Montague deputy fire chief Jock Beck addresses Three Rivers council during a special meeting Monday.
An affordable housing development in Three Rivers will go back to the planning board after residents raised concerns over fire safety and traffic.
Council was originally set to vote during a special meeting held Monday whether to rezone a parcel of land located between Connolly Crescent and the Montague Superstore to allow for the 50-unit apartment building.
Norm Coffin was one of several residents who raised concerns during the meeting.
Coffin and his wife Darlene moved to Connolly Crescent last year and, along with other area residents, thought the current zoning was there to stay.
“My new neighbour could be a four-storey building… (When we purchased) we knew the cul-de-sac could be developed but (thought) it would be residential housing,” said Coffin. “It’s quite a shock to see this not one year in.”
There were also questions of fire safety, with Montague deputy fire chief Jock Beck noting the town currently only allows for three-storey buildings because the fire department can only perform rescues that high. He said any buildings in the area that exceed three storeys have extra provisions such as concrete between floors and additional sprinklers.
Beck also suggested that MacIntyre Drive, which connects to Connolly Crescent, become a throughway out to the Main Street near the Superstore so it would not add more traffic to the area.
However, others at the meeting suggested opening up a throughway to Main Street would instead lead to an increase of traffic from individuals wanting to skip the traffic lights when accessing the school and hospital.
“It would just be a bypass,” said one resident.
Coun. Alan Munro was one of several who suggested the developer look at building the apartment on the commercially-zoned land, also owned by the developer, located between the parcel in question and Superstore.
Others questioned why the entire proposed parcel had to be rezoned since the apartment would only take up about a quarter of the lot.
Coffin suggested council ask the developer if they’d be willing to subdivide the parcel, build the apartment on a piece abutting the commercial zone and then use an easement from Main Street to access the property.
“Why do we have to rezone an area four times the size that’s necessary?” he said “(Subdividing) sort of protects the residents that way but doesn’t turn down the developer, it gives them an option.”
Coun. Debbie Johnston, who is on planning board, suggested the rezoning vote be moved ahead one month. This would allow the board to meet with the developer on concerns as well as with the department of transportation, infrastructure and energy, which owns the streets in Montague.
“I’m not against development in Montague and I know the need for this housing, but I’m not sure if there’s a need to rush it in February,” said Johnston. “If there’s going to be a development, it’s nice to have everyone working in cooperation.”
The proposed building would see 30 of 50 units designated as affordable housing.
In December, council voted on a one-time agreement allowing municipal tax forgiveness on the building’s affordable units for 10 years, which would amount to about $320,000.
Mayor Ed MacAulay said council will have to factor in residents’ concerns along with the needs of the area. Council heard there are about 100 people on an affordable housing waiting list in the Montague neighbourhood alone.
“Housing is a need in this area for sure and affordable housing, a project of this nature, is certainly really good for the area,” said MacAulay. “But if it’s going to impact residents, that’s not a good thing. We have to see if we can work together on this.”