cook Ave. school site on August 11. The site has been changed from a public institutional (P1) site to a comprehensive residential 6 (CD6) site. Cezary Ksiazek has been given the go ahead to build affordable housing for young families and seniors, with a catch. The re-zoning of this site includes bylaws and special guidelines devised by city council that makes the construction of the project unaffordable and the layout unappealing.
Ksiazek, owner of Rossland Builder, has been struggling since 2011 to make his goal of creating affordable housing in Rossland a reality. He recognizes the need to attract young families to the town and to keep seniors from moving away. This is a measure to stimulate growth and development in Rossland, a concept that is a main focus of the Rossland Official Community Plan (OCP).
On page two of the OCP it states, “…the objectives and policies within the OCP serve to guide future growth. The OCP is designed to address the ‘big picture’ concerning the direction and management of future growth.”
The approval from council would allow Ksiazek to build 16 equivalent units, down from an original 20. City planner Stacey Lightbourne explains that if there were only single-family homes being built, 20 units could be a possibility. Ksiazek wishes to build multi-family homes in the form of duplexes, so the amount has to be reduced. This is because multi-family homes render another .66 of a unit.
Ksiazek’s original plan was to build both single and multi-family homes. The homes would include three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and lots of room for storage for under 300,000 dollars. He wanted these houses to have a backyard, a community garden, and grass for children to play on. Unfortunately, the parameters Ksiazek has to follow to build the affordable housing units does not provide this.
Residents would not be permitted to enter from Thompson Ave., Cliff St., or Monita St., which means that a road would have to be built to circle the housing area. The residence’s backyards would be facing the road and the grass would have to be ripped out and turned into asphalt. Ksiazek worries that having the backyards face the road creates a dangerous environment for children. He is also upset that he would have to eliminate the natural beauty on the lot in order to build there. He recognizes that constructing affordable housing the way that council has outlined for him will create undesirable residences.
Ksiazek is frustrated with the amendment guidelines. He wants to give seniors the opportunity to stay in Rossland, as many have to move to access affordable housing. Salmo’s affordable housing is nearing completion, and former mayor Phil Berukoff identifies the opportunity this brings to their town in an article for Kootenay Business.
“We’ve got people here that are actually moving back to town because their parents are living here,” said Berukoff. “Before, what we were doing was shipping our seniors off and now they’ll be able to stay at home. I think that’s good for the seniors, it’s good for the kids that are here with them and it’s going to generate some revenue — some jobs and things like that. So it’s going to be good all the way around.”
According to Ksiazek, implementing the council’s stipulations will increase the cost of construction, making it impossible for him to sell the properties as affordable housing. Ksiazek believes that providing affordable housing in Rossland will invite newcomers to town and keep seniors from leaving. As a result, local businesses will continue bringing in revenue and opportunities for new business will arise.
Ksiazek has lived and built homes in Rossland for 14 years and has never come across such strict guidelines to building. His passion for the project remains, but his spirit is being defeated.