582-unit apartment 'community' set for construction, but not without opposition

·4 min read
Work will begin this fall on a 582-unit development along Serenity Lane that neighbours worry will create dangerous traffic activity during its 10-year construction period. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)
Work will begin this fall on a 582-unit development along Serenity Lane that neighbours worry will create dangerous traffic activity during its 10-year construction period. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)

Shovels are set to hit the ground next spring on a 10-year project to build eight townhouses and nine apartment buildings in an area described as "country in the city."

But the project in Fredericton's southwest corner has been met by opposition from neighbours who fear the development will make Serenity Lane dangerous to walk along and create a decade of traffic headaches during the construction period.

"We understand Fredericton needs rental housing, as do most cities in Canada, and we're all for that," said Rob Horton, a resident on Red Maple Court, which runs off from Serenity Lane.

"But we would like to have this development done in a way that provides a safe neighborhood for us, and we don't see that that's what's going to happen," Horton said.

"We see a lot of large trucks going up and down the street and we have 20 children that live on this street that use Serenity Lane as they're walking — they walk their dogs, they bicycle, and we're very concerned for their safety as well as our safety as adults."

WATCH | Apartment project stokes concern in quiet neighbourhood

In June, Fredericton councillors agreed to rezone a 10-hectare piece of land and grant building height variances to let Gorham Real Estate construct the buildings at 150-198 Serenity Lane.

They signed off on it following recommendations from city staff as well as members of the city's planning advisory committee, but not before receiving more than 10 letters of opposition from Red Maple Court residents, including Horton.

The project is now ready to go with initial site prep scheduled for this fall, said Alex Gorham, a partner with Gorham Real Estate.

He said three 12-unit townhouse developments will go up along Serenity Lane near the intersection with Red Maple Court, along with a 60-unit apartment building set back from the road.

Zoom/CBC
Zoom/CBC

Another 13 buildings will be constructed over the rest of the 10-year project timeline, in addition to a soccer pitch in the middle of the complex.

"We're really excited," Gorham said.

"It's an opportunity for us to build more than just a building, but a community that people can live in, enjoy the amenities that we will offer, and all in a very convenient location."

Gorham said no construction will be done within 30 metres of a wetland on the property, and that no environmental permits are needed before work gets underway.

Need for more housing

Fredericton has struggled with its supply of rental housing in recent years, with the latest figures pegging the vacancy rate at about 1.8 per cent.

Advocates and consultants have also identified a particular need for affordable housing, which Gorham said would be fulfilled.

At least 10 per cent of all the units will be reserved for the province's rent supplement program, which could see the rent costs of up to 60 units subsidized, he said.

Submitted by Alex Gorham
Submitted by Alex Gorham

Horton said he understands the need for affordable housing, but thinks the area should be reserved for other housing types that match those already on Red Maple Court.

"It's a beautiful piece of property and it should be developed," he said.

"We were hoping it would be developed more along the lines of what's on our street, that there would be several courts and streets that have some single family dwellings, maybe some garden homes and keep the beauty of what's here now."

Questions about accessibility

Horton also questioned why Gorham's proposal was approved, while another proposal to construct 19 apartment units on the second floor of a commercial building on Acorn Street was rejected.

That project was ultimately voted down by council after staff warned that the area lacked sidewalks and access to amenities like grocery stores.

Pat Richard/CBC
Pat Richard/CBC

Back in June, before councillors gave final approval for the project on Serenity Lane, some questioned just how residents would be able to get around without a car, given the street currently has no sidewalk or bus stops.

"I actually had an opportunity to go out and speak with the residents out on Serenity Lane," said Coun. Bruce Grandy.

"It's, you know, it's like country in the city," he said, adding he thinks a multi-use trail would be a necessary addition.

Coun. Jocelyn Pike also said she was concerned about the area's low accessibility.

"There's no sidewalks, there's no trails, the bus is located quite a ways away," Pike said. "So it's really going to be years before I think they have any kind of realistic active transportation system."

City engineer Dylan Gamble at the time said he and transit staff will be looking at those concerns, and how the transit network can be tweaked to accommodate the development.