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City OKs plan to turn former school into apartments

Developers proposing to turn a former public school in Lively into an apartment building won praise from the city’s planning committee for doing the legwork necessary to earn support from area residents. Seeley Homes Ltd.
Developer Seeley Homes wants to convert the former Jesse Hamilton school in Lively into a 29-unit apartment building. File photo.

Developers proposing to turn a former public school in Lively into an apartment building won praise from the city’s planning committee for doing the legwork necessary to earn support from area residents. 

Seeley Homes Ltd. wants to turn the former Jessie Hamilton school into a 29-unit apartment building, build a 26-unit apartment on the northeast portion of the 6.87-acre property. In addition, they would build five single-unit family homes.

The plan easily won the support of the committee, although only after a 2 ? hour public hearing in which supporters and opponents made their cases. Concerns centred on the impact of traffic and whether the existing sanitary sewer system could handle the additional residents.

An underlying concern voiced by some of those opposed to the plan was a belief the apartments would become geared-to-income units, which residents said would drive down their property values and bring in unwanted neighbours.

However, Kevin Seeley said the upscale apartments are aimed at seniors, something the former school is well-suited for, since it already has high ceilings and wide doorways.

Seeley requires a rezoning of the property from institutional to a mix of low-density residential and medium-density residential to proceed with its plans to build on both Jessie Street and Patricia Street in Lively.

“The application for the creation of 60 dwelling units is expected to generate approximately 430 vehicle trips on an average weekday,” concludes city’s the roads and transportation section. “A traffic impact study submitted with the application indicates that the existing road network can accommodate the development without the need for improvements.

“As a condition of approval, it is recommended that the owner complete the traffic impact study and agree to participate in the cost of any improvements or upgrading identified in the study.”

Once completed, 70 per cent of the total property would be green space, with 87 parking spaces provided for the area’s new residents. A traffic study found the 55-units and five single-family homes will generate much less traffic than Jessie Hamilton did when the school was open.

Letters objecting to the plan argued that there are only single-unit residences in the area, and that the apartment building isn’t consistent with current development.

“We would not have an issue if the area was developed for single dwelling homes only,” writes area resident Bryson Gray.

“That many dwellings in one particular area would increase vehicular traffic, human traffic and noise in our area,” writes Donald Fraser, another resident. “We don’t even know if these apartments would be regular units or geared-to-income. What would this project do to my property value?”

In response, Seeley organized an eight-hour public information session on their proposal, and gathered a petition in support of their project with more names on it than opponents collected. In fact, more than a dozen people who opposed the project originally changed their minds and signed the petition in favour, after talking with Seeley and getting the details of the plan explained to them in detail.

Seeley even agreed to build a privacy fence and additional green space for the single home located next to the formal school that will be the most affected by the development.

Members of the planning committee heard that there’s a shortage of rental units for seniors in Lively who want to get an apartment, but want to stay close to family and friends.

It was that argument, combined with Seeley’s efforts to win residents’ support that won over the committee. The decision still has to be ratified by city council.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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