A proposed affordable housing unit for the 200 block of First Avenue North has received approval from the City, along with a develop permit variance to provide less parking spaces than normally required. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

A proposed affordable housing unit for the 200 block of First Avenue North has received approval from the City, along with a develop permit variance to provide less parking spaces than normally required. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Affordable housing project approved in Williams Lake with parking reductions

A proposed 39-unit affordable apartment building for downtown Williams Lake will only have to provide 41 parking spaces instead of the normal requirement of 78.

City council gave the First Avenue North project the green light and approved a development permit variance during its regular meeting Tuesday, on the understanding that many people living there will not have vehicles.

“I think it meets the requirement to have reduced parking,” Coun. Scott Nelson said. “It’s a great project.”

When the public was given the opportunity to comment on the parking, Cariboo Bowling Lanes owner John Dell said the new apartment building will improve the streetscape and add vibrancy to the neighbourhood.

Dell, however, voiced concerns about parking in the area.

His business and a parking lot he owns are located directly across the street from where the new apartment will be constructed. He suggested the City create angle parking in the large area in front of the new building.

“We need to maximize the street parking, not only for the apartment, but also for all the commercial businesses around in the 100 block,” Dell said. “The angle parking could be for commercial use and could be done with the Downtown Business Parking Bylaw in co-operation with the developer.”

The new housing project is a joint venture between the Williams Lake Association for Community Living and B.C Housing. Community Living executive director Ian McLaughlin said if they have to build more parking spaces the cost would directly impact the renters.

“We would end up with market rents which is not where want to be with that building,” he said, noting 10 parking spaces cost around $200,000.

In other subsidized housing projects throughout B.C., a number of tenants don’t have access to vehicles, he added.

“It would be a shame to pass up a much-needed opportunity,” McLaughlin said. “If 50 per cent of the people who live in there have a car then that’s 20 units that would have a vehicle attached. We are proposing 41 spots.”

Resident John Pickford told council the area is already congested and the development permit should not be amended.

“It’s a commendable project, but specifications for parking are made for a reason,” Pickford said

“A friend texted me today who lives in that block and she said when she walked from Cameron Street down to Elks Hall, all the parking spots were full,” Pickford said. “It’s not a surprise, it’s a congested neighbourhood.”

Pickford also said the suggestion that people would be willing to park further away in one of the city’s free parking lots is a Band-aid solution that isn’t feasible.

Originally the project’s architects proposed 31 parking spaces, but were asked by city council to come back with more spaces.

“We have committed to 10 more,” McLaughlin said, noting it would be a shame to pass up a much-needed opportunity and let the land sit vacant for another 40 years.

“We’ve owned it since 1996 and couldn’t give it away,” he said. “When this opportunity presented itself, we thought let’s try and do something for the community rather than keep trying to sell it at a loss.”

Council unanimously approved the reduced parking requirements, although suggested perhaps part of the rental agreement could be that tenants could only own one vehicle.

Read More: New affordable housing unit in the works for Williams Lake