By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
A rezoning bylaw that would have allowed for a potential residential care facility in Coaldale has been defeated.
A public hearing for the bylaw had taken place during Coaldale town council’s regular Feb. 10 meeting, which saw the room packed with people concerned about bylaw 773-P-01-20.
The bylaw would re-designate lands presently designated as “Country Residential One – CR-1” to “Residential – R-1A” in the Fieldstone Meadows subdivision to allow for the lands in question to be redesignated to a residential zoning that would have the applicants desired use within the discretionary uses for R-1A, Institutional Facilities and Uses. While a CR-1 zoning would allow for the discretionary use of things such as a child care facility and bed and breakfast, it does not allow for Institutional Facilities and Uses, which an R-1A zoning does. An R-1A zoning also allows for less of a setback for the front, secondary front and side yard, compared to CR-1.
The applicant for the rezoned land is proposing to build a micro seniors housing facility, which falls under the definition of a residential care facility in the town’s land use bylaw, which is the use of a building, or portion of a building, as a facility for which social, physical or mental care is provided to five or more persons who live in the facility and has at least one staff person at the facility at all times. The residential character of the development would be primary with the occupants living together as a single housekeeping group and using cooking facilities shared in common.
The facility would be located on a corner lot on 31st Avenue and 12th Street, in the Fieldstone Meadows neighbourhood.
The Seasons Area Structure Plan states that residential development should be the only form of development considered for the area.
The proposed residential care facility, according to administration, could be considered to meet the scope of development contemplated in the ASP.
Additional consideration may be given to Development Permit conditions that could help to ensure the operation of the care facility does not detract from the residential intent of the neighbourhood.
The proposed private facility would accommodate up to 12 residents who need DSL3 level care, and would have a staff member present at all times.
While there would be some parking on the site, it would be minimal as they do not anticipate the residents living there would drive.
According to Alberta Health Services, DSL3 is for those individuals who are medically and physically stable; are living with physical disability, mental health diagnoses, or mild dementia with no known risk of wandering, and who are not a risk to self or others; are able to move independently or with the assistance of one other person; may be experiencing increased healthcare needs that cannot be scheduled; and are able to use a call system to get help.
Douglas Bergen, a local developer who is developing the neighbourhood,speaking on behalf of the applicants, said that there was a need for this type of housing in Coaldale.
The town had received five written submissions from residents in the area, all opposing the rezoning. When given an opportunity to speak, several residents voiced concern over, among others, a lack of parking availability, road conditions in the area, lack of sidewalks in the area, traffic safety, snow clearing, staffing levels for the facility and the suitability of such a facility in the subdivision.
“I can appreciate that we have a need for another seniors complex in Coaldale, as the demand is greater than the beds that we have, I think this should be explored, but the proposed spot is just not the place for it I feel,” said Kathy Pitcher, a Coaldale resident who lives near the property in question. “When the weather is nice, (the residents of Sunny South Lodge) enjoy walking uptown to do their own errands. With this proposed location, it is almost two kilometres to downtown, which is too far, and the roads are not such that they can make it there. Another challenge of this location is this neighbourhood is Country Residential, as you know. It is not designed for a high-density residential complex. It was built without sidewalks and deep ditches.”
In his rebuttal, Bergen disagreed with the assertion that these facilities were suited to neighbourhoods such as Fieldstone Meadows, pointing to examples in places such as Picture Butte, Raymond and Magrath.
“I would challenge the fact that seniors couldn’t live in the same environment that the rest of us would like to live in, in a Country Residential development,” said Bergen. “I have showed you four examples, both new, historic, privately-owned and publicly owned facilities, all vetted by the authorities over seniors homes in the province. It is acceptable, it does exist, and it is local. These are not locations that are remote to Coaldale.”
The town was also criticized for a perceived lack of notification about the public hearing to the residents of the area, as many had only received word about submissions a few days before the deadline. Spencer Croil, director of planning and community development for the town, said that it was common feedback that planners receive.
“It can be misunderstood that if we don’t have your letter in time, then there is no point,” said Croil, adding he had clarified that anyone at the public hearing can speak on the matter earlier when he spoke earlier in the public hearing. “That is simply a date by which we can ensure that, as staff, we have written commentary in the staff report. It’s never intended to be a final cutoff date, several days before the hearing, where nobody can speak on the matter after that.”
Croil also noted that there is some misunderstanding that once a bylaw receives first reading, it is going to get approved.
“What first reading does is it gives the application life, and it allows us to forecast out where we’re going to be advertising. We have mandated periods of time in which we have to advertise and notify, and unfortunately, we’re relegated to relatively inefficient means to do that,” said Croil, adding those means are mail and newspapers.
After the public hearing closed, council returned to the bylaw later in the meeting. Several councillors stated that they would be voting against second reading of the bylaw, although they agreed they needed more facilities like this in town.
“I actually love this idea, I love the house itself,” said Simpson, noting that in the event members of her family need to go into a seniors facility they would prefer a smaller facility. “But unfortunately, I don’t love the location because of the lack of sidewalks.
“I really hope that going forwards, administration can work with the applicant to find a proper spot for this, because it is needed and I think it’s a great idea.”
Council unanimously defeated a motion to perform second reading on Bylaw 773-P-01-20. Council also unanimously passed a motion that join forward that administration work with the applicant in finding a location within the Town of Coaldale that would be more properly suited for the facility.