Courtenay council has again asked staff for more information before considering a development permit application for a residential building at 1600 Riverside Lane, which would border 17th Street and the Courtenay Riverway Trail.
Last month, council voted 4-3 against issuing a permit. Those opposed were David Frisch, Wendy Morin, Melanie McCollum and Will Cole-Hamilton, who questioned the affordability of the proposed rental rates.
At the Dec. 6 meeting, Frisch moved an option to defer consideration of the permit with variances, pending receipt of further information. He was supported by Morin, McCollum and Cole-Hamilton. Mayor Bob Wells, and Couns. Doug Hillian and Manno Theos opposed the motion.
“I think it will be a very useful development that will provide more residential accommodation in the centre of the city,” said Hillian, who thinks it is important to send signals to the development community that council follows the policy that is in place. “We have in fact changed the policy in relation to variances, but that has happened after the fact in relation to this application.”
The applicant says five of the proposed 50 units will be dedicated as affordable. The calculation of rental rates will be based on 30 per cent of gross household income levels in BC Housing’s annual Housing Income Limits (HILs). Under this formula, rates for a one bedroom or less would be capped at $987.50.
The proprietors, appearing before council Nov. 15, said the price point for a studio suite would range from $895 to $925 a month.
Cole-Hamilton feels that lumping one bedrooms and studios together doesn’t work, as per the HILs formula, which worked for one bedrooms at 801 Ryan Rd.
“The challenge here is that the units that are offered are studios,” he said. “I do have difficulty seeing this as an amenity, given that currently it does not provide any reduction in the anticipated rent for any of the units which are offered.”
McCollum questions the value of allocating five studio suites as affordable, if an agreement would be setting a cap higher than the market rate. She also notes a parking reduction of 40 per cent.
Frisch suggested to “bring your A game for development,” and to bring some amenities forward.
“I think the simple solution here is to put this price cap on one bedroom units, but offering a higher cost for a unit than you’re currently charging for doesn’t strike me as an amenity,” Frisch said.
The applicant, Rick Browning, said a chain of emails with the city provided clarity in the process.
“We reacted to that and provided that information on a timely basis,” Browning said. “For us it’s complicated, because in other communities we use that formula.”