Amidst a housing affordability crunch, Kamloops council has approved rezoning for a 45-lot subdivision in west Juniper Ridge, despite concern from Rose Hill residents about impacts on character of their nearby neighbourhood.
On Tuesday night (March 30), the city held a virtual public hearing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at which time council heard of a significant lot shortage and support for the project from the building industry.
In speaking on behalf of the project, realtor Trevor Finch explained a lack of housing inventory and significant demand is driving resale values “through the roof,” while housing affordability was cited by multiple councillors in their ultimate support for the project.
Council voted unanimously in favour of rezoning the property at 1830 Qu’Appelle Blvd.
Coun. Dale Bass said she was initially torn, but a lack of single-family homes has her concerned about the ability of young people to purchase homes in the city.
“We need more supply,” Bass said.
Rose Hill residents wrote to the city in opposition of the project, including submission of a 112-signature petition. At the heart of opposition to the development plans is the underlying issue of a growing suburban area (Juniper) encroaching on a unique and exclusive neighbourhood (Rose Hill), which has been compared to living in the countryside.
The development plans are near to Rose Hill Road and the city is planning a future roadway connecting the two areas. A proposed school location is nearby on Crown land. Changing the character of the Rose Hill neighbourhood through light pollution, increased traffic, disturbance of the natural area and trails were common concerns from residents.
“If you’re going to tie two neighbourhoods together, it’s got to be considered,” Rose Hill resident Craig Kennedy told council on Tuesday night.
Juniper West Development general manager Doug MacKenzie, however, said the company has built homes in Juniper to city development guidelines, which allow accommodation for garbage trucks, snow ploughs, parking and bike lanes. He said if the area looks “cookie cutter,” it is because of those city guidelines.
Other concerns raised concerned road safety. Unlike the wide and smooth drive up Highland Road to Juniper, accessing the Rose Hill neighbourhood involves using a narrow, winding road with small shoulders. With more people using the trail network in the area, drivers have apparently encountered more hairy situations, wherein people pop out onto the road from trails, with drivers faced with poor visibility around tight corners and steep hills.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed,” Rose Hill resident Harry Yates said.
Residents also raised the issue of the area becoming a thoroughfare for the Juniper neighbourhood, should the two neighbourhoods connect (the city said the road connection planned in the next decade would result in a full traffic study for the area) and also had concerns about a locked and gated emergency access at High Canada Place.
Multiple residents requested a “guarantee” that connection leading to Juniper would never become a through road.
City development director Marvin Kwiatkowski said that roadway remains for emergency access and “doesn’t make sense” to become a permanent thoroughfare.
In addition to their concerns, Rose Hill residents cited what they consider to be a lack of engagement by the developer. Juniper residents were invited to a voluntary public open house on the project, but Rose Hill residents were not included.
Rose Hill resident Sandy Campbell also expressed dismay over another separate project south of Rose Hill that exchanged hands and resulted in what she called the “decimation” of a 100-year-old fir tree forest. She said council needs to find a balance between the economic development interests and preserving unique qualities and beauty in Kamloops.
Trail access to change, but remain
Some concerns were also raised about continued trail access in the area. A trail network runs through Juniper Ridge and carries on beyond Rose Hill Road, all the way to Peterson Creek.
MacKenzie said a linear trail on the property slated for development will change and be developed. However, a linear trail along a gas pipeline that has been incorporated throughout other development in Juniper is planned to be expanded.
“We do take it seriously and we’ve worked with the city on that,” MacKenzie said.