Councillor Brian Kelly said it was the most difficult decision he’s faced in his six months on council.
Kelly was referring to his support for a proposed land rezoning that would allow a developer to build a small-scale commercial site near the intersection of 94 Street and SouthPointe Blvd.
The rezoning is meant to bring SouthPointe and Sienna residents more shops and services within walking distance. Convenience stores, hair salons, day care centres and health clinics are all on the list of permissible uses of the site.
A handful of citizens were at Tuesday's (Apr.24) council meeting to speak against the proposed change, citing noise, traffic and safety concerns, but council passed the rezoning 6-1, with only councillor Deanna Lennox voting in opposition.
Crystal Faraschuk, who lives about four houses down from the site in question, launched an online petition to stop the rezoning. She also attended the council meeting to share her concerns. One major issue, she said, was the safety of children attending the nearby SouthPointe elementary school having to walk past the commercial site. She also pointed to the possibility of the new site lowering property values and bringing too much traffic to the area.
Faraschuk said that when she bought her house in 2012, the builder told her she would be surrounded by greenery and parks. She said she did her homework when buying, including making phone calls to the city, but never found out that a potential commercial site was so close to her new home.
Kelly pointed out that 94 Street is a main arterial road and that higher traffic volumes are to be expected in the area. He also sympathized with homeowners unable to get clear information about neighbourhood development, saying that the area structure maps are not necessarily easy to understand.
“I would like to encourage our administration and our local realtors and our local developers and our local homebuilders to please get a unified package of information together for prospective homeowners,” he said. “It's not fair to assume that everybody is a civil engineer or a city planner when you're buying a home. So if we've got the plans available, let's make them simple. Let's make them obvious.”
In supporting the rezoning, Mayor Gale Katchur pointed out it was in compliance with the Southfort area structure plan, which designates the site as a neighbourhood service node.
"How can you vote against something that is in compliance?” she said.
Faraschuk said that in the future, she would like to see neighbourhood information passed to the builder, with the builder responsible for sharing it with the homeowner.