Moncton's planning advisory committee approved plans for a nine apartment building development beside the city's Centennial Park on Wednesday.
It's the latest in a series of mid- to high-rise residential buildings proposed and approved in the city where demand for housing has been climbing.
The committee voted 2-1 to allow seven bylaw variances city staff described as mostly minor for plans proposed by C.G. Group on behalf of the property owner, Entreprises Mapoma Ltee.
The plans call for nine six-storey apartment buildings with 947 units and two commercial buildings spread across the roughly 11-hectare site along Millennium Boulevard. It would include 500 indoor and 1,209 outdoor parking spaces.
Josh Adams, a planner with the city, said the former railway property, remediated years ago, has been zoned for high-density residential development since 2003.
"It's really a site that's primed for development, the only thing missing was the market," Adams said during the meeting, held virtually.
The variances related to building setback requirements from Millennium, allowing parking between two of the buildings and the road, increasing the amount of commercial space allowed on ground floors from 1,292 square feet to more than 107,000 square feet and allowing two buildings to be taller than 62 feet.
Staff had recommended approving the variances.
Residents who live in the area voiced concerns about the amount of surface parking, traffic, whether units would be considered "affordable," park access and water runoff.
Ted Fitzpatrick said only a few neighbours received a notice about the plans.
"I've been speaking to a lot of residents about this. It seems more like a slam dunk kind of situation than a community being able to put up a proper defence," Fitzpatrick said.
He said residents discussed hiring a lawyer since it's a complicated issue and urged the committee to delay its decision so more neighbours could offer feedback.
City staff said they followed the requirements of provincial legislation in providing notice to property owners within 60 metres two weeks ahead of the meeting and posted information on the city's website.
Reed Kennedy also called for the committee to hold off on approval so residents can ask more questions.
"Development has to happen, I think we all understand that to some degree," Kennedy said. "We have to have housing and our population continues to grow. The city has to have density to generate tax revenue and all those great and wonderful things.
"But I think on the doorstep of our wonderful park that we have, that we might just be getting a little ahead of ourselves here."
City staff repeatedly noted the zoning in place for decades on the site allows for the proposed density. The developer will try to maintain existing trees and green space where possible on the property, they said.
Committee member Frances LeBlanc and Maxime Gauvin asked about public concerns regarding affordable housing, asking the developer about its pricing and unit sizes.
Philip Couture, representing the developer at the meeting, said rent is expected to range between $1,000 to $2,000 per month while units would range from about 600 to 1,200 square feet (55.7 to 111.4 square metres).
He noted construction is expected to take place in phases over about eight years, so prices would likely change over time.
Couture said they plan to start with a building on the west side of the property, closest to Killam Drive, and build east.
The developer must pay the city $19,600 for each of the first five buildings before permits are issued to help cover the cost of changes planned for the intersection of Millennium Boulevard, Grand Truck Street and Russ Howard Drive to account for traffic.
The plans do not need to go to city council for further approvals, though building permits are still required, the city planner said.