Development concerns heard by appeal board
Black Diamond: Residents raise issue over high-density housing near hospital
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 06:00 am
Black Diamond residents looking to stop a multi-family development in town say local land use bylaws shouldn’t allow the project to go ahead.
Carl Fisher and Brendan Kelly appealed the Mountain View development at a hearing last week, and were among seven residents to speak against the proposal to build five semi-detached villas and three 41-unit apartments on five acres of land beside Oilfields General Hospital. The Intermunicipal Subdivision and Development Appeal Board heard their case in the Black Diamond municipal building Jan. 4.
Fisher argued town council misinterpreted land use rules – namely land use bylaw 98-14 – when it approved the development.
“It does not give council the authority to reduce the setback of a minimum of 30 metres,” he said.
Fisher said the bylaw is not written properly.
Three sections within the bylaw outline how close a building can be to the top or bottom of a hill. The first two sections set a limit of 30 metres, while the third allows the setback to be reduced to as little as seven metres with an engineer’s report stating it won’t impact the stability of the land.
Fisher said this third section incorrectly refers to other sections of the bylaw.
“Somebody screwed up along the way and these have been in place since October 2007,” he said.
In October, Black Diamond town council approved a slope stability assessment by a geotechnical engineer, which stated it is feasible to develop seven metres from the top of the hill, and as a result approved a setback of seven metres for the Mountain View development.
Kelly, who lives in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, expressed other concerns about the development.
He said the Willowridge area structure plan, put in place in 1999, advised development occur from south to north. If development did proceed this way, he said those living at the bottom of the hill might not have chosen to live next to four-storey apartments.
Kelly said the apartments will cast shadows on his property and impede privacy with balconies overlooking his yard. He said the Town should follow its own bylaws put in place to protect people’s privacy and investment.
Fisher and Kelly are members of the Black Diamond Development Corporation, which was formed last year in response to the development. The group held several meetings expressing their concerns to council, which included proximity to the hospital, impact on patients and construction dust and noise. They submitted a petition to council asking it to stop approving large developments until a long-term water supply is in place and water restrictions are no longer needed.
The town lost its water treatment plant and all but one well in the 2013 flood and, despite work to get the town’s water sources back, it hasn’t reached the pre-flood water catchment level.
Denice Stewart, Black Diamond development officer, told the appeal board that council designated the land high-density-residential in 2007. In the same year, the Town’s planning commission approved five semi-detached villas and three four-storey apartment buildings for the site. The development didn’t occur, but there was no opposition at that time, she said.
“A public hearing took place for rezoning,” she said. “There were no objections from the public.”
Stewart said the Mountain View development meets the minimum requirements of the land use bylaw.
“The reason there is an opportunity for appeal is because we had a variance in the setback,” she said. “Shadows cast by apartments is not a consideration for planning by the land use bylaw.”
Five residents living in the area also spoke.
They said council didn’t consult residents before agreeing to the setback change, and they are also worried about potential noise and traffic increases and property value decreases.
Gary McCarol, a retired geological engineer, felt construction will destabilize the hill due to expanding clay in the ground, which caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the hospital’s foundation after it was built in the 1980s.
Clem Lau, with Clem Lau Architect Designers, told the board that digging will occur beyond the clay, unlike the hospital, as there will be underground parking for each apartment.
He added the land is currently more susceptible to erosion by heavy rain and water before development.
“We will have a swale at the edge of the property line along the north side as well as storm ponding all around the site so all the rainwater will be collected in a storage tank and then eventually drain off to the storm pipe of the municipality,” he said. “Otherwise, heavy rain will soak into the ground and eventually the slope may fail without this drainage system.”
When asked by the board the necessity of having the apartments seven metres from the top of the hill rather than 30, Lau said a certain amount of space is required between the buildings and for parking, the courtyard and storm water management for the number of units proposed.
“We have to provide enough units for economic feasibility of the project,” he said. “Otherwise, we could not fit in as many units as we have right now.”
Lau added the 50 metres between the apartments and homes below is ample space for privacy.