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It shouldn’t have been this close.
At its most recent meeting, Charlottetown city council passed by a 5-4 vote its first reading of a rezoning bylaw that would allow the construction of an 18-unit apartment building at 38 Palmers Lane in a vacant lot next to an existing 12-unit building. The bylaw still has to pass second reading.
It was only a month ago that council voted 6-3 in support of adding more apartment units on Upper Prince Street. Three councillors – Mitchell Tweel, Bob Doiron and Jason Coady – voted against both proposals.
They were joined by Julie McCabe in rejecting the Palmers Lane apartment building. In both cases, the city’s planning committee recommended against rezoning and residents didn't want the additional units to be built.
With Palmers Lane in particular, a group of residents didn't want another, and larger, apartment building being built because of increased traffic, housing density and the changing nature of their neighbourhood.
These are, at best, inconveniences. They certainly don’t outweigh the good that can come out of 18 new homes for Charlottetown residents, who are going to be contributing to our economy and community.
Let’s face it. The city is changing, neighbourhoods are changing, and residents need to adjust their thinking and change as well.
Coun. Greg Rivard shouldn’t have to keep reminding council and residents that the city is in a housing crisis. Quite simply, we need more housing.
One thing that stands out from these recent votes is that residents need a clear and consistent definition of public consultation.
Does public consultation mean public permission or is it a way to inform the public about a proposal and seek advice on how to proceed?
Councillors are acting under both definitions. The end result is that a lot of people are growing more and more disappointed with assuming it means public permission, and then not getting their way.
But the larger issue with these recent council decisions is the lack of a consistent vision within city council, the planning committee and city administration with respect to housing.
This doesn’t mean that everyone should agree all the time about everything. Debate and disagreement are healthy for a democracy.
But it’s concerning that the planning committee and a handful of city councillors aren’t putting a higher priority on housing.
Let’s remember that none of our elected councillors in the November municipal election ran on an anti-housing platform.
So, why then do we have councillors voting against housing developments?
They may say that they’re not opposed to housing, but actions are speaking louder than words.
Next election, we need to pay closer attention to what candidates are saying about housing so we don’t have a repeat of this ongoing struggle on council to do the right thing.