By Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A proposed development on Lindley Creek Rd. was brought before council for consideration at the regular council meeting on Dec. 15, where it was met with lengthy debate.

According to conceptual plans, the development would be one of Merritt’s largest with 98 townhomes, 95 mobile home pads and up to 180 condominium units across several low-rise buildings. The development would proceed in phases and likely not see completion of all phases for ten years.

The current land use designation is Future Development and Parks, Schools & Open Spaces. In order for the development to proceed, the Future Development would have to be changed to Residential.

Additionally, the proposed development is considered a better fit for the South Merritt neighbourhood, as outlined in the OCP. The parcel would therefore be removed from the Collettville neighbourhood and added to the South Merritt neighbourhood.

Council voted unanimously for both of these changes at both first and second reading, although there was some apprehension by council about removing the parcel from Collettville, which it has historically very much been a part of. Mayor Linda Brown recommended the name of the development incorporate this sentiment, as opposed to referring to it as South Merritt, although this will ultimately be up to the developer. 

Moving on to the Zoning Amendment Bylaw, council was presented with the current zoning of the subject property, which is a mixture of Low Density Residential (R2), Medium Density Residential (R7), and Future Development (FD).

The applicant is proposing to remove the R2 zone, reconfigure the R7 zone, and add Mobile Home Park (R5) and Park & Cemetery (P1) zones.

The Zoning Amendment Bylaw passed first and second reading with only Councillor Mike Bhangu opposed.

Local First Nations have reported to the city that the site of the development has been of historic and cultural significance, and as such it was recommended that Mayor and council place a covenant on the title to ensure an archaeological site investigation be conducted prior to Subdivision approval and Building Permit issuance.

City CAO Sean Smith notes that the covenant on the title is the best option as it is binding on any future owners and has no date of expiration, meaning even if this development did not go ahead, the archaeological investigation would have to be done prior to any other development moving forward.

“Adding a covenant provides an additional layer of assurance, especially when local First Nations have been very clear that it’s of cultural and historical significance,” explained Planning and Development Services Manager Don McArthur.

“This is something that staff would like to see to signal to local First Nations that this is important to the city.”

The vote to place the covenant on title requiring an archaeological site investigation passed unanimously.

By far the topic that received the most debate was the proposal to place a covenant on title to restrict the mobile home portion of the development to seniors aged 55 and older.

Several councillors voiced their objections to adding another mobile home park to Merritt at all, citing unpopular public opinion on the topic.

“I do have a little bit of a concern with another mobile home park, I’ve heard it expressed, and I think there is a sentiment in Merritt, that we’ve kind of got enough of those,” said Councillor Travis Fehr.

“Maybe that’s because some of them, as was previously mentioned, aren’t in the best of upkeep, but I don’t know if that’s something the public would really appreciate.” 

“There was some discussion with the applicant around this,” McArthur agreed.

“There was the thought by the developer that they didn’t want younger people in the development, they’re going to be marketing to seniors that want to downsize and also want to move up from the Fraser Valley. Mobile home parks don’t necessarily have a great representation in the community because of the condition of some of the other mobile home parks that exist that aren’t seniors oriented. The other thought was… that the community might be more favourable in this particular case.”

Councillor Adam Etchart believed that it didn’t make sense to limit occupancy to one age group.

“I like the idea of the plan for the land and the park dedication, but I was also wondering why in a time where we’re really concerned with inclusivity that we’re putting a covenant on a property to have it only 55 plus?” Etchart questioned.

“There’s merit to putting something like this, but I’m just worried that the optics look a little restrictive to younger people.”

Councillor Kurt Christopherson voiced concerns that seniors often act as caregivers for younger family members, and that this covenant would possibly prevent that.

In the end, the covenant for a 55+ designation was nixed 5-2, with Etchart, Fehr, Mayor Brown, Christopherson, and Bhangu opposed.

As a follow up to First and Second reading of the OCP and Zoning Bylaw Amendments, a Public Hearing is generally required. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Public Health orders, which were supported by both the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and a resolution by Mayor Brown, “which currently prohibits any person from attending, in person, any meeting”, the Public Hearing will not be held until a later date and will be announced accordingly.