On Monday night, Saint John city council will be asked to approve a rezoning application to allow a $30 million Shannex campus-style living complex for seniors in Millidgeville.
The project will bring much-needed revenue to the city, but several nearby residents say it violates the new municipal plan, and could contribute to even more flooding in the area.
Bill Butler was one of three neighbours of the property at an April council meeting where councillors quickly declared the parcel of city land surplus — paving the way for Shannex to put its development on the table.
'We certainly had no shortage of items to consider. That's the difficult part.' —Morgan Lanigan, chair, Saint John Planning Advisory Committee
He said the boggy area "is obviously a wetland" and points to a directive in the new municipal plan that calls on the city to preserve ecological systems.
Under "Directions for Growth" Plan SJ says:
- (Direction 6) "Saint John actively stewards ecological systems through preservation, restoration and enhancement."
- (Direction 9) "Saint John has the courage to stick to the municipal plan during both prosperous times and difficult times."
Planning Advisory Committee approved Millidgeville development
The rezoning of the property has already been approved by the city's planning advisory committee.
PAC chair, Morgan Lanigan, said the development meets all of the required terms from a land use perspective, and that the parcel of land is not designated wetland.
He said the committee heard the concerns from neighbours, "from flooding, to light pollution, to privacy concerns, to traffic issues."
"We certainly had no shortage of items to consider," said Lanigan. "That's the difficult part."
"It’s a matter of reading the council policies required to observe and listen to the public clearly, but to also give a fair hearing to the applicant because they do have a reasonable right to a fair hearing as well."
A 2010 consultant's report recommends putting berms around some of the property to allow it to be used as a stormwater detention pond to control flash-floods in the area.
Lanigan said the development wouldn’t go ahead if that issue wasn’t addressed.
Shannex now plans to build a 1.4 hectare pond as part of the project, and its levels will be controlled by city staff to reduce the danger of flooding.
The developer also agreed to lower the maximum height of the buildings from six stories to four stories, and to go along with some traffic and lighting measures suggested by city staff.
"I get the impression the developer wants to do nice project here," Lanigan said. "And I hope, from our perspective, with the conditions we put in place they’ll be able to do that."
Lanigan said the Plan SJ report identified the north end neighbourhood as an "intensification area" intended for future growth.
Shirley McAlary, a councillor-at-large who lives in the area, is in favour of the project.
She said it could generate more than $500,000 in property tax revenue annually once all phases are complete.
The project, if approved, will be similar to one now located in Quispamsis with five separate buildings ranging from "lifestyle apartments" to a nursing home.