By Jensen, Randy on November 5, 2020.
After adopting a series of amendments, Lethbridge City Council voted unanimously in favour of passing second reading of the Westminster Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP).
Prior to the vote in Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Jeffrey Coffman proposed several amendments to try to satisfy some of the concerns expressed by residents at a public hearing held in September when the plan was initially presented for consideration, particularly related to greater public consultation with residents who are renters in the neighbourhood, (who currently make up about 47 per cent of residents), and in providing stronger guidance to City planning staff as to what council expected of them when any new secondary suites or multi-family homes are proposed in the community which may be contrary to the new ARP.
Among the suggested amendments, Coffman asked that the Westminster Village Committee be added to the plan to help monitor its implementation.
“The WVC and the residents of neighbourhood have the best understanding of the character of the neighbourhood,” he wrote, “neighbourhood matters related to planning and development that have the potential to impact neighbourhood character it should be referred to the WVC for planning and feedback as per the notification requirements of the bylaw for the community engagement strategy as applicable.”
Coffman also gave further direction to decision makers on future development in the area that the “plan must be exactly followed.”
He also added the map which is used to chart existing house types in the neighbourhood should be updated to add all current approved and unapproved secondary suites, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.
Coffman then proposed these changes to the plan should be completed by City staff, and the Westminster ARP return to council not later than May 31, 2021 for third reading by council.
While well intentioned and perhaps a step in the right direction to more fully include local residents when development permits are brought before the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board and the Municipal Planning Commission, Westminster community advocate Darlene McLean says there is no way a volunteer-run neighbourhood association like the WVC has the capacity to keep up with all proposed developments, or has the ability to distribute that information to every potentially impacted resident when a development permit comes forth for review. She said that is the job of the City.
“This is very well meaning,” she said referring to the amendments proposed by Coffman. “But there are three things this Area Redevelopment Plan needs going forward É Number one, you should have an Area Development Plan which answers the goal of a land-use plan, which is to guide development; number two it should have transparent, (up to date), data; and number three an ARP should have checks and balances that lets it stand on its own.”
She went on to explain that third point more fully.
“It is all well and good to let things go to Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, but how do I know they have even read the Area Redevelopment Plan? And secondly, if you read Subdivision and Development Appeal Board guidelines, it’s hugely lacking in guidelines for this type of application.”
McLean also hoped the City would begin using the tools it already has at its disposal to ensure property owners adhered to the plan such as the caveats used in other, wealthier, neighbourhoods of the city.
“Westminster needs caveats put on illegal properties and secondary suites just like the City has already done in other neighbourhoods,” she explained. “They put caveats on properties in fancy neighbourhoods when they have things like illegal garage suites. If the City asks them to close it down, and they won’t close it down, the City will put a caveat on their property. How it works is when those people sell that house they can’t sell that house with an illegal garage suite. It won’t go through land titles, and people can’t buy it with that caveat on there.
“In a fancy neighbourhood the City will come down like that, but they won’t come down that way in neighbourhoods (like Westminster),” McLean said.
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