Last night the Council Chambers were filled to the rafters with people waiting for their opportunity to have their voice heard with regards to the proposed development at 4010 Walters.
Those in opposition spoke to a bevy of issues surrounding parking, safety along Voght for pedestrians, increased traffic on Voght and the side streets, and the current state of the Bench Elementary School.
Citizens on hand to speak in support of the development stuck to one key point, the lack of rental housing in Merritt.
For over an hour Merrittonians rose from their seats to address to Council and share their views.
“I’m going to speak, in no surprise, in favour of the motions that we’re going to be looking at tonight,” began Councillor Tony Luck. “I’m going to support this, as we’ve heard from a number of people here tonight, we are in bad need for residential housing in the City. That is all over the Province, we have not been able to keep up to the need for housing. Just because that’s the way we were 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean that’s how we need to be today, we need to be different today. This Council was elected for change. Ladies and gentlemen this is one of the toughest decisions we’ve had to make to date. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be hard, we might take some harassment on this one. But, this is a decision we have to make for the benefit of the community moving forward.”
“I have to echo many of the same sentiments (as Councillor Luck). Years ago, another applicant had looked at putting a grocery store there, which was turned down, and a lot of the residents weren’t in agreement with any commercial development then,” said Councillor Adam Etchart. “That lot could sit empty for a number of years or we could solve a problem for a number of our residents by providing housing. I think we have to make a wise decision for the greater benefit of the community and provide a solution for a lot of people.”
“When these residents talk about the value of their property decreasing because of an apartment building, I think they should be considering themselves lucky that it is an apartment building and not a six-story hotel. The property would be zoned properly for it, so I think their property would decrease a whole lot with a six-story hotel opposed to an apartment building that is part of the residential landscape,” said Councillor Melvina White. “I think I have to support this.”
“I did want to note about the concern of children living on the highway, the opposite side of the street on Voght is all residential already, so I don’t see that as an issue,” said Councillor Kurt Christopherson. “I do believe though that council needs to look very carefully at the highway access issue.”
“One of the foundation principals of the OCP is that it is our vision, it’s a plan and direction of where we want to go and we have to be flexible to move in that direction,” said Mayor Linda Brown. “I want to state that we will be getting revenue from this building, in terms of increased taxation to the City. I as well am more than willing to look at the need we have in the City for housing in general. We have a crisis with housing and then add to that we have a crisis with affordable housing. We have to vote with our hearts, and this is a tough decision for some.”
In the end Council passed the motion through third reading by a vote of 6-1. Mike Bhangu was the lone Councillor in opposition.
Council did agree to the need to look into the traffic issue and into a possible parking permit for those living on the surrounding streets.
The OCP and zoning amendments will now return to the council table at an upcoming meeting for final adoption.
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