It appears many neighbouring residents of a proposed Hay Road development are supportive of the Arrow Heights project, but only if concerns over road access and pedestrian safety are addressed.
Stefan Maunz, the proponent of Stoked Living, a 60-unit passive housing community, hosted an open house at the Revelstoke Community Centre on Wednesday, Dec. 18 to gather feedback and hear concerns from the public. The open house was part of a new city process where parts of the public consultation are led by the developer, rather than the city. The proposed Stoked Living community is the first time the new process is being used. Maunz was joined by Fraser Blyth of Selkirk Planning & Design, who is assisting with the project.
Prior to the open house Maunz met with neighbours within 100 metres of the project, gathered online feedback and held nine in-person meetings to address concerns. Maunz said all of the feedback so far has been taken into consideration, and in some cases changes were made in order to address those concerns. The Wednesday evening open house included residents within 300 metres of the development.
“I don’t want to do anything against the neighbours. I understand that there is, of course, a certain reluctance for development and I would have probably been the same if I would have been close to that property, but we are trying to accommodate those concerns as good as possible,” said Maunz.
Developer presents key facts, speaks to misinformation
Maunz said the Stoked Living concept is born out of a larger project he is currently working on. That project is a 23,000-square-foot facility Maunz purchased in Barriere a year ago, where he plans to use robots to build houses that meet passive housing standards. Using robots will allow the passive houses to be built at a more affordable rate, although Maunz would not give an actual cost when pressed by a member of the public for an exact cost during the question and answer portion of the open house.
“It just so happened this [Hay Road] property came up for sale and I thought, ‘What a great opportunity, because I can showcase those houses.’ That is the rationale, this is really just a side project for me. One that I dearly love and I’m quite proud of. It’s all going to be build by this robotic equipment.”
In addition to showcasing his robotics building, Maunz says he is also addressing Revelstoke’s housing requirements by providing the types of homes identified in a 2018 Housing Needs Assessment. The project includes 60 units in total on a 9.4 acre parcel. Of those 27 are single family dwellings, 14 are duplexes and 19 are rowhouses. Maunz says he is committing 10 rowhouses as long-term rentals.
“That’s what we are lacking in Revelstoke, houses to rent for young families that are not yet ready to buy their own house,” he said.
Some recent feedback on social media about the proposal has flagged the project as medium or even high-density. Maunz said he doesn’t see the project as even being medium density based on the current Official Community Plan, which lists medium density as 30 units per hectare. Stoked Living would have 15 units per hectare. As for concerns about rentals, Maunz says he has no intention to apply for vacation rentals and only the 27 single family dwellings could legally contain a long-term rental unit. If each of those units built a suite, then there would be a total of 87 units.
“What we’re doing here is a high-end neighbourhood. We don’t think what we’re doing here is going to bring property values down. We are focusing on making this walkable, we want people to not take their cars, we want people to ride their bikes and walk. There are many studies showing that walkability is a number one factor to increase property values.”
Question and Answer portion of the meeting begins with attempts to debate with proponent
The evening’s question and answer period started off with some confusion over developer versus city responsibilities. Several people in attendance attempted to debate Maunz on how he planned to address concerns over road congestion, vehicle and pedestrian traffic on Hay Road before Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz stepped in to briefly address the crowd.
“We are not here to debate and when I mean we, I am talking about city staff. We want to hear what you have to say and take all of those things into consideration […] some of this may be on the city as we move forward. We want to take into consideration all that we are concerned about so that we can make a decision that’s educated. So we want to hear what you have to say, but none of us are going to debate with you,” said Sulz.
Along with Sulz, councillors Steven Cross and Jackie Rhind, and director of development Marianne Wade also attended the open house.
Neighbours express concerns over road access, pedestrian safety
Several themes emerged as the public spent nearly two hours addressing Maunz with their concerns. Along with concerns over road access and safety, infrastructure, walkability and ensuring Maunz’s promise of long-term rentals would come to fruition were brought up. Victoria Haines and Kirk Murray, both of whom live within close proximity of the proposed development, stated support for the development but felt now may not be the right time for it.
Haines said Maunz had taken time to come to her home to address concerns over road access, and had even gone so far as to look into several options for alternate routes. Currently Hay Road is the only road in and out of the neighbourhood. While she said she does not believe it’s the developer’s problem to solve, she implored city council and staff to only approve the development once the traffic issues are resolved.
“We can’t have more neighbourhood up there if the whole street system can’t support it. It has to be safe for everybody so now is not the right time to develop this” said Haines. “I think it will take courage to say no to this development. I actually love it […] but the whole neighbourhood has to be considered when you pop something in.”
Murray, who runs a bed and breakfast on Hay Road, agreed the entire neighbourhood needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to new development.
“I think it’s a great idea. I’m concerned there’s no room [on Hay Road] to walk in the dark, there’s a lot of traffic […] I just feel there’s a lot of things that need to be thought of […] I think it’s really important to develop our OCP first, make sure we’re all moving forward together as a city, as a community, as a neighbourhood making sure all of our things are addressed including infrastructure and how Mackenzie Village is going to affect this neighbourhood, then maybe we can look at your idea. I think it has some potential,” he said.
Murray also expressed concerns over Maunz’s proposal to commit 10 of the rowhouses as long-term rentals, stating so far there isn’t any paperwork stating this will happen. Maunz responded by stating he has already drafted a housing agreement and is currently in discussions with the city.
“I want to do that because I think it’s the right thing to do and I understand that people want some type of security,” said Maunz.
Some residents attending the open house questioned whether an Arrow Heights development could be considered truly walkable given the distance to downtown and limited options for walking or biking safely, even going so far as to suggest the project should be built somewhere closer to town. Others stated they and their families regularly walk and bike to downtown, but said building safer routes would make doing so easier.
“The City of Revelstoke defines this area as future growth. If you look around there’s no other lot like this left. It’s perfect as infill development, which is one of the priorities,” said Maunz,who also spoke to commercial development foreseen at Mackenzie Village, saying it would be great if that included a small grocery store.
Some residents caution turning down Maunz’s proposal could come back to bite them
The land for the proposed Stoked Living development is currently zoned R1, which means Maunz could build single family dwellings on the property without the need for a public hearing. Due to Maunz’s plans to build townhouses and rowhouses, the development requires city council to approve a zoning amendment, which triggers a public hearing. Generally, public hearings for zoning redevelopment take place during regular city council meetings. There are still a number of steps which need to occur before a public hearing over the proposed development can take place.
Several people attending the Wednesday night open house cautioned that turning down Maunz’s proposal could have a negative impact on the neighbourhood in the long-term.
Nico Leenders is general manager of Revelstoke Property Services and also an Arrow Heights resident. He said he doesn’t think residents can get any luckier when it comes to a developer like Maunz who is willing to engage with and listen to the concerns of the projects neighbours.
“It’s passive housing in Revelstoke. It’s not going to detriment the neighbourhood. If Stefan passes on this, who’s going to pick this up? He’ll eventually resell the land and I can’t imagine any other developer coming forward who better meets our community’s needs, the city’s needs and who’s willing to come and speak and engage with us. We turn this down, we all say ‘No, not in my backyard, I don’t want this,’ and I guarantee you we will all regret this,” he said.
According to an information board at the open house several steps still need to take place before the city-led public hearing. Those steps include both an internal and external review, notifying neighbours within 100 metres and city council’s consideration.