In a letter to the editor headlined “Council only paying lip service to public input,” published on Feb. 27, the writer expressed displeasure at Sidney council’s purported dismissal of concerns raised by property owners who objected to a housing project’s setback variance. At issue, a proposed 16-unit development on the southeast corner of Fifth Street and Malaview.
To the writer’s dissatisfaction, the motion passed. Among her remarks, the writer asserted, “council was interested …only in ‘ticking a box’ to indicate public consultation.”
I believe this criticism overlooks important context.
For the sake of transparency, I wasn’t at the council meeting in question. And frankly, I am not a personal fan of the builder in question.
To the point, however, while it is not a rubber stamp for change, Sidney’s new official community plan (OCP) serves as a vital guide to council when making zoning decisions. Inarguably, the creation of the OCP involved extensive public consultation. Clearly, the neighbourhood in question is slated for higher-density housing.
Further, Fifth Avenue – from Beacon Avenue to Malaview – has a self-evident, decades-long history of multi-family housing. This includes a brand new, purpose-built rental building located directly next door to the subject property. Adding another half-dozen townhomes will not materially change this street’s residential mix.
As everyone knows, adding more stock is the only way to address the housing shortage crisis.
Perhaps more importantly, it is important to bear in mind that councillors work similarly to a board of directors. It is council’s job to make decisions in the best interest of the community, not by committee. Just because one or more citizens take umbridge with a development, doesn’t mean their objection will halt a project or change its course.
In such cases, neighbours have options. This can include moving to a part of town where high-density housing is not part of the OCP, for example. In considering this tactic, property owners have a chance to profit by selling to developers seeking to build homes in a part of town where council, through public input, has agreed to accommodate multi-family housing.