The city may be getting some seniors’ housing relief in the coming year, should they approve the latest development proposal to cross council’s desks.
A proposal to convert the former Neptune Motor Inn on Chamberlin Avenue to Hilltop Lodge, a housing complex for seniors 55-and-over was outlined last Monday night in Rupert council chambers.
The proposal comes from Macro Properties, who provided city planners with an application detailing the company’s plans for retro-fitting the rooms to suit seniors’ needs.
The developer requested a change in zoning for the property from M1 (light industrial zone) to RM2 (multi-family residential). City planner Zeno Krekic also noted that the Quality of Life Official Community Plan (OCP) would need to be updated to allow the spot-zoning for the property to residential.
“Over the last decade the property has experienced a decline in tourist accommodation demand,” said Krekic. “The property evolved primarily for construction workers at Ridley Island and the pulp mill. With both of those either completed or no longer there, demand declined over time. Staff anticipates the reason for decline in demand is a healthy supply of travel accommodations in the downtown area.”
Thirty-six units are being proposed to be made available (the same number of units Neptune housed), with kitchenettes set to be added to the units, upgrading first-floor bathrooms with stand-up showers, non-slip flooring, low-flush toilets and grab bars.
The exterior is also proposed to be upgraded, with an outdoor gazebo planned to be built with improved landscaping installed around the property.
Two accessible ramps from the parking lot to first-floor single-occupancy suites are also planned, as is a laundry room on the main floor. The old restaurant and dining room would be converted to a communal amenity social space.
“While there is little question about demand [for seniors’ housing], there are some concerns. The property is located in a light industrial area, and as such the surrounding land uses cannot accommodate specific residential needs like setbacks and such. For the time being, they’re nestled in between two car dealerships and an automotive store. The applicant insists that the location is not an obstacle,” said Krekic, adding that the nearest corner store is approximately one kilometre away.
The developer has contacted transit authorities to add a bus stop close by to Hilltop Lodge at the corner of Portage Road and Chamberlin Avenue on Bus Route 60/Port Edward.
Coun. Joy Thorkelson lobbied for nearby outdoor green space in the area to be provided by the developer, however council can only ask for voluntary amenity contributions from developers with their land use policy frameworks yet to be fully passed.
Coun. Barry Cunningham asked about the developer’s intentions of making the units senior-friendly, and accessible. Krekic told council he would speak to the developer about transit options, outdoor amenity spaces and accessibility concerns.
Outside of those questions, council seemed supportive of the notion to add more seniors’ housing units in the city — a strong need with established seniors’ complexes already reaching their waiting list caps, noted Cunningham.
“I think this is a great re-purposing of a building that has been sitting there empty. It would be nice to see it up and running again,” said Coun. Wade Niesh, adding that people should be aware that it’s not a seniors’ complex with care workers, but a complex for independent seniors.
“There is a need for this type of seniors’ housing, and with the only obstacle being transit, which I think can be worked out, I think this is a great idea.,” said Cunningham.
Council unanimously gave First Reading to the OCP amendment and zoning amendment bylaws, instructed the applicant to supply a draft covenant restricting rental to seniors 55 and older and instructed the applicant to hold an information meeting before proceeding to a public hearing.