Ladysmith developer Fred Green hosted the second of two voluntary public consultations on what should be done about the old police station.
The meeting was well attended by community members. Many residents were excited about what Green and project architect Angela Quek would reveal to the public, however some residents expressed concerns.
Survey feedback from the first meeting indicated that the public would like to see the property put towards mixed use, rather than purely commercial, or purely residential. Residents also expressed a desire to see some form of community gathering place, most commonly in the form of a brew pub, or cafe/catering site.
“There seems to be a pattern, both in the discussions we were encouraging, and the unrelated Facebook discussions, that there does seem to be pretty high counts for people interested in some form of community gathering location,” Green said.
Green said that the community feedback aligned well with his views for the site. Based on that feedback, Green and Quek presented a four-storey building. The first level would be for commercial use with a larger footprint, and the upper three levels would be for housing with a smaller footprint. The units would likely be one-bedroom apartments rented out through a property management company. Green estimated there would be about 12 units of housing, and 40 commerical jobs created by the site.
Neighbours of the site expressed concerns that any residential units with balconies would be able to overlook into their homes. Some neighbours were also concerned about their views being disrupted by the new building. Quek and her team developed a design concept for the building to address these concerns.
“We are going to build, it is going to happen, but we’d like to do as much as we can in terms of respect for that relationship,” Quek said. “There’s also the existing building, which is important to remember. It’s one-storey right now, and very close to the neighbour. So, what we thought is that if we have that, and we have it about the same mass… we’re going to pull it a bit further away, and give it more breathing room. As we go up, we have more overlook. It’s definitely something we should consider, so we stepped it back, and what that does is it gives a bit more breathing room around the sides.”
Also, the corners of the building would be cut in, and any balconies would be placed in those corners to limit overlook and increase the field of view.
After the presentation was a lengthy question period where residents expressed support for the project, as well as concerns about the impact on the community. One of the main concerns was about the issue of parking. Due to land constraints, it is impossible to have underground parking at the site. That leaves only 20 above ground parking spaces on the lot, with the rest to be determined by the Town of Ladysmith’s planning department.
“It has been no end of frustration, but it is part of the process that one must go through to try and create sufficient parking capacity on site and or in the immediate neighbourhood,” Green said. “It will be done to the standards of the town. That is my commitment, and that is also the demand.”
Residents also expressed concerns about hours of operation. One estimate given was that the commercial properties would be in operation from 7 am – 9:30 pm if the businesses do in fact become a cafe and a community brew pub. Green was adamant that the brew pub would not be like a night club or sports bar with loud music and obnoxious lights, instead it would be a place for community members to meet and engage in conversation.
The site is currently zoned for commercial use, and has been for about a decade. Now that Green is going ahead with a mixed-use design, he must apply for rezoning of the site. This process could take between six months to 12 months depending on the volume of zoning applications the town is dealing with.
Despite all the concerns expressed, the meeting was positive about the new development. One of the most vocal supporters was Thom Allan, a neighbouring resident of the proposed project.
“I live three doors down in a 100 year old house, and I just wanted to say that we’re really stoked about the opportunity to have this in our neighbourhood. People might not remember that this whole block used to be a cow farm 100 years ago, and that there was no buildings. As buildings came in… it changed everything in the neighbourhood. The change isn’t necessarily bad, it just is change. The patio homes look into my yard, that doesn’t upset me, that’s just the way it is. If this building pops up and it looks into someone’s yard, or it makes a bit of noise, or steam, or smell, it’s not the end of the world. It’s progress,” he said.