A rezoning application for Neill Farm on Fredericton's north side has been approved by city council with amendments, despite opposition from neighbours.
The plan will see the farmhouse and barns preserved, with 20 acres used for a fruit farm and cidery. The remainder of the property has been rezoned to allow for several townhouses and large apartment buildings.
Councillors voted to not allow balconies on the side of any apartment buildings opposite Hillcrest Drive to protect the privacy of residents who live there. They also put protections on the creek that runs through the property.
Only Coun. Eric Price voted against the application, saying it did not include any affordable housing and was pushed through too quickly.
"Never in my five years on council have I witnessed such a large-scale rezoning, with so many consequences for so many people, rushed through our planning process with such haste as this application," Price told the council at Monday night's meeting.
Because councillors who are not present during first and second reading of an item cannot vote on the third reading, the rezoning application was pushed through the council process before the new council is to be sworn in on June 7.
"I was disappointed," said Jocelyn Pike, who lives in the area and represented a group of neighbours concerned about the development. "It just seemed to have happened so fast."
Pike was also elected the new councillor in the area and will begin in that position next week.
"It really seemed like the consultation that was done with the community wasn't really considered in a way I felt it should have been," Pike said.
Pike said once she's a council member, she wants to find better ways to engage residents to make sure their concerns are heard and met.
The plan is a departure from a 2007 plan that promised a subdivision of single-family homes, totalling 124 units. Many of the residents of adjacent Hillcrest Drive previously said they were surprised to learn of the new plan, which would see more than 300 units built on the property.
"There was a different developer under a different name that promised single family dwellings in that area," said Coun. Bruce Grandy during the meeting. "And that was great of them to do and it was a whole different economy and a whole different way of looking at where we are. Today our city's population is growing dramatically and the demand for multi unit housing is just increasing tremendously."
Both Pike and Price noted that there was no mention of including affordable housing in those development plans.
"Homelessness is out of control in the city and here's a perfect opportunity to work with a developer to get some affordable housing in there for single units or two storey units," said Pike. "And it just did not — it didn't get any traction at all last night. And that really surprised me."