If the adage “bums in seats win council votes” is true, there certainly won’t be a new day-care centre at 710 Jarvis Street.
The seats at city hall were nearly full on Monday evening — chock-a-block with Old Town residents opposed to Lori Austin’s proposal for a day care in their downtown residential neighbourhood.
“I’ve been living there for 26 years; I am opposed to changes to the zoning bylaw and of the downtown plan, which was just passed after three years of hard work, and of a spot zoning in a residential neighbourhood,” said Rene Carlson.
“I was told that there would be no business conducted in the area,” said Ken Besler.
“The proposed venture is just not reasonable for that particular lot,” said Tamar Vandenberghe.
“I know it will affect the quality of life; it will affect the enjoyment of my privacy and ultimately I think it would affect the value of my property,” said Jacinthe Labrecque.
“I bought my property … because it was a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood and I would very much like to keep it this way,” she said.
Last month, council voted in favour of allowing Austin to move through first reading on her bid to rezone her property.
The new proposed zoning is for “residential downtown one restricted,” which allows for a conditional use of a day care in the residential zone.
On Monday, seven residents spoke up against the application.
A list of written submissions to the city includes an additional five opposed residents.
Their reasoning: A day care means more traffic, more noise, less space for parking and that allowing this proposal will set a precedent for other businesses to move into the area.
“What other spot zoning proposals will come forth for consideration in the future?” asked Vandenberghe.
“And how will the planning department and city council justify refusal if amendments are made to allow this proposal to fly?”
On Monday, the only people to come to Austin’s defence in person were from her family.
“It’s been a tough crowd so far,” Austin’s sister, Jennifer Byram, told council.
“But the area where 710 Jarvis is located has been identified by your planning department and by your government as an area compatible for day-care centres.”
A few parents have already called Austin to be put on the waiting list, said Byram.
“There’s a great interest in it and for day cares to be in residential areas,” she said.
“Day cares do not mix well with high traffic and asphalt and concrete. Lori believes children belong in residential areas — this is why she looked at this neighbourhood.”
Austin’s daughter Haley also spoke up.
“A lot of people are making assumptions about what will happen but I don’t think that the existing day homes (in the area) have caused any problems, so I’m not sure why they think this particular one will,” she said.
Old Town currently has two “day homes,” which are home-based, child-care businesses and are limited to 12 children.
Outside of Old Town, the downtown area has only two full day-care centres: Creative Play Daycare and Downtown Days. Both are in commercial zones and are currently full.
On the city’s list of written submissions, three Old Town residents were listed as being in favour of the proposal.
One of them, Forest Pearson, owns a house across the street from 710 Jarvis Street. He’s been living in the area for the past nine years.
“It would be better if there could be child cares closer to where people work,” Pearson said on Tuesday.
“It would be inconvenient for us, but I don’t think you should just think of yourself,” he said.
“If you think of overall environmental impact, if a day care was, say, in Riverdale and a family lived in Porter Creek, they would drive to Riverdale, drop off the kid, and drive back downtown. That would mean more traffic.”
Patrick O’Connor has been living a block from 710 Jarvis for the past six years.
He says some of the neighbourhood’s character is evaporating and being displaced by young professionals who don’t have children.
“(A day care) would encourage more families to move into the neighbourhood,” he said Tuesday.
“It would become a real neighbourhood — a family neighbourhood.
“And it would be safe for the kids,” he added.
City council faces a difficult decision, Mayor Ernie Bourassa said Tuesday.
“There are arguments on both sides that we have to take into account and it will just be interesting to see how everybody votes,” he said.
“There are obviously some people that are against it and I can sympathize with their points of view, but I can also understand that we do need day-care spaces in the community.
“The choice is whether this is the appropriate location.”
Council will make its decision on August 28th.