Some Old Town residents are up in arms about Lori Austin’s bid to open a day-care centre in their neighbourhood.
This is no big surprise.
After all, the section of the city extending west of Sixth Avenue to the escarpment between Wood and Cook streets, is supposed to have a “low density, single family character” and “quiet, peaceful and non-commercial environment.”
So says the newly-crafted Downtown Plan.
And some aspects of Austin’s proposal for a day-care centre on the corner of Jarvis Street and Eighth Avenue just don’t seem appropriate.
Like having 32 vehicles driving through the area to drop off and pick up 32 kids every weekday.
Or finding space for both parents and employees to park.
But there is a disturbing theme running through the reaction of those troubled Old Town residents who oppose the day care.
This is the belief that Austin had no right to make her zoning amendment application and she should not be permitted to go through a political process that involves the careful consideration of our elected officials.
Under the current bylaw regulations, child-care services are listed as one of 10 conditional uses for areas zoned “Residential Downtown 1.”
And that’s what Old Town is.
“If (the Downtown Plan) tends to emphasize a single-detached housing component of Old Town, it doesn’t necessarily preclude there being a neighbourhood facility in there because that’s part of a sustainable and complete neighbourhood to be able to provide services to it,” said senior city planner Mike Gau.
Council has an obligation to consider Austin’s application, provided it meets specific conditions.
Those conditions were met, and councillors have since decided to let Austin’s application pass first reading.
This was not necessarily because they thought a day care in Old Town was a good idea, but because it would give Austin a fair chance to go through the process.
It also allows council an opportunity to discuss the issue with the community before making a final decision.
They will, for instance, be able to hear from those Old Town residents who think having a day care in the neighbourhood is a good idea:
Those who say that having more children in an area will make the community vibrant.
Those who say having more children and parents in a neighbourhood will be a deterrent to crime.
Or those who feel that day-care centres need to be moved from commercial areas back into neighbourhoods.
And, of course, there are residents who cannot even find a place for their kids because all other downtown day cares are full.
Once council has received all the input from its constituents, it can make an informed decision on what is best in the long-term interest of the city.
It can even offer compromises.
Austin has already said she is willing to lower the number of kids from 32 to 20.
And she has said she would go as low as 12.
Other compromises have already been suggested, such as the employees having to park off the street.
In a letter published in The News, a Jarvis Street couple made a suggestion.
“Perhaps it is time to start a petition and ask city council to remove several of the conditional uses from our (Residential Downtown 1) zoning,” they wrote.
“Almost all of them are clearly incompatible with peaceful residential living.”
Perhaps they are.
But until these rules are changed, they must be followed.
That’s council’s job, and that’s democracy. (RJM)Everybody deserves the right to due process