A controversial housing development will not go ahead in Midway, where village council on Monday, June 21, rejected the developer’s bid to get around a zoning bylaw capping buildings at three storeys.
Rock Creek’s Gus Van Loenen in April applied for a development variance permit to build a five-storey condominium on his property on the 400-block of Lyall Street — over and above the three storeys permitted by Zoning Bylaw No. 464.
The proposed building was to hold 28 units, well within the 75 allowable units which could be built on that property according to village bylaws, according to a staff report.
“There’s a real need for this,” Van Loenen told The Times Monday afternoon, adding that his renovated four-plex on the property is fully rented out.
Staff agreed, recommending that council approve Van Loenen’s application.
But neighbouring property-owners Judy and Julian Willsey objected. In a three-page submission to council, the Willseys said the proposed building would obscure their backyard view while generally clashing with Midway’s rural character. Increasing the neighbourhood’s density would significantly add to noise and air pollution put out by more cars, they added.
“In our opinion, this is plopping an urban-sized apartment into a small town neighbourhood and it would look absurd,” they wrote.
Calling his project “a win-win,” for Midway, Van Loenen meanwhile noted that the project would employ local tradespeople on top of providing badly needed housing. Building higher as opposed to wider would leave more space for residents’ amenities like dog-walking areas and gardens, he told The Times.
Around 130 people had signed Judy Willsey’s petition against the zoning variance by the time council met Monday evening, she said.
Mayor Martin Fromme in an address to council and residents attending via Zoom explained that he couldn’t support Van Loenen’s application.
Calling zoning bylaws “a covenant” registering “an agreement between property owners and the village,” he stressed that it would “a breach of trust” for council to change them.
He then put forward a motion to deny the proposed variance.
Coun. Gary Schierbeck insisted that Midway needed more housing as well as the economic boost the project seemed to offer. “In 2021, we have to progress,” he said. “We can’t stand still. I think this is a positive thing for the village.”
The motion passed four to one, with Coun. Schierbeck voting against Mayor Fromme and Couns. Richard Dunsdon, Darrin Metcalf and Fred Grouette.