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Proposed apartment building too tall for area, says Charlottetown's city planner

This artist's rendering of the proposed eight-storey building was given to Charlottetown councillors during meetings about the project.  (APM - image credit)
This artist's rendering of the proposed eight-storey building was given to Charlottetown councillors during meetings about the project. (APM - image credit)

A proposal to build an eight-storey apartment building in downtown Charlottetown wasn't compatible with the city's official plan, according to Charlottetown's manager of planning and development.

Developer Tim Banks, president of Pan American Properties, has now withdrawn his application for the 158-unit apartment building he wanted to build beside the Polyclinic at 199 Grafton St.

The project would have included more than 30 affordable rental units — costing less than $1,000 a month — in Charlottetown's downtown core.

Pan American properties was spearheading the project for Morris Holdings, which is owned by Pat Morris. Morris Holdings owns the property where the development was being planned.

Banks withdrew the application after city staff recommended that city council not approve it.

"The main issue we ran into was the proposed height, which links in with the massing and the scale of the building," said David Gundrum, manager of planning and development with the city.

David Grundrum, manager of planning and development with the City of Charlottetown, said the location is identified as a transition area between the downtown core and the lower-density neighborhoods that surround it.
David Grundrum, manager of planning and development with the City of Charlottetown, said the location is identified as a transition area between the downtown core and the lower-density neighborhoods that surround it.

David Grundrum, manager of planning and development with the City of Charlottetown, said the location is identified as a transition area between the downtown core and the lower-density neighborhoods that surround it. (Submitted by the City of Charlottetown)

He noted that the site had originally been zoned for only four-storey buildings, but had been approved for an increase to include up to a six-storey building.

"I guess the ask to go up to an additional two storeys to achieve an eight-storey height was increasing it even further, and we had to evaluate that against the intent of the policies that apply here, and whether that intensity was appropriate or too much," he told Wayne Thibodeau on CBC Radio's Island Morning.

We are actively working with them to see if we can find a solution here to achieve something on that site. — Dave Gundrum

Gundrum said the location is identified in the city's official plan as a transition area between the downtown core and the lower-density neighbourhoods that surround it — meaning the area acts as a buffer.

He said planning staff worked closely with the developer but based on what the city plan said, eight-storeys was too much intensity for the site when considering the intent of the official plan.

"We had a meeting with the developer," Gundrum said. "We spoke of different options that they could consider. We are actively working with them to see if we can find a solution here to achieve something on that site."

Developer frustrated

After CBC News reached out to developer Tim Banks, he said in an email that he initiated the meeting in an attempt to get the project back on track. He left that meeting "no further ahead," he said.

"His staff could have used the [objectives] set out in the official plan to support a positive recommendation," Banks said in an email, referring to Gundrum. "If staff was given direction by council to find a way to make this happen, then they have all the tools in their official plan to achieve a positive solution."

Tim Banks, CEO of the APM Group,
Tim Banks, CEO of the APM Group,

Developer Tim Banks, CEO of the APM Group, says he left a meeting with the city 'no further ahead.' (Tony Davis/CBC)

Gundrum said council always has the final say on a planning act application..

"They are the approval authority. While we brought the application to a particular point in the process, the applicant opted to withdraw the application once they were made aware of the staff recommendation to council," he said. "However, council wasn't provided an opportunity to make a call or make a decision on the matter — factoring in not just our recommendation, but any feedback from members of the public as well."

The current official plan for the City of Charlottetown was first drafted in 1999. It was approved by the legislature in 2005.

"It is time for an update and this is something the city is actively working on," Gundrum said.

More pressure to build up 

The federal government has put pressure on municipalities across the country to allow higher-density housing to be built, with millions of dollars in funding on the line.

Early this year, Prince Edward Island's apartment vacancy rate was below one per cent.

That's a pressure that Gundrum agrees is real.

"It's more intense today than it was in the recent past," he said. "That said, working as professional planners — whether we are working in Charlottetown or other jurisdictions around the province or elsewhere in Canada — we have to base our recommendations largely in part on the prevailing policies that are in place in the local or city official plan, because the plan is a legal document."