Developer sticks with four-storey design despite objections

Submitted photo A proposed 36-unit residential development, with commercial space, is moving its way through the planning approval process in Saint Andrews despite public concerns over height.

SAINT ANDREWS – A four-storey commercial and residential development proposed for Water Street is moving ahead through the planning approval process in Saint Andrews despite public concerns over the proposed height of the building.

Developer John Rocca presented Saint Andrews council recently with an updated design for the project to be built at 256 and 260 Water St. The new design featured a new look for the building – the developer decided against using brick in order to make the infrastructure fit in more with its surroundings – but the proposed height of the project remained the same, despite it not conforming with the similar heights of other surrounding buildings on the street.

“That fourth floor that we do need does not really impact the streetscape,” said Rocca, who noted the design is not finalized yet.

In addition to concerns over the potential overshadowing of smaller houses, the project, which is expected to add 36 new apartments and new commercial space to the historic main street of Saint Andrews, has faced a variety of other concerns from the public. Those include fears the design of the building won’t fit into the landscape, the potential impact the property could have on neighbouring property values, and a potential increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic during construction, according to a town staff report.

In order for the project to move ahead, Bridle Path International Inc. – Rocca’s company – is seeking a height exemption of up to 12.2 metres, through an amendment to the secondary municipal plan, to allow for the construction of a four-storey building. That amendment has passed first reading, but it needs second and third readings from council to be finalized.

Saint Andrews will now start the process of creating a development scheme bylaw to put more parameters around the project for the developer. This will be done in tandem with the amendment approval process.

Alexander Gopen, senior planner of the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission, suggested that if council was going ahead with the four-storey height for the project, then it should also start the process to put a development scheme bylaw in place, echoing the suggestion of the planning advisory committee.

A development scheme bylaw will allow the town and developer to work on the terms and conditions of the project to address any suggestions or concerns from all parties, said town clerk Paul Nopper. During this process, the developer can back out any moment if they wish to, he added.

During his presentation, Rocca said a soil analysis will be required to check on whether underground parking can be installed on the property.

“If that’s not possible, we don’t believe that the project can be viable,” he said.

Town staff will now start work on the development scheme bylaw to align with the second and third readings of the secondary municipal plan amendment, Nopper said. All of these steps need to be wrapped up by mid-December under the planning approval process, he added, or the readings will have to begin from scratch.

The development scheme bylaw will need to through the planning process – a public presentation, a public hearing of objections, a review from the planning advisory committee and three readings of town council, he said.

Mayor Brad Henderson said the development scheme bylaw process “reopens public engagement, it gives us tools and mechanisms to specifically say what we would like to see happen based on feedback from the public as well.”

Although it takes things for council back “to square one,” Henderson said, “I think in this case it’s not a bad thing.”

By Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal