Rezoning sought for Cooke Ave lot in Rossland

Rossland council will be discussing whether to allow the Cooke Avenue school lot to be rezoned for multi housing units.

The proposed zoning change would see the old Cooke Avenue school lot rezoned to allow CD6 mixed residential.

Rossland council will be discussing whether to allow the Cooke Avenue school lot to be rezoned for multi housing units. The public hearing is Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

The applicant, Cezary Ksiazek Construction Ltd, seeks to change the zoning to build a-24 unit affordable housing complex.

Council put some of their thoughts forward on  the staff’s motion to move the  bylaw through second reading.

Coun. Cary Fisher noted that the recommendation called for a green space and alleyway. Since the alleyway would have to be plowed, he thought it didn’t seem consistent with the way the neighbourhood currently is.

“There are streets already, everybody faces the street from the house and then creating this alleyway,” Fisher said. “If it is in fact affordable housing, I don’t really see having neighbours sharing snowplowing in a strata supporting affordable housing, although definitions of affordable housing are all over the map.”

Fisher said the community garden wasn’t a good fit either in that spot.

“I’m not against it necessarily, a community garden, but i just don’t see it working,” he said.  “I don’t know if the owner wants a community garden or not or a park space. I don’t mind some of the comments that maybe a  little play area for the kids is a little better idea. If we’re looking at younger families, then that’s something that we have to consider. I support the density side of it.”

Coun. Jill Spearn shared Fisher’s opinion of the the  community garden idea.

“A community garden should be something like what we have in Jubilee Park,” she said. “If I bought one of those units, I don’t want a community garden in my backyard, I grow my own garden, I don’t want other people coming into my property and thinking that ‘oh, we’re going to have a co-operative garden for Rossland. It works in urban places, and it works up there.”

Spearn said the real amenity would be having your own yard without a road going through it, saying that it will cost $1 million to develop the site before anything can be built on it.

Fisher noted that the recommendation suggested an alleyway through the premises. He said if the issue is traffic, it is not one that Rossland has.

“I’ve been through these studies before, traffic studies and all,” he said. “Rossland doesn’t have a lot of traffic, not to say that the person who was here earlier complaining about the crazy people driving on Thompson, that is a problem, because people do drive 80 or 90 (km) on there when they think people aren’t around and that’s just crazy. But in that area, I don’t think there is a traffic problem in Rossland.”

Fisher said that when Redstone had traffic studies done, they indicated “you could add 1000 houses to the lower half of Rossland and not be anywhere near needing a streetlight of any kind. “

Spearn agreed with that as well, saying traffic in Rossland was not an issue and the city needs to support builders who want to infill.

Coun. Kathy Wallace said she supports what staff is trying to do, as “it’s not about traffic on Rossland streets, it’s about people parking on Rossland streets.

Coun. Tim Thatcher said it looks like a project that is needed in Rossland.

“We need more affordable housing. The higher density, it’s in the OCP,” Thatcher said. “The only thing I have a little problem with is the parking, I’m not sure it would be best off Thompson and Cook, the way it’s presented here. The only thing I have a problem with is the off-street parking, but other than that I think its a good project I think it’s what’s needed in Rossland , so I don’t have any problem with backing this zoning.”

Spearn said she had talked to the builder a few times and had been down to look at the site a number of times.

“All the good things about it as outlined by our planning department around multi housing, trying to create something affordable in Rossland around multi-housing which is always challenging in Rossland regardless of where that affordable housing top limit is,” she said.

“I asked him clearly what are you trying to stay under in terms of affordable housing. Anything under $300,000 a unit is considered affordable housing.

“That site has been empty and dead space ever since the last owner of that property demolished the school, and it’s just been lying there fallow.”

Wallace agreed that something needed to happen on the site.

“It has been vacant for a considerable time and it’s a reminder to the community of the loss of the school,” Wallace said. “It is a real emotional scar for our community and I’d like to see it move forward.”

One of Wallace’s questions was about a complaint she’d heard that the recommendation by staff decreased the number of units from 24 to 16.

Mike Maturo, from city staff, explained that the applicant is proposing a total of six driveways on Thompson and six on Cooke, staff suggested that access is internalized to two points from Cooke.

Maturo said it won’t reduce the number of units from 24, as the request is for 16 equivalent units, which he said actually equals 24 multiple family dwellings.

Wallace said she supported the rezoning as presented.

Blomme  supported the recommendation in general, in terms of affordable housing and building the housing stock in Rossland.

Maturo said that one of the reasons staff put forward this layout is also to allow the city and applicant to have an easier time in the subdivision stage, as normally the city requires a statutory right of way.

He said that the less driveways that access on Thompson or Cooke, the less need that operations have to go deeper into the property.

Working around six driveways on each side would be a challenge.

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