Old Town day care passes first hurdle

City council voted in favour of considering a day-care centre in the only all-residential area downtown, despite continued protests from virtually…

City council voted in favour of considering a day-care centre in the only all-residential area downtown, despite continued protests from virtually all neighbourhood residents.

On Monday, council voted 3-2 in favour of allowing property owner Lori Austin to move forward on her bid to rezone 710 Jarvis Street.

“I’m going to support it to get it to first reading so that the proponent has every opportunity that she can to have the process heard,” said acting mayor Dave Austin, noting for the record he was in no way related to Lori Austin.

“She’s lucky,” he added with a grin.

Lori Austin purchased the house in May with the intention of turning it into a day-care centre.

(The building had been used as a drug house under the previous owner.)

However, as the Old Town property is zoned residential, Austin was forced to apply to the city for a zoning change before she can open for business.

Jarvis Street resident Dean Tower presented a petition to council on Monday opposing Austin’s rezoning application and signed by “almost every household within a block of every side of 710 Jarvis.”

The only exception being two residents who were away and one who “just moved in and didn’t know the issue,” said Tower.

“With the petition showing the total solidarity of our community, we would urge the city council again to deny this request for the spot zoning of 710 Jarvis.”

Residents opposing the day care say it would cause increased traffic and more dust from the gravel on Eighth Avenue, as well as noise pollution, lack of parking space and a loss of “vibrancy,” “attractiveness” and a “sense of community.”

Having a house vacant at night would create a security risk and invite more crime, said Tower.

“The residents of Old Town are not taking this lightly, nor are we speaking out of our hats on this issue,” he said.

“We’re very aware of what a business venture does to our neighbourhood.”

Councillors Dave Stockdale and Bev Buckway opposed the motion to go to first reading.

“It was the area residents and the plans in town that said this is a downtown residential area,” Stockdale said.

“We’ve discussed it lots of times together about what the citizens want in that particular area and they do not want commercial development, so I’m totally opposed to this.”

Lori Austin doesn’t understand why everyone keeps talking about commercial development.

“I’m not going for commercial zoning at all and that seems to be what people are thinking,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

She referred to the section “Residential Downtown 1,” in the city regulations for zoning bylaw 2006-01.

The principal uses for this type of zoning are single-detached housing, duplex housing, and parks.

Also included is a list of 10 conditional uses, including bed-and-breakfast lodgings, group homes, shelter services and religious assemblies.

One of the conditional uses is child-care services.

“From my understanding, RD1, which 710 Jarvis is a part of, is not just (about) single-detached houses,” said Austin.

“They say the area’s supposed to be only single-detached, one family per house, but that’s not what their bylaw says.

“So if that’s not what they mean they should change it.”

Buckway opposed the motion because the building was too small for a day care, she said.

The lot, at 465 square metres, is nearly half the size required for a day-care centre under the Child Safety Act.

However, the city has set a condition for the proposed day care so it could not hold more than 32 children — half the number who would be allowed in a standard day care.

“If I have half the lot size, then I’m willing to go half the children or even less than that,” said Austin.

“Even 20 children.

“I said I’m very flexible with the numbers — I could have a day home in there with 12 kids and use one floor.

“I feel like a huge child-care centre is what they’re envisioning and that’s not the case,” she said.

A public hearing will be held on August 14th.

Austin said if the rezoning application doesn’t make it through the bylaw-amendment process, she has no plans to sell her Jarvis Street house.

“I’ll just rent it out,” she said.

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