Armstrong’s chief administrative officer maintains the city complied with the statutory requirements to legally rezone a property behind Memorial Park to make way for a proposed affordable housing development after being legally challenged by a local greenspace group.
Kevin Bertles said in a two-page release the city “will continue to comply with all legal requirements related to the proposed development of the properties going forward.”
“The City of Armstrong is aware that concerns have been raised in the community regarding whether the city has met its legislative obligations in the rezoning and redesignation of property behind the Nor-Val Arena for an affordable housing project,” said Bertles in regards to the city redesignating a 0.85-hectare portion of the property from park to multiple-unit residential.
Two lots on the property were rezoned from park and open space to the new multiple-unit residential zone.
Concern has been raised by the Armstrong Greenspace Society and city Coun. Jim Wright over the city’s handling of the situation. Wright is the only member of council opposed to the redesignation.
Wright said the need for affordable housing isn’t being questioned, but he’s opposed to the parkland location for development when he says there are other city locations available.
“The process of not holding a referendum question is being challenged,” said Wright. “Case law seems to support a referendum question and not removing parkland.”
Bertles said some members of the public mistakenly assume the redesignation of the property “seeks to take land that was, and is, parkland that was dedicated by bylaw,” and that the Community Charter governs changing parkland dedicated by bylaw and would require electoral approval.
Neither lot in question, said Bertles, are or were reserved or dedicated by bylaw as contemplated by Section 30 of the Community Charter.
“The city’s records indicate that the properties were acquired in 1964 as part of the lands assembled for the city’s sewer treatment plant,” said Bertles. “There is no indication that the city obtained the properties with the intention of using them as park or has developed or maintained the properties as park.”
Bertles also said there is no case law where a court has held that Section 30 applies as a result of the zoning or OCP designation for a property, or that the use or transfer of property is otherwise restricted in the manner some members of the public suggest, solely as a result of the property being zoned or designated for park purposes.
“It is our opinion that for section 30 to apply, council must have adopted a bylaw that explicitly dedicated or reserved the properties for park purposes,” he said. “There is no indication that this was done.”
The city received a legal challenge brought forward by Lindsay Thachuk and the Armstrong Greenspace Society, questioning the legality of the rezoning and redesignation of the properties for the purpose of providing affordable housing.
“The city sought legal advice on behalf of our residents and is assured, by our lawyers, that the city acted in accordance to the legislation as set out in the Community Charter,” said Bertles, adding “the city is pleased to be able to meet the affordable housing needs as identified in the recently adopted Housing Needs Assessment, and to bring the long-term strategic goals of council one step closer to fruition.”
The next steps, he said, include seeking a funding partner to supply affordable housing units in a grant rich environment, meaning that taxpayers will not be responsible for the capital costs of supplying this need for residents of Armstrong.