Kitimat council debates new rezoning proposal for small homes in Strawberry Meadows

A public hearing is scheduled for June 17 regarding a rezoning application in Strawberry Meadows requesting a six-house development on a single lot. (File photo)

Kitimat council is grappling with another contentious rezoning application that seeks to transform a traditionally single-family lot at 3 Blueberry Avenue, Strawberry Meadows, into a site for six small affordable houses.

At its regular meeting on May 6, council received the rezoning application from proponent Paul Anderson. The proposal involves subdividing the lot to allow for a more compact living arrangement, which Anderson believes will foster a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle while addressing the area’s need for affordable housing.

“By constructing smaller, more compact houses, we can reduce construction costs, making home ownership a reality for a larger segment of the population,” Anderson wrote in a letter to council.

“This provides an opportunity for individuals and families who would otherwise struggle to secure a decent, stable place to live.”

The application requires an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) and a rezoning from G3-B Strawberry Meadows to R3-D1 Low Density Multi-Dwelling Residential. This change would reduce the minimum lot size from approximately 1 acre to just 450 square metres per unit.

Currently, the land is zoned to allow for a single-family residence with up to two dwellings. The proposed R3-D1 zone would permit six units and various low-density housing types with a maximum height of nine metres.

The zone change also introduces conditions for bare land strata subdivisions, such as snow storage, refuse and recycling screening and visitor parking management.

The planning department confirmed that the water servicing for the lot can support the proposed six homes without costly offsite upgrades.

Staff recommended creating the new zone for the property and suggested a restrictive covenant to ensure no further expansion.

Adding complexity to the situation is the introduction of new provincial housing legislation, Bill 44. This legislation mandates that municipalities with more than 5,000 residents amend their zoning bylaws to allow up to four dwelling units on lots over 280 square-metres.

Kitimat must comply with this change by June 30.

With this in mind, Coun. Mario Feldhoff led the opposition to the proposal, arguing that the district should focus on allowing up to four units as prescribed by Bill 44.

“The province has essentially amended our OCP and adopted regulations that will allow the zoning to densify. I don’t think it’s appropriate to go through additional efforts, consultations, and the rest of it just to query whether residents want six new units built – I think four is adequate,” Feldhoff said.

Feldhoff’s motion to deny the application failed in a 3-4 vote.

Those in favour of advancing the application believe that regardless of the number of units, opposition in the neighbourhood is inevitable, and it is better to let the public process unfold to hear those voices.

Coun. Michelle Martins advocated strongly for the proposal in general, highlighting the urgent need for creative solutions to a housing crisis with no end in sight.

“This approach to housing may seem new to Kitimat, but we have neighbourhoods like Kildala and Nechako that have had more densified housing in the past. My heart goes out to the residents of Strawberry Meadows who feel their neighbourhood is changing, but communities have to be adaptable to be successful,” Martins said.

A public hearing is scheduled for June 17, ahead of the council’s third reading of the proposal, when residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions.

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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