Proposed Hunt Club retirement home would cause traffic torment, residents say
8-storey, 145 unit residence would only be accessible from eastbound lanes of Hunt Club Road
- Planning committee approved Claridge's application for a retirement home and a hotel on Jan. 23.
- If Claridge wants to build an apartment instead of a hotel, it must conduct a new traffic study.
- Council approved the application on Jan. 31. Councillors Brockington, Deans and Egli dissented.
People who live near the intersection of Hunt Club Road and the Airport Parkway say the proposed development of a retirement home and hotel at that intersection could grind traffic to a halt.
About 30 people attended a public meeting about a Claridge Homes proposal to build a 145-unit, eight storey retirement residence at the intersection's southwest corner.
The development includes 16 above-ground and 22 underground parking stalls for cars.
Consultants for Claridge said between 10 and 20 cars would be entering or exiting the development per hour during the peak of weekday afternoon rush hour.
However, the site is only accessible by right turns from Hunt Club Road's eastbound lanes because there's a median.
That would require some people to make U-turns at McCarthy Road and Downpatrick Road to get in the eastbound lanes to enter the site, or at Dazé Street and Bridle Path Drive to head west after exiting.
Paul Norris said he regularly makes U-turns at Downpatrick to visit in-laws at their retirement home and he's seen too many close calls.
He said the situation only gets worse with buses, cyclists and pedestrians.
"To me, it's weird building a site relying on U-turns, which are dangerous. The stats might not show it, but they are," Norris said.
Peter Brimacombe, a resident with the Hunt Club Community Organization, said it could lead to people attempting U-turns on the Airport Parkway where it's illegal.
"There will be more accidents on Hunt Club Road, right at this point," Brimacombe said.
"A serious accident basically stops Hunt Club Road for hours at a time. Traffic is backed up for miles in either direction."
Brimacombe wants the city to buy the land and keep anything from being developed there to keep traffic flowing on the east-west artery.
Jennifer Luong with Novatech Engineering Consultants said the retirement home's impact on traffic would only be a five per cent increase to the current load.
"It is another development along that stretch of road, for sure, but the current condition isn't one that is in the developer's control to significantly change," she said.
A hotel proposal, to be added at a later date, would attract about 80 vehicles trips per hour, she said.
'We can't stop developing a city'
Jim Burghout, a developer manager with Claridge, spoke to the meeting after being asked why the application hadn't changed to reflect an earlier meeting this spring.
"We meet with the public to listen to your comments, but I'm not going to sit here and say we're going to do everything you want," he said.
"If we did what you want, we wouldn't be in business, because most people don't want development."
Burghout said the idea of getting a signalized intersection from the city would be a non-starter.
"It's a terrible reality in this city that streets are overloaded, intersections are always — at certain points in the day — very busy and you have to wait three or four lights to get through. We get that, everybody gets that," he said.
"We can't stop developing a city, especially in a case like this where we can't rebuild Hunt Club Road. What we have to do is try to do this as sensitively as possible."
'Red flag' for councillors
The proposal requires an amendment to the official city plan, which currently designates the area for low density housing.
The site straddles the wards of councillors Riley Brockington and Diane Deans, who co-hosted the meeting. Both expressed reservations about the proposal citing traffic concerns.
"It's a retirement home, if there's an emergency and a paramedic is needed, it's a very awkward manoeuvre in many of the directions to enter or exit," Deans said.
"That's a red flag for me."
Brockington said he is raising the idea of a median cutaway with the city's planning department, but he's skeptical.
"I think the U-turns are a very bad idea," Brockington said.
"I use those intersections as well and I think if you're going to propose a development of this size and just say 'Well folks can do U-turns,' I don't accept that."
Brockington said people should continue to send in their comments on the proposed development, which is expected to go to the city's planning committee in about six months.