Rear view of duplex (contributed photo).

Red Deer developer seeks to turn duplex into accessible four-plex in Normandeau

Congestion concerns weighed against need for wheelchair-accessible housing

An applicant’s right to be heard came up as Red Deer city councillors considered a proposal to turn a duplex into a wheel-chair accessible four-plex in Normandeau.

A duplex was built in 2017 at 6719-59th Ave. But local developer Ed Larkcom, of Highcliffe Properties, is seeking to install two suites in the basement. Since the lot is zoned for semi-detached residential units, Larkcom is asking for a site exception.

Highcliffe Properties specializes in building wheel-chair accessible homes, which are proposed for this site. Larkcom said, after the council meeting, that there’s a “significant shortage” of these kinds of residences, even though the City of Red Deer is mandated to provide a reasonable amount of supportive housing.

City senior planner Christi Fidek noted this section of 59th Street has two four-plexes and three apartment buildings and two other duplexes already on it, and commercial developments across the street.

Two neighbours sent letters objecting to the four-plex proposal on grounds it would add to the street’s congestion. Concerns were raised about an increase in traffic in the area, caused by the additional tenants in the suites. The back lane was also described as being in poor condition and in need of maintenance.

“On a very frequent basis, people are parking on my property and blocking my access to my property,” wrote Tracy Halladay, who lives directly behind the duplex in question. “There are way too many duplexes/four-plexes/apartment buildings there already.”

Previous applications to intensify density on that property and next-door properties, were denied by city council or withdrawn by the applicants. But Fidek recommended that council support first reading of this site-exception.

Most of council voted in favour of it, so a public hearing will be held on July 23.

A few councillors had objections to the application, based on the information they heard. Coun. Frank Wong said he would only consider supporting a rezoning on the property, not a site exception, since it could set a precedent.

But Coun. Ken Johnston was among the majority that believes in allowing applications to go to the next step — a public hearing — so that the applicant and his neighbours have a chance to expand on their opinions and answer questions.

“I always hate to deny somebody the right to speak— and that can only occur if we approve first reading,” Johnston said.

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