Fredericton – The Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) voted down a proposal June 20th to rezone the Strawberry U-pick off Sunset Drive on the northside to Agricultural and Open Space. The proposal recommended continuing the existing community use of the space indefinitely.
The Strawberry U-pick is currently run on land owned by the city. Last fall, the city put out a call for proposals on the land, which is zoned for future residential development.
The lot incorporates a wooded area to the East of the property, which is bordered on the North by the Ring Road, and in the South by the northside trail, part of the city’s trails network.
The vote required the committee chair, Dan Koncz, to break a 4-4 tie.
Opposition to the proposal was led by Geoff Colter, a committee member at large, and owner of Springhill Construction Ltd. He told the committee that he agreed with the redesignation of part of the city owned property to Agricultural, but couldn’t understand why all of the non-agricultural land would be redesignated Open Space.
“This would make it difficult to bring it back and rezone it if Council decided it wanted to do something else with it in the future,” he told the committee.
Over 2,000 city residents had signed a petition in January asking that the area be re-zoned for a city park.
Staff had recommended that the part of the property not used for agriculture be re-zoned Open Space and that it be kept contiguous, that is, that it remain one property. A section to the north of the property, near the Ring Road, cannot be developed because it is a wetland.
But staff were unable to convince a majority of the committee.
The staff report will now proceed to Council with a negative recommendation from PAC. To pass, it will require support from seven councillors, regardless of how many vote against it. If it fails to pass at Council, the property will retain its current zoning, and could be bid on by developers for the purposes of residential construction.
Committee chair Dan Koncz, also a member at large and owner of Dynex Manufacturing, a building trades company, did not support the staff’s report with the reason that if residents wanted to build any facilities for community use on this property in the future they would not be able to do so under the Open Space designation.
As one woman said in the stairs after the vote, “They have a way of going against you and pretending they are doing you a favour.”
The property was an election issue early in the past campaign, when Mayor Brad Woodside committed publicly to supporting the proposal, both at Council in Committee and when challenged on Twitter.
Councillors Scott McConaghy (Ward 7 – Lincoln/Southwood Park) and Marilyn Kerton (Ward 6 – Barkers Point) voted against the report, in addition to Colter and Jim McElman.
The PAC, a sub-committee of Fredericton City Council, makes decisions about zoning and the use of city space.
In other business before the committee, parks and traffic were again issues in a development off Prospect Street and Springhill Road.
The Committee also heard from residents concerned about increased traffic, and the dangerous access onto Springhill Road. One committee member mentioned that increased traffic usually meant infrastructure upgrades. But unless Council requires the developer to pick up the cost, it could fall on city tax payers.
Similar issues with traffic safety were cited in another west end development on the Southside last April when Council voted to defer a proposal for a new development that would have increased traffic onto the Woodstock Road off Riverfront Way.