Old Fort Saskatchewan was under the spotlight at a recent council meeting.
A vocal group of downtown Fort Saskatchewan residents attended Tuesday’s (Apr.10) meeting to speak against a proposed lot rezoning in their neighbourhood. Some of the group were visibly pleased, breaking out into applause, when council defeated the motion 5-2.
Under the proposed rezoning, a single lot on 107th Street would have been divided in half to allow for the construction of two new infill homes. The city held an open house on the matter in January, where 15 of 18 comment sheets submitted were opposed to the lot division.
The opposition continued at council, where a dozen people voiced their thoughts on why the rezoning would be a bad idea. Some opponents said it would set a precedent, paving the way for higher density development that would change the character of the neighbourhood. Jon Fluker, who has lived in the area for 17 years, said the rezoning would cause the loss of a unique part of Fort Saskatchewan that could never be replaced.
Not all residents of the neighborhood were against the rezoning. Veronica Barton, whose house is adjacent to the property up for division, said she supports infill development. She pointed out that sprawl is not sustainable and that the city is going to have to figure out a way to pursue infill. She also said the two new homes would bring more people to the heart of Fort Saskatchewan.
Councillor Deanna Lennox appreciated the chance to hear from concerned residents.
“I think it was great to have people who come out and let council know what's on their mind,” she said. “Whether it was in favour or opposed, I think the people that came last night presented their points very well and it was a great opportunity for me to be able to hear firsthand from people who lived in the neighbourhood.”
Mayor Gale Katchur and councillor Gord Harris supported the proposal, with Harris pointing out that change in the historic neighbourhood is inevitable.
"It's not a question of if. It's a question of when. Mature neighbourhoods redevelop,” he said. "Eventually the age of this neighbourhood will suggest to me that from a planning perspective and a market standpoint it will happen."
Speaking against the rezoning, councillor Ed Sperling said that additional consultation with residents and city administration is needed before redevelopment of the Old Fort area proceeds.
"I think we need to spend some time in developing an area plan for that unique old part of Fort Saskatchewan,” he said.
According to the city, the Old Fort area has the most diverse housing values of any neighbourhood and is also home to the oldest houses in the city.
In its report to council, administration said that the proposed rezoning aligned with policies aimed at creating appropriate infill, and that the new construction would be in character with existing development.