Appeal board calls for off-site parking plan

Developer gets the go-ahead for commercial office project


Decaying buildings with plenty of parking space may be what the future holds for the Iqaluit city core unless its small, strange-shaped lots and insatiable need for parking spaces don’t block redevelopment.

That’s the message brought last week by developers and their supporters to a special hearing of the Development Appeal Board.

And it was also the gist of the board’s surprising decision that, in reversing council’s position, attempted the impossible: to make sense of the city’s own development plan and, at the same time, ensure this same plan doesn’t kill development.

The official motion and rational was still being drafted as of press-time, but Chris Wilson, the chair of the appeal board, said the motion was approved by two of the members, with another member abstaining from the vote.

“In a nutshell, after deliberation, the Development Appeal Board considered the General Plan and Zoning By-laws … which allows for off-site parking, is a working document,” Wilson said.

The plan, he said, should have had a fully developed off-site parking plan before it was enacted.

“The city is remiss in having enacted the document prior to developing an off-site parking policy,” he said.

The board’s decision means that even though, according to the existing plan, there aren’t enough parking spaces for the building Thomas Webster wants to put up in front of the Trigram building – and there won’t even be enough parking for that building, either – that a reduced version of his building will be able to move ahead.

It’s only the second time that the Development Appeal Board has met since its members were appointed by council two years ago to review and weigh development permit disputes. Last week’s meeting, led by councillor Wilson, was attended by Terry Audla, Kowesa Ettitiq and Madeleine Redfern.

The board met to hear an appeal of a decision made in September by council that revoked Webster’s development permit.

Webster had proposed building a four-storey commercial office addition to building 917, to provide space for the Workers’ Compensation Board, Mackay Partners Accountants, Heritage Canada and the federal Public Service Commission. The addition would connect internally on the ground floor to the remaining portion of the Trigram building on the site.

An application for a development permit was submitted in June and approved by council on Aug. 26, as a three-storey building. But on Sept. 10, Webster learned there was a problem with his lot, and on Sept. 29 his permit was rescinded by Iqaluit’s director of planning and lands.

The rejection of a new survey of two lots, which Webster had sought back in 1999, meant his new building would not only lack parking, but the adjacent Trigram building would also lack parking. As a result, the development permit authorized two weeks earlier was revoked.

“The three-storey is now encroaching on the Trigram lot,” Chrystal Fuller, the director of planning and lands, explained to the board. “He’s left with a smaller lot than he had before.”

Webster pleaded for the appeal board to reapprove the project for which he’d already designed architectural plans and bought materials. He pointed to other commercial buildings that also lack parking.

Webster said his proposed office building shouldn’t be penalized for the survey’s late completion or be hung up on a technicality.

Webster condemned the “gaping holes” in the city’s own development plan that doesn’t take into account the history of the smaller lots and the city’s growing need for parking. He said council needs to be more flexible or no development will ever be possible in the downtown core.

Webster was backed up by partner Jacques Belleau, who said sticking to the letter of the city’s current development plan would be “so drastic” that no change to existing buildings would be possible or economically feasible.

“All you’re going to see is the old junk that stays there forever,” Belleau said. “This core area needs a public parking area.”

Paul Landry, president of Nunavut’s francophone association, also spoke out in favour of “creative” solutions that will allow renovations in the older, smaller lots – like the one the francophone association’s building stands on. The association would also like to begin renovating.

“It’s a bit like saying we want to replace an old building with something new and we can’t do it because of parking,” Landry said.

Webster said the ruling would have wide implications – which the new city council will have to deal with.

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