Prince George city council is moving forward with a controversial large development proposed in upper College Heights.
A New Westminster-based developer, Ridgecrest Development Group Inc., is looking to create a subdivision with more than 200 lots including a mix of single-family and multi-family homes on a 34-hectare area south of St. Lawrence Avenue.
The site is currently a mix of undeveloped residential land and greenbelt.
A site plan shows the proposed subdivision would be divided into two sections one with 70 lots and another with 150 lots, separated by a greenbelt area with a trail.
Following a public hearing, council has now approved amendments to redefine the area from parks and open space to neigbhourhood residential and preliminary approval for rezoning to allow for multi-family residential.
The city received 19 letters in opposition to the amendments. The correspondence included concerns over infrastructure, drainage, access and egress, traffic volumes, lack of park space, and school capacities.
Prior to the city seeking formal public input, the city also received a petition on May 10 in opposition of the application.
Particular concerns were also raised about the rezoning allowing multi-family housing in the neighborhood and the loss of greenspace, despite it being privately owned land.
“It is a catastrophe for this neighborhood for that green space to be rezoned to residential,” said Joyce Willows who called in during the public hearing. “Really we don’t have the greenspace that other communities have.”
The developer has proposed putting a covenant on the properties to include the addition of a trail network in order to preserve some of the greenspace, limiting the number of duplexes to 10, the number of townhouse units to 50 and that no building in the development is to have more than six units.
“Right now the housing in College Heights is predominantly single-family homes which leaves a large gap in housing options for households which have different incomes and lifestyle stages such as those who do not want to purchase a single-family home or those wishing to age in place but cannot right now due to lack of housing options,” L&M Engineering planner Ashley Elliott said during the developer’s presentation to council.
The property will be serviced via extension of existing sanitary, sewer and storm infrastructure along Southridge Avenue and Vista Ridge Drive. A services study was done and the city found that the property can be adequately serviced with nearby municipal water and sanitary sewer infrastructure.
A traffic impact study was also done and urged development on St. Patrick Avenue until an extension to Glen Lyon Way is made in a westerly direction. A four-way traffic stop to replace the existing two-way stop signs on Southridge Avenue is also recommended after the construction of approximately 350 dwelling units, but the development is 150-units less than this requirement.
“A big concern in the neighbhourhood is the traffic racing down the hill without having some kind of limitation,” said Stacy Larsen, during the public hearing.
Coun. Brian Skakun said he could not support the amendments or rezoning needed for this development.
“I emphathize with the neighbours here,” said Skakun. “I am challenged with this development; I am challenged with the presentation… The traffic is a nightmare and it’s only going to get worse so I won’t be supporting it.”
However, consensus from the rest of council noted the developer had adequately addressed the concerns raised and noted concerns also be mitigated throughout the processes of the development, which would be done in phases over the span of eight years.
“College Heights is an absolutely beautiful area of our city and it has grown exponentially in a short time and is a testament to how desirable the area is,” said Coun. Terri McConnachie. “I have had in the past calls from seniors and from all walks of life who cannot afford the single-family dwelling or don’t want to but don’t want to leave College Heights.”
She said the development would contribute to the long-term growth of the area.
“It is going to be good for the community and good for the whole community and provide a lot of varied housing. Some of the townhouses I have seen have been phenomenally built and what they are doing is impressive,” added Coun. Cori Ramsay, who noted she was sad for the loss of green space but it is privately held land so expecting it to be used as park space is unfair.
“It is great we are going to be getting trails that go through there and that does make up for some of the loss.”
Mayor Lyn Hall remarked on the unprecedented growth in the city, and added he was in support of the amendments but acknowledged the concerns raised.
“We do need to be cognizant of the fact we are going to have traffic issues in these new subdivisions,” said Hall. “We need to be prepared from a city and from a development perspective to enhance intersections to make them safer. It’s important that we hear the folks and we react to provide certain things in our new residential areas that are being developed.”
The amendments and rezoning will require final approval from city council before the next phase in the development process can begin.