The path toward a fourth-storey for Fred Green’s 336 Belaire Street mixed-use project has been cleared after a public hearing on April 20.
Town Council voted to proceed with third reading of a bylaw that will amend the comprehensive development 6 – Belaire Mixed-Use Zone, to allow for a fourth-storey, which would add four more units of housing to the project.
The zoning bylaw requires that the fourth-storey can only be constructed if a gathering space is constructed for Wickham Park, some of the parking is provided underground, and the building meets step one of the B.C. Energy Step Code.
Green’s proposal has changed several times since it was originally pitched to the people of Ladysmith. The project was originally pitched as a local brewpub or restaurant, but after consulting with the Ladysmith community through two public information meetings in 2019, Green decided to apply for rezoning to make his project a mixed-use site.
Last year, Green was approved for a mixed-use building at three-storeys for a total of eight condo units. He opted to remain at three-storeys due to neighbourhood feedback that was critical of a four-storey building.
However, Donna Hais, who spoke on behalf of the project at the public hearing, said parking challenges made it necessary to install underground parking. To offset the costs of that underground parking, they opted to add another storey to the development.
“Through comprehensive design development of the first building, it became apparent that there were several issues with the project,” Hais said. “Under the new design scheme we are proposing today we are able to accommodate all of the parking for our project on-site. We are also proposing adding parking at Wickham park — nine to 11 spaces — as well as adding a meeting place in the park itself as a community contribution.”
The community meeting space will be a picnic shelter similar to what is near the Transfer Beach playground.
Nearby residents once again spoke against the project. Angela McDermott pointed out that the project does not fit the form and character of the existing neighbourhood.
“The OCP specifies that the approval of infill sites should take into consideration potential impacts on existing neighbours. I am the neighbour and I am opposed to the fourth-floor addition to this plan,” she said.
McDermott also criticized the plan for underground parking as being ‘unrealistic’ and said the above-ground parking would be inadequate for the site.
Julie Lacroix, who has lived on 4th Avenue Extension for 23 years, said that the proposal was out of step with the long-term vision of Dr. Thomas Wickham, who Wickham park is named after.
“His legacy was to leave Wickham park for the seniors and families in this neighbourhood. And the property where the police station was designated to be more senior patio homes. That was his legacy. That is what he wished for the property,” she said.
“I feel that the footprint is being used for the most money that can be taken out of it because of the view and the fourth floor is going to absolutely change this neighbourhood.”
Lacroix said that existing traffic in the area is a ‘nightmare’ and the added traffic from the development would increase that risk, especially in light of the condo proposal at 201/203 Dogwood.
Councillor Marsh Stevens was the only one to vote against the proposal. Stevens said he preferred the proposal at the three-storey design concept and could not bring himself to support a fourth-storey. Stevens reasoned that the last public input saw far larger engagement and he felt that community concerns were better addressed by the three-storey proposal.
“I compare the public input of dozens and hundreds last time, and COVID notwithstanding, this proposal is not as complete and comprehensive,” Stevens said.
Mayor Aaron Stone said that the project meets ‘best practices’ in community planning and added that the proposal will bring benefits for the entire Ladysmith community.
“I am moved by the submissions, especially the written submissions,” he said. “I’m mindful of those concerns, especially the immediate neighbours at Belwood… I couldn’t see an appreciable difference that justified the concern. On the flip side of that, the addition of the underground parking, additional amenities, and additional parking spots seemed to actually resolve some of the concerns that were presented.”
The next step for the project will be obtaining a development permit approval from council so construction for the mixed-use site can begin.