The Mayor’s golden ceremonial mace was already placed unceremoniously in its “action” spot in front of the throne. Mayor Dan was, apparently, stricken with the “seasonal flu” which definitely sounds like a tactful way of saying “pipping off to frolic on the only warm day this miserable month.”  Sitting in for him was Madame Deputy O’Leary.

No one knew whether to stand or not since she entered without pomp and dispensed will all foofarah while she subbed in at the top spot. Half the room rose and and the other half started to, or looked around confusedly. She thanked those who tried and motioned for everyone to give up, sit and get to it.

So. Usually I try to cover the whole meeting (pretty much) since other outlets pick one shiny object and run with it. But this week is special. So Imma do what I wanna. And what I have been doing, ever since Monday afternoon, is reading over the city’s notes on a public meeting held on January 10th, and then reading every submission letter related to that meeting. And cry-laughing.

So, in what may be my last act as an Overcast contributor, I will give liberally to you, my gorgeous readers, the purest currency of quotes from publicly submitted comments in opposition to a small, one-story, four-unit condo-townhouse-hybrid dwelling proposed at 26 Logy Bay Rd.

Let me set the scene. There is a road. A busy road. A not un-attractive, but also not a-ttractive, road. There is one commercial property, thoughtfully built to blend into the look of the surrounding modest residential ranch and whatever-you-call-flat-perfectly-fine-but-not-nice-enough-for-an-architectural-term homes.

The rest is zoned “R1” for low density residential. Except for the other commercial properties at the intersection down the block, and the golf course up the block. But really it is a very “R1” life, in spite of the heavy and fast traffic on this road that acts as the easternmost throughway from downtown to the industrial lands before the dump.

Along comes Buddy who wants to tear down one of these flat houses which has lost value because: seriously why would it not, the economy, the road itself, the house itself, the changing demographics of our city. He wants to put up four units instead of one. He thinks smaller units will sell better. He emphasizes that they will be energy efficient, more affordable, and more attractive to our aging population (and Kon-Mar-methodheads of any age really) who have begun to downsize.

So the city was considering his application to rezone the lot from “R1” to “R2” (residential medium density.) An R2 zone would allow the city to consider a discretionary use application for a multi-unit dwelling, which he also asked for.

In 2014, a re-zoning application on this same lot was voted down by council as it was a multi-story apartment building. Back then residents objected (hahah obviously) and council agreed the high density apartments were a bridge too far.

Now neighbours will, and do, oh boy do they, object to changes regularly. And this is no different than most, not really. And objecting to changes is fine. My gosh, what species doesn’t? Change is the worst! Unless it is somewhere else. Then we love to explain how it would help those people over there. But here? No thank you. I’m here and I’m… fine. Perfectly fine. Perfect really. I’m perfect. But renters? [sharp inhale]. oooo….I mean. I bought my home, purposefully bought. Here. So can the surrounding land (that I did not buy) please stay exactly as I want it? And if people want to rent [shudder] why can’t they do it over there?

And why is everyone trying to take Christmas from us?!!

Wait, what? Yup. Enjoy these quotes (some are direct from written submissions and some are summarized by city staff from oral statements made at the public meeting). Also, fun bonus game: guess which objections come from the relative of a certain former Ward 2 councillor. Apparently sour grapes of a feather still seethe two years later.

(any italics are added by myself).

“There is no guarantee the houses would be sold. They could be rented which is not in keeping with the existing neighborhood.” #renterssosketchy

“‘There is nothing stopping him [the property owner] from applying to subdivide his lot and apply for rezoning’. Staff agreed noting every property owner in the City has the right to make application to the City.” The added sidenote by and about staff is … [kisses fingers] touché perfection. These people (haha see! Even I can’t help but think that phrase!) hold being a property owner above all else, except when it come to someone else wanting to exercise the rights that are the very point of property ownership.

“The neighborhood has so much uncertainty and [I question] the philosophy behind the development.” I can’t be too cold to this one. It is awful, but I feel the mounting anxiety behind it. Life is uncertain my beaotches and that is scary. But humans who share walls living on your block is a really really weird “philosophical” hill to trudge up just to die on.

One woman, “recognizes the increase in population density and suggests that Pleasantville is a more appropriate location for additional housing.” Hahahahaha. I hereby dub these grasping classist Gollums and their tiny two block sliver of a ‘hood “unpleasnatville.” It’s not clever but it’s true.

…And sing once again…“There’s plenty of units available in Pleasantville. Units don’t fit into this area in anyway. And if they get the go ahead, the real estate board will want to sell their property to put up a big apartment bldg. Don’t understand why the investor didn’t get the message the last time they were rejected.”

A reminder that “the last time” was ~5 years ago and a completely different proposal. Also, if we all “got the message” every time our neighbours didn’t like us, then  every second person on every block would have to give up and crawl into their basements and die. Who likes decisions their neighbours make? I barely like decisions my partner makes.

This next one isn’t the worst, to be honest, but it is always weird when people site things on someone else’s private property as “the reason” they bought their own property. Dude, it is not yours. It simply isn’t. I like the colours my across-the-street neighbour painted their house. But I cant get a fricken refund if they decide to re-paint it heliotrop and beige. Also, I read this one in Sally Metcalfe’s voice from Coronation Street, and I encourage you to do the same.

“We […] believe the proposed building will negatively affect our well-being:

  • With increased density comes increased noise and less privacy.
  • After adding a sunroom (interior) and solarium (exterior), we planned on living a quiet and peaceful retirement. With a parking lot adjacent to our property, we will be subjected to increased noise, activity and pollution; we will not enjoy our surroundings as planned.
  • One reason for purchasing our property (20 years ago) was the abundance of mature trees behind our property. To us, trees have personal and spiritual value.

And then there is this wonderfully self-aggrandizing off-point CV of a nespotic (despot + nepotism) rant: “[I have] lived on Parsons Place for nearly fifty years. [I] was heavily engaged on the Sobeys development at Mount Cashel and it turned out beautifully, bringing so much pride for area residents. As residents [we] bought in to an R1 zone and strongly [suggest] it should be retained as such.

Over the years rentals have crept in….first allowing mother-in-law suites. [ominous music plays] […] Residents are not pleased that the Ward Councillor is not in attendance. Bottom line is that residents wish to retain the R1 zone and do not feel they should have to keep coming back to City Hall opposing a zoning change. The message in 2014 was clear.”

Indeed! And, despite your best efforts at a veneer of civility, it still is. And it would actually be as funny as I’m making it out to be if it were not also really really gross and depressing. ‘Cause I don’t think it is literally Mother-in-laws that she is objecting too. Unless MILs can’t afford to buy their own detached single family home, then, yes, they should please to go elsewhere, maybe somewhere nicer for their sort … is there a Niceville nearby where they would be more comfortable? Some place pleasant…

And we finish with the most blazingly relevant of the lot,

“Thanks very much and Merry Christmas (if we are allowed to say that nowadays!)”

I mean, is that the fear? That people who want smaller homes and don’t mind a well-insulated, up-to-current-code party wall hate christmas? Because I live in a huge old drafty house built over 150 years ago, but it does share a wall with 2 apartments and when I have to go to the mall by accident in December I sort of hate Christmas too … is it the wall? Am I a solarium ruiner?

So. Council took all of this in, then voted to rezone. The two ward councillors were the only ones who voted against.

The majority who voted to allow this four unit Babadook cited the entire municipal plan that supports in-fill like this. They cited staff assessments that, despite the plethora of traffic/parking objections (which I left out for once), there would be no discernible impact.

They cited the fact that this doesn’t even edge into “mixed” neighbourhood territory (something the city promotes anyway), because it isn’t commercial amongst residential; it is just slightly-higher-density residential amongst mostly-residential.

They pointed out that our economic survival as a city depends on concentrating population into areas of existing infrastructure.

They pointed out that our economic survival as a city depends on concentrating population into areas of existing infrastructure. They pointed out our aging demographics who are looking for housing options such at this.

And, in a huffy huff huff, the objecting neighbours who were present proved that last point beautifully by having a very difficult time getting down the steps to huff out of chambers.

Council also voted to approve the developer’s requested discretionary use application (again, with the two ward councillors dutifully voting “against” as their most vocal constituents had obviously made clear was their wish), but not before a truly revealing moment.

Cllr Jamieson, at the bequest of those ward residents who so strenuously object to “the character” of their block changing, asked that “a screen or foliage be added for a buffer.”

Now, the proposal already had the units as close to the commercial property as possible so as to allow for some extra buffer of “green space” between it and the adjacent single family home. And councillor Burton had already discussed the need to work with the developer to make sure the parking was situated in such a way as to perish any thought that it might be a [gasp] commercial-looking lot. I.e. they had already said there should be some trees/bushes between the road and the parking in front of the building. So what, exactly, were the residents (through their ward councillor) asking?

Multiple councillors stood up to ask this point blank. And to object to it.

Cllr Froude said, “It feels like overkill to require a buffer between one low density residential [lot] and another low density [lot].”

Even Mr Heart-of-Suburbia himself, Cllr Korab, looked a little taken aback and asked, “Are we talking […] the wholeside and back? Have we ever done this with other residential units?”

Everyone kept asking, in various incredulous ways, “You mean along the front, right?” But Jamieson confirmed that she meant “sides and back.” And explained that, “abutting residents spend a lot of time on their property. So they want that, and it seems a reasonable compromise.” She clarified that she was suggesting “shrubbery not a fence.”

Hanlon and the rest still looked like they didn’t hear correctly as Hanlon again asked, “Can we be clear on what the reasonable compromise is … between this house here and the other houses?”

To avoid all-out brawl right there in chambers over the existential ugliness of neighbours asking the city to mandate that someone fence off one “sort” of residence from another at the “other” sort’s expense, Burton and O’Leary reeled them all in.

They sort of watered down the language of Jamieson’s proposed amendment into a sort of “well we will talk about it for sure” sort of thing. This allowed Jamieson to maintain that she got her ward’s concerns in while stopping short of explicitly codifying that the barrier was to cover up all unsightly potentially slightly lower income peoples from the true residents, (“These are the kind of things we can work on. I don’t think a 12 ft high fence is what they are asking.”

Froude and Hanlon still opposed the amendment, but it passed.

Jamieson and Stapleton still opposed the main motion of granting discretionary use but it passed. And it is true what Jamieson said to explain her “no” vote, “… you cannot force change on people … and [the ward residents] are not supportive, so I will not support it.”

Only, you can force change on people. Our council just did.

And with that surprising and hopeful note, I will say goodbye. Again. Because like neighbours, freelance work is an uncertain crapshoot. But this column has been my all time favourite crapshooting of any of my careers so far.