Monday, January 6, 2014

Charleswood United Church Housing Development

I have mentioned it a number of times how Charleswood's forests and brush reach like fingers into the neighbourhood. Geraldine Street off Laxdal has been extended into the wooded area which was knocked down this fall in preparation for housing. In that area alone, there will be 23 to 24 houses to infill the land that had been kind of a dumping ground for years. To be sure there was trees and deer on this land but it was also filled with sofas and tires.

The character of the neighbourhood is not helped with woods filled with dumped waste and that might pose a fire hazard due to tinder dry conditions. I am all for preserving forest especially the Assiniboine Forest but there are areas throughout Charleswood where field and brush sits at the end of streets or along fingers down streets. It can't really be called forest nor park. Arguments for preserving these little strips strain credulity except that people have land near their homes they don't want to have anything on.

The Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon is common enough. It should not be totally dismissed but at the same time it should not be victorious in every push back in city planning. If Osborne Village had encountered NIMBY at its start, it would still be a military barracks instead of Canada's best neighbourhood.

Along Roblin Boulevard at the curve just before Dieppe Road is Charleswood United Church. The church was in the neighbourhood long before most of the houses and commercial development when it was built in 1957. As such, the church acquired a chunk of land and has held it all these years. Some of it has sustained building efforts in 1984 and 1996 not to mention a gravel lot that extends behind the church into the brush.

Charleswood United Church and woods behind it
The church has pondered what to do with the land for some time. The financial needs of the church are there and the land behind the church represents about 2.1 acres.

As more and more people retire in Charleswood, the ability to stay in the neighbourhood diminishes. This is in part due to fewer multi-unit dwellings. The density gets lighter and lighter further into the neighbourhood. Some say this is the character of Charleswood and be that as it may, it also means if you can't drive, you are increasingly isolated. In short, the old get shuffled out of the place they loved.

Charleswood United Church has made this argument in asking for permission to build a 64 unit seniors residence behind the church. The three floor facility will feature units starting at 1150 square feet. The first floor will also have a 5400 square foot Mason Lodge. There will be 200 parking stalls as well as handicapped parking.

Plans include significant landscaping.

A buffer around homes is fair sized.

Despite the effort, the project has a large amount of opposition.

Most of the opposition seems centered on the building not being in character or the neighbourhood or preservation of the woods behind the church.

It would seem the church has done a strong job of being responsible and the there is a strong demand for such a life lease seniors residence in the neighbourhood that is close to commercial areas and bus routes.

This project should proceed over opposition. In all likelihood, some of the people opposing now could possibly use such housing in the future.


Shawn Nesterfield said...

Basically the people living around the property owned by the Charleswood United Church enjoy having vacant land behind their homes. Everybody is aware of just how true this is but nobody is saying it; certainly not the vocal opposition in attendance at the hearing. Rather than expressing the real reasons for their opposition, the majority cited concerns which should bring tremendous embarrassment to the rest of Charleswood.

The majority of those in opposition cited (with certainty) increased murder rates, increased traffic, sky-rocketing death-rates for school-age children as a result of automobiles revving out of control or experiencing brake failure, light pollution, noise pollution and the inability to see the neighbours twinkling windows through the trees in the winter. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the man who characterised the Masons as a horde or drunken marauders who just want a "club house" in which to party (no mention of the important charitable organisation that they really are (and no I'm not a Mason)).

Let’s talk about facts. Fact: The developers are not trying to build condos; they are proposing life-lease units for senior citizens with a 5000 sq. foot Masonic Lodge to replace the existing lodge already located in Charleswood. Fact: This property is owned by Charleswood United Church and not the city. Fact: It is zoned for Single Family Residential Dwellings and is not a "green space". Now on to some common sense. IF the property were to be developed according to the existing zoning criteria, many new houses would be built. The cited traffic concerns would be far greater than a 64 unit Life-Lease full of seniors (who are generally very safe drivers and typically own ONE reliable car or use public transportation). NEARLY ALL of the trees would be destroyed and the people buying the homes would likely be a much younger demographic which would be more likely to create an increase crime, traffic and light pollution and all of the things the residents are pretend concerned about. On top of it all, the beloved green space everyone loves so much would be a blip in history and forgotten by everyone except the 12-15 homes affected by the project.

Somewhere along the way the area residents began to think of this property as it were their own. It isn't...and when you buy property on the perimeter of undeveloped land you are rolling the proverbial dice. Everybody knows that.

The church is made up of good people, the masons are good people, the residents are good people and the developers are good people. In my opinion, the opposing Charleswood residents were the only ones not being completely honest. The mudslinging on the side of the opposition should bring shame to anyone who lives in the community. Suggesting that the development would bring murderous drunken Masons and death to children is indefensible behaviour to say the very least and I would NOT be proud to be a member of this community.

The church has no use for this land (other than parking). They will sell it at some point and if this project doesn't get legs it's just a matter of time before another project comes along. Maybe it will be better for the community and maybe it won't. Maybe someone will express interest in building low-income housing units instead of a 64 Unit Seniors Life-Lease. I wonder what the vocal and seemingly intolerant minority from this part of Charleswood will have to say to that idea.

My mother always told me, “Be careful what you wish for!”

Brian G. Wall said...

Thanks for the comments John. Obviously we, the developers agree with your sentiment and our desire is to do what is good for the community.