A proposal to accept ‘cash in lieu’ of providing required parking stalls in a new marina development proved the breaking point for Sylvan Lake councillors Monday night.
They defeated a recommendation to approve the development application by a vote of 4-3. Mayor Sean McIntyre and councillors Graham Parsons and Chris Lust voted in favour of approval while councillors Matt Prete, Megan Chernoff, Dale Plante and Jas Payne voted against.
The proposal was to create 25 row houses on the marina property and maintain the existing commercial building. The proposed three storey buildings would be 36 feet in height.
Approval was previously granted for a 40 unit condominium building of four storeys and 62 feet in height. That approval remains in effect until a new proposal is approved or the two year period of the approval expires.
Through a complex set of calculations, town staff determined the new proposal was deficient by 11 parking stalls and proposed the town accept $5,500 per stall from the developer to be used to provide parking elsewhere in the area.
This troubled councillors who spoke against the proposal. Prete said if the town took the cash they’d be accepting responsibility for providing the parking. They’ve already taken responsibility for providing parking for trucks and trailers of people launching boats from the marina, he indicated. “I’m not prepared to take any more responsibility for providing parking stalls for that development. For $60,000, trying to find parking down there is not worth it. Developers have a right to develop but we have to balance the public interest.”
Another part of the equation suggested a relaxation on the need for one parking stall for each of the 174 boat slips. Based on research of other communities when the first approval was granted, and a condition of that approval, town staff proposed granting a relaxation of parking for the marina to require one stall for every two boat slips.
In the view of Plante, the biggest issue is parking and the relaxation of 2-1 on marina parking. He proposed that rather than a 50 per cent relaxation, the marina parking requirement be relaxed by 25 per cent. He agreed with fellow councillors on the deficient 11 parking stalls Ñ that they should be provided on the site.
“I find it hard to believe it’s adequate to have one parking stall for two boat slips,” he said. “The intention is to have all the boat slips sold.” He suggested that would lead to more people travelling to the marina to use their boats.
Chernoff wasn’t concerned about the marina parking but was against accepting cash for the 11 stalls.
Parsons supported the proposal. He indicated it’s significantly smaller than the previous proposal, providing less height and more view corridors to the lake. He felt staff had done lots of research and a good job protecting the town’s interests. “I’m in favour of it.”
“When a proposal came up a few years ago two main problems were parking and massing (size of building),” said McIntyre. “When we talk about a happy medium, 36 feet feels like a happy medium. I’m happy to see a second proposal with 25 units rather than 40, that’s less impact on traffic.”
Payne added, “we want to strongly encourage development without encouraging more problems. This is a wonderful development being proposed but it’s going to create problems for us, we don’t want problems. We need to hold firm the idea that cash is not going to help us find parking spots. They have to have sufficient parking.”
Following defeat of the motion to approve the application, Al Laplante, representing Sylvan Lake Harbour Ltd., and his associates, left council chamber, but councillors then began to wrestle with how to move forward.
McIntyre tried to find consensus on what it was councillors actually wanted from the developer.
They discussed asking the developer to provide the 11 stalls required on the site, on another site within a specific distance or somewhere adjacent to the marina.
“Considering that what we’re getting is significantly better than what’s been approved, I’m open to the possibility of reconsideration,” said Payne after discussion.
Plante said it’s unfortunate the process didn’t allow councillors to have a presentation from the developer to get an idea of the scope of the project and have their questions answered. But he continued to state, “I don’t believe we’re doing justice in getting just the 11 (additional) parking spots on this site. Fifty per cent is extreme in terms of relaxation. I’m trying to come up with something that’s more reasonable. When you add the 11 stalls that’s way over 60 per cent.” He also noted that a lot of taxpayers up and down the street and on side streets would be inconvenienced by this relaxation.
In the end, Payne wavered and asked about rescinding the motion. When told it would take a unanimous vote if a motion to rescind was made at the same meeting, he served notice he’d bring the matter up at the next meeting Mar. 24. Councillors also asked for more information on how 11 stalls could be accommodated on or near the site, after spending close to 90 minutes debating the subject.