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Affordable housing project may rise with fewer parking stalls than normally required

Kamloops council has voted to consider a development permit and parking variance for a proposed 40-unit apartment building at 501 Tranquille Rd., a North Kamloops property that was formerly home to Kwan's Chinese restaurant.
former Kwan's restaurant
The owner of 501 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops wants to tear down the building that once housed Kwan's Chinese restaurant and build an affordable housing apartment building in its place.

Kamloops city council plans to consider slashing the parking requirement for an affordable housing project in North Kamloops by 61 per cent of the required spaces.

On Tuesday (July 21), in a split decision, council voted to consider a development permit and parking variance for a proposed 40-unit apartment building at 501 Tranquille Rd, property that was formerly home to Kwan's Chinese restaurant.

The applicant, Orak Enterprises, indicated the development would consist of 35 affordable rental units and five social housing units, with ground floor commercial space for Active Care Youth and Adult Services.

As per the city’s zoning bylaw, the project requires at least 41 parking spaces, but 25 fewer stalls is proposed by the applicant, with space for 16 stalls of surface parking.

Staff recommended council deny the variance and development permit, with options to seek parking arrangements with nearby properties and reapply, as the city’s zoning bylaw will soon be changing, with 33 parking spaces to be required for the affordable housing complex.

That project involves removing the old restaurant building for the six-storey apartment structure, which would be near both commercial and residential spaces.

City of Kamloops development, engineering and sustainability director Marvin Kwiatkowski said staff didn’t support the project variance as there is no adjacent street parking and that could impact adjacent businesses, spilling tenant and visitor parking over to nearby residential streets, specifically Yew Street and Oak Road. He noted the North Shore doesn’t have parkades as the downtown does and felt complaints from residents would follow.

The possibility of providing the required stalls through underground parking would be costly and prevent the project from being affordable, Kwiatkowski said, when asked about the option by Coun. Dieter Dudy.

Kwiatkowski said the proponent hadn’t looked at other parking arrangement in the area, so Dudy proposed denying the variance and requesting the proponent explore those options, but the motion died as councillors Kathy Sinclair, Denis Walsh, Sadie Hunter, Bill Sarai and Dale Bass all expressed support for the project.

“Where it’s located on Tranquille is a perfect example of a project that could do without the standard parking regulations,” Walsh said, noting public transit in the area and need for affordable housing.

Sinclair said parking adds to the cost of rentals, noting not everyone needs it.

“Here at the city, we promote a car-light community, we promote active transportation and here’s a perfect opportunity to put that into practice,” she said.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly and Mayor Ken Christian expressed their opposition to moving the variance forward.

“It sounds good on the surface. It sounds like a very utopian environment where you would have persons who are not car-centric and they would live there in perpetuity. Unfortunately, we know the market will dictate who those tenants are,” Christian said.

“While those tenants may well accept the notion there’s no parking coming with that particular unit, they will avail themselves of parking in the vicinity.”

He said that is the commercial core of the Tranquille corridor and foresees complaints from businesses over parking congestion.

“This is just too much, too soon,” O’Reilly said of the variance.

Coun. Arjun Singh recused himself from the vote due to a perceived conflict of interest as the Sands apartment building he manages in Lower Sahali has some social housing units.

Bass noted the city is supposed to promote active transportation, per its Transportation Master Plan, which people seeking affordable housing are more likely to take as many don’t want, or cannot afford, a vehicle.

“We’re dealing with the reality of 2021,” Bass said ahead of moving a motion to issue notice of intent to accept the variance, with a development permit to follow.

Kwiatkowski said the applicant’s initial proposal would have required 16 stalls, but a review of the proposal determined only five units met the standard for social housing parking and the remaining 35 units had to comply with standard parking for multi-family developments, leading to the city’s request for 41 spaces.

He said to his knowledge, the city hasn’t allowed a variance of more than 10 per cent for parking requirements.