Midtown development delayed
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 11:28 am
Airdrie’s Midtown neighbourhood will remain vacant for the time being as City council put the brakes on first reading of the community’s land use bylaw on Feb. 3.
The 90-acre plot of land that sits north of the Luxstone neighbourhood and south of Iron Horse Park has been undeveloped for 15 years and Richard Priest,vice president of Land Development with Wenzel Developments, was hoping to change that.
Priest took over the project after Vancouver-based Harper Homes was unable to find builders to develop the neighbourhood. Harper Homes had its Neighbourhood Structure Plan (NSP) approved in 2009, but the project stalled after that.
Wenzel Developments amended Harper’s NSP, which was approved unanimously by City council on Feb. 3, but things ground to a halt after some discrepancies were found in the proposed land use bylaw.
Alderman Candice Kolson was outspoken against the land use bylaw and was also in opposition to the proposed NSP. Her concerns stemmed from a lack of identity for the Midtown community.
“It’s an important piece of land and I didn’t think the proposal fit with the vision of an urban development,” said Kolson. “I was also concerned about the high density of residential land near the railroad tracks and there could be more commercial land as well.”
City of Airdrie Planning Team Leader Jamie Dugdale said he found it unorthodox for council to approve an NSP and defeat the related land use bylaw, though he was understanding of council’s decision.
“The biggest concern was the amount of R1-N (small, single-family dwellings) land that was in the proposed bylaw,” said Dugdale.
The R1-N land accounted for nearly 27 per cent of the more than 700 total housing units that were expected to go up in Midtown.
“We understand a need for different housing forms and we want to make sure that every community in Airdrie serves a variety of needs and the developers want to serve every part of the market,” said Dugdale. “From the City side, we want to ensure that these communities retain their value, and not just on the lower end.”
Kolson echoed these sentiments, adding that the current plan didn’t have its own unique feel and looked like, “a continuation of Luxstone.”
Priest was frustrated that the process was halted, and will now reconvene with Dugdale and the planning department to draw up a new land use bylaw.
“This turned out a little different than I had expected, we were hoping to push through for 100 per cent land use approval,” said Priest. “I appreciate that council wants to be thorough with this and I’m confident we’ll get this done. I’ve developed communities in Airdrie before, including Woodside and Hillcrest and the City has always been very good to work with.”
Wenzel’s NSP that was approved allows for some wiggle room, according to Dugdale, who explained there is flex for anywhere between 600 to 800 housing units, so there shouldn’t be a lot of difficulty in altering the percentage of R1-N land use.
“The ball is back in (Wenzel’s) court, we’ll meet with them and try to get this back in front of council and get this approved as soon as possible,” he said.
Priest has high hopes for the Midtown community and is optimistic that the process with the City will move forward amicably.
Priest and Wenzel are scheduled to meet with the City’s planning department this week.