Concerns expressed over Water Street development

After a discussion over the Water Street project, Saint Andrews town council expressed concerns regarding the current plans by Bridle Path Inc. being unsuitable for the location.

Town staff has been directed to talk to the developer, suggesting he present a new design abiding with the town's present bylaws.

The proposed 36-unit residential and commercial building, to be built at 256 and 260 Water St., remains a concern for many neighbours. More than 20 residents attended a public hearing on Oct. 17 to express their views on the project’s height exemption requests and resident Douglas Greenaway, who attended via zoom, presented a letter signed by about 45 households and neighbours in opposition.

During a presentation prior to the hearing of objections, developer John Rocca decided to stick to his original four-storey plan, seeking a height exemption for up to 12.2 metres through an amendment to the secondary municipal plan, the Telegraph-Journal previously reported. Council made a modification to the height amendment stating that “the height can only be allowed if a developmental scheme bylaw is in place,” Town clerk Paul Nopper said, adding the public hearing was organized because the modification was “a substantial change.”

At Monday evening's council meeting, Rocca told council that a delay in the decision over the project is parallel to the rise in costs for building it. Rocca indicated that the constantly rising concerns by the residents are resulting in the delay and even after several conversations, they have not been able to find common ground.

He said with the construction costs and interest rates going up, "I can't promise you yet that our project is economically viable, even with all the variances and double the density.

"Let me propose a win-win option to you and to (the opposition), pass the amendment and we'll agree to assign our option to the land to the neighbours, so then they can build a project that respects all the guidelines of the secondary municipal plan, that they believe can happen," he said, "If they don't do it, then we will not be delayed."

In an interview later, Rocca said, "they have people on their group that are architects, planners ... they've had a lot of people critique our design. Well, you know, let them put them to work for positive results rather than just being an arm-chair critic."

Later, while discussing the item, several members of the council expressed individual concerns about public objections and the developer's asks. The discussion was chaired by Deputy Mayor Kate Akagi.

Coun. Jamie Hirtle said he recognizes the need for housing in the area and still has serious concerns over the development as it requires six more variances in the zoning bylaws, along with the height exemption from the secondary municipal plan - as highlighted in a document by Alexander Gopen, senior planner of the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission.

Hirtle said, although these variances concern him, what also concerns him is that while opposing this development there was not only passion but a few unjustified facts and often "arguments in bad faith." According to him, there "was never really a desire to support this project, but it has always been a desire to stop it by whatever means."

"As council continued to consider all points of view and weigh this very difficult decision, that silent, that quiet thoughtfulness, I think was mistaken for assent for this project."

Mayor Brad Henderson said the process was a display of democracy, but there were attacks on council which are "clearly unacceptable".

"I have zero tolerance for slander, I have zero tolerance for bullying."

After carefully considering all the valid concerns by the community and also noting that the project requires six variances in the existing zoning bylaws, along with an amendment in the secondary municipal plan, Henderson said, "I personally recommend that council let the developer know that the plan lot is not suffice for this size of a building, it's too big for a community plan."

He noted that the deal should not be made just for the sake of making it and some other plan could be feasible for the site if not this one. "If that lot's not feasible, it's not feasible.

"A reasonable person would not expect the town to use a development scheme bylaw to work around two challenges to its secondary plan and six challenges to its zoning bylaw."

No final decisions were made at the discussion. Council later advised town staff to go back to the developer asking him to reconsider the designs and plans and try to work within the existing zoning bylaws and secondary municipal plan, said Nopper. Staff will circle back to council at a later meeting to decide the future of this project.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal