Apartment spurs debate on parking, landscaping

A proposed multi-family building sparked a debate about downtown parking and landscaping during Red Deer municipal planning commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

A proposed multi-family building sparked a debate about downtown parking and landscaping during Red Deer municipal planning commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

Developer 3 2 Many Inc. was seeking the commission’s approval for a 12-unit building on the south side of 53rd Street.

The three-storey structure, which would consist of 11 two-bedroom suites and one with a single bedroom, is slated for two undeveloped lots between 48th and 49th avenues.

The application sought a significant reduction in the number of parking stalls required under the city’s land use bylaw, to 13 from 21.

A relaxation of the minimum front-yard setback, to 1.5 metres from the required 7.5 metres, was also requested.

Inspections and Licensing Department staff recommended that the project be approved, pointing out that the eight-hour parking metres along 53rd Street are currently underutilized and there are two nearby parking lots.

They also noted that the building is “aesthetically pleasing” and would further the goals of the Greater Downtown Action Plan with respect to diverse housing and a pedestrian-friendly environment.

But Coun. Buck Buchanan said he was concerned about the parking relaxation. He suggested that a smaller building with more parking might be in order.

Coun. Paul Harris took the opposite position, arguing that many downtown residents have one or no vehicles. He added that there are municipalities elsewhere in the world that limit parking in their downtowns, rather than require a minimum number of stalls.

“If the developers are willing to take the risk on it and say, ‘We think that we’re going to get tenants that have one car,’ then I’m OK with that.”

Harris also praised the design of the proposed building.

Other commission members also downplayed the significance of the parking relaxation, but criticized the absence of grass or trees in the plan.

“From the perspective of someone living there, I think it’s a sterile, hostile environment,” said Larry Thomsen, a citizen representative.

Development officer Vicki Swainson suggested that the treed boulevard in front of the site would help offset the lack of landscaping.

Peter Holloway, another citizen representative on the commission, also raised concerns about accessibility for handicapped residents and visitors.

Ultimately, the commission voted to table the application for up to four weeks so that solutions to the landscaping and accessibility issues could be explored.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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