A change in siding material for a 29-unit apartment building in Saint John has neighbours up in arms.
And yes, it is about looks.
Residents expected the six-storey building going up on Lower Cove Loop to have a modern cement facade, but were dismayed to see workers putting up grey corrugated metal siding they're calling an "eyesore" and "a blight on
the whole project and the neighbourhood."
"What does this say about our neighbourhood?" said resident Leona Laracey at a two-hour-long special planning advisory committee. "How is that going to set the tone for future development?"
After receiving 11 letters from neighbours, the city's planning advisory committee members rejected the request from developers to use the metal siding, which was not part of the original design they approved last year.
The building, dubbed The Atlantic, now stands half covered with metal siding that will have to be removed and redone.
The developer did not address why they began putting up the metal siding before the variance was granted.
City staff member Jennifer Kirchner recommended the committee approve the variance because it does not pose a safety issue, and the material was approved to use for building. She said the objections were mainly "subjective."
"This is really framed by individual preferences," she said. "It's very subjective. This isn't an attempt to assess or determine preferences."
But some committee members disagreed, and they voted to deny the application 5-4.
Member Lourdes Clancy said if the plans were put forth with metal siding in 2020, she would have had second thoughts.
"I have to look at it as if it was part of the original variance back in 2020. And at that time, I think I would have denied the variance then as well," she said.
Developer struggled to find better siding
Peter MacKenzie, speaking on behalf of the developer, said the builders started with plans to use cement siding but was having trouble with supply.
"For the year 2020, unsteady supply, unguaranteed deliveries and most particularly it was the unsteady price point that made it difficult for us to go forward with that other material," he said.
He also said he used the cement siding on a project in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, and said it didn't perform well.
MacKenzie said they decided to go with metal siding because it holds up well to hard rain and strong winds, and reflects Saint John's industrial nature.
"I don't want our uptown to be industrial, I want our uptown to be inspiring," said Coun. Gary Sullivan.
Coun. David Hickey attended the meeting as a resident. He said he's "extremely concerned" about the building getting approval to go ahead as is.
"Setting an extremely dangerous precedent," he said.
In denying the variance, the committee did not recommend developers use any other type of siding than what was originally planned.