The Quality Inn in North Red Deer has received the rezoning needed to convert into apartments — despite a neighbour’s concern it could draw “riffraff.”
Megan Barrett, who lives in the Normandeau neighbourhood, adjacent to the hotel at 7150-50th Ave., is worried the former North Hill Inn could become low-income housing, reducing surrounding property values and creating a risk for children and families.
Barrett spoke at a public hearing on Tuesday, and also sent city council a letter expressing concern about “riffraff” moving into the area. She said this could make it unsafe for area residents, as well as boost noise, pollution and drug use.
The rezoning “will change the dynamic of our close and safe community we have now,” she added.
At the same public hearing, John Mar, a representative for the hotels owners, spoke in favour of the rezoning. He told council an “economic crisis” created by the pandemic has caused great hardship in the hotel industry, which now needs “as much flexibility as is possible” to survive.
Mar stressed there’s no truth to community rumours that the homeless shelter could be brought to the hotel.
Instead, the quest for C5 zoning, instead of the current C4, is to create a multi-family redevelopment, he added. It would allow the 114-room hotel to be converted, or partially converted, into multi-family apartments while retaining existing commercial uses on the site.
Council heard that the area could benefit from having more of a commercial-residential mix. A report from senior planner Christi Fidek states the new mixed-use residential zoning would be compatible with surrounding uses, promoted more diversity in this area and aligns with city policies.
Several councillors said they heard and empathized with Barrett’s concerns, but did not believe these would necessarily materialize. “Sometimes we worry about what might be” whenever a change is proposed, said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, when the reality is less worrisome than our fears.
Wyntjes was among several councillors who noted that Red Deer badly needs more housing options.
Coun. Bruce Buruma was also among those on council who were optimistic about how the rezoning would turn out. “I have faith the developer wants to be a good neighbour,” he said.
Although council unanimously approved the rezoning, Mayor Ken Johnston noted that neighbours will have other opportunities to voice concerns at the development permit level. This could lead to getting certain conditions placed on the re-development.