Riverview committee OKs 10-storey towers as residents voice opposition
Proposed mixed-use building worth about $35M planned along New Brunswick's Petitcodiac River
Riverview's planning committee approved bylaw variances Wednesday for a 10-storey mixed-use tower along the Petitcodiac River that's drawn opposition ever since plans were revealed in late March.
Residents at the meeting said the project represented a "fundamental change" to the character of the New Brunswick town of 20,000, while others touted the boost it would provide to town tax revenue.
Cordova Realty Ltd. is proposing two eight-storey towers with 150 residential units rising from a two-storey podium of retail space and above-ground parking.
The committee unanimously approved five variances of town planning bylaws.
They include reducing the required streetside setback from 4.5 metres to zero, building within 30 metres of the Petitcodiac River, increasing allowable building height from four to 10 floors, the location of some required landscaping, and reduction of the required landscaping buffer at the edges of the property.
Ron Lord, Cordova's vice-president of development, said it's a project valued in the mid-$30 million range. He said growth in Greater Moncton means the area is ready for more developments like the one proposed by the company for Riverview.
"It's really going to help the downtown businesses that are already there thrive," Lord said.
Kaitlyn Lacelle, an urban planner with the town, said the proposal fits with the intent of the town's bylaws and plans to create a more vibrant downtown.
But several residents opposed the project.
John Godfrey, owner of the Homestead Restaurant just east of the proposed development, said the variance in allowed height is significant.
"Does this set the precedent? What's next?" Godfrey said in an interview after the vote. He said he's not sure how it would affect his business and felt plans were rushed through without sufficient public consideration.
Godfrey was one of about two dozen people that attended the meeting, including members of town council.
David Campbell, chair of the town's planning committee, pointed to the turnout after Godfrey spoke.
"We don't seem to have that many people showing up tonight, maybe there's not that much concern," Campbell said.
One speaker cited an online petition calling for the town to reconsider the plans. It had received about 1,100 signatures at the time of the meeting.
Cathy Beardsworth, who lives about three blocks away from the proposed development, said it would be good for the town's riverfront and could boost residential density in the town.
"I think it's far better than having another fast food place," Beardsworth said in an interview. "It looks like it's going to be high end, lots of consideration of design. I think it's going to enhance the waterfront, not detract from it."
Dave Cudmore, a former town councillor and mayor, said the town needs the tax revenue the project would generate to fund services like the fire department, police and streets.
Mayor Ann Seamans attended the meeting and told reporters after the vote the project isn't a done deal.
She said the town would place a number of conditions on the project before construction is approved, including an agreement on sidewalk snow clearing, integrating public art and receiving provincial approval to build close to the river.
"Unfortunately there's an awful lot that has to be done before it's a done deal," Seamans said. "We hope that all goes positive for the developer, but there's no guarantees."
The town must also negotiate a sale agreement with the developer for the Chocolate River Station land.
Shane Thomson, Riverview's director of economic development, said Cordova approached the town with an unsolicited offer to buy the land late last year. Town council was briefed at a private meeting in February and instructed staff to negotiate a purchase and sale agreement.
The plans call for demolition of the Chocolate River Station. Thomson said the town spent about $2 million to renovate former fire hall in 2008.
That's left David Briggs unsure what will happen to his business, Briggs Maples Ltd., which has been a tenant in the building for nine years. If he needs to move, he said it may be to a location outside the town.
"I'm all for change and growth," Briggs said before the meeting. "Whether it's good or bad for the town, the town will decide that. Whether it's good for me, we'll see."
Concerns about building along the muddy riverbank were raised at the meeting. Lacelle, the town planner, said the developer will carry out detailed geo-technical work at the site if the project goes ahead.
The project also requires a provincial permit to build within 30 metres of a waterway. Lacelle said the building would be more than 30 metres from the river, but the surface parking lot at the back and landscaping would be within that zone.
The plans would retain the waterfront boardwalk as well as the parking lot where the Buddha Bear Riverview sells beer and coffee.