Iqaluit city councillors cool to NHC’s request for relaxed parking requirements

“The buildings need to be built with adequate parking”

The City of Iqaluit’s planning and development committee recently decided against supporting the Nunavut Housing Corp.’s request to make some parking spaces smaller than the city’s bylaws require. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar

The Nunavut Housing Corp. had hoped to cut costs for two new developments in Iqaluit by making some parking spaces smaller than what the city’s bylaws require.

But after two meetings, the housing corporation wasn’t able to win support from city councillors who sit on the planning and development committee on Thursday, Dec. 5.

By the end of the meeting, the committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the city council that the development permits for both NHC projects cannot be issued until the parking requirements are met.

“Once we approve them … they’ll be there for a long time,” said Coun. Romeyn Stevenson. “The buildings need to be built with adequate parking.”

The housing corporation is seeking to build two separate developments in the city: 24 units spread between two buildings in Joamie Court, and 22 units in another two buildings in Tundra Ridge.

While both proposed developments feature the correct number of parking spots, the housing corporation is asking for variances to limit the size of several spots to accommodate ATVs and snowmobiles.

The parking spaces would be smaller than the bylaw requires for six of the 28 spots at the Joamie Court development and seven of the 24 spots at the Tundra Ridge development.

These smaller parking spaces would spare the housing corporation from having to do as much site preparation work, including, in the case of the Tundra Ridge site, blasting.

For some, the parking issue was one that could wait.

“Although I agree with Coun. Stevenson on many, many points there, I for one am not willing to forgo more than 22 houses for our residents,” said Mayor Kenny Bell.

“Iqaluit is at a 0.9 per cent [vacancy] housing market right now, at capacity, and I just want to get people in beds. I’m not really worried about their parking at this point in time.”

Stevenson said that characterization of his position wasn’t fair.

“Obviously no one in this room or in this organization or in your organization doesn’t want to put people in beds.”

Instead, Stevenson said his main concern is meeting the long-term needs of Iqaluit residents.

“The directions that this council gave last week was to think about the future,” said Stevenson, summarizing the previous meeting’s outcome.

“In my opinion, it’s not good enough for the housing corp. to say we can’t afford it.”

Another big topic discussed at both committee meetings was accessibility.

Both proposed NHC developments feature one barrier-free unit that would allow someone in a wheelchair to live there. Several councillors questioned whether that was enough.

But adding ramps and additional parking spots also comes at a cost.

According to Terry Audla, president of the Nunavut Housing Corp, it would cost $250,000 to add an additional four ramps at the proposed Joamie Court property, in addition to another $40,000 for additional parking.

Those figures don’t include a temporary sewage holding tank—allowing for the downstream release of sewage during low-flow periods—required if the units are to be occupied before the city completes sewer infrastructure upgrades, which is expected to be done by next December.

Audla noted that this is also a requirement for the 22 units at the NHC’s Tundra Ridge development.

Each of these sewage systems also requires a high-voltage generator, which he estimated would cost $100,000.

The total price tag to add additional parking, ramps and the sewage systems to both proposed properties would come in close to $2.7 million, said Audla.

“Your planning department has the city’s bylaws and development rules in front of them before these projects start. Why don’t you plan to meet the city’s requirements from the get-go?“ asked Coun. Kyle Sheppard.

Audla responded by saying that the NHC does plan for bylaws, but said that “we figured that we would use a mechanism that’s available to us, seeking a variance, so that we can save $100,000.”

Earlier in the meeting, Sheppard acknowledged that providing homes for people is one of the most important things the council can work towards, but improper planning can cause issues down the road.

“It seems like every problem this community faces right now is because somebody five, 10 or 20 years ago, didn’t think five, 10 or 20 years ahead,” he said.

“So when we talk about our development bylaw and the parking requirements, it’s already 10 years behind the times, we should require more than we even do right now for developments like this.”

The city council will vote on the development applications during their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northerner on

    I heard about this council meeting and it was two people against NHC, Councillor Sheppard and Stevenson. I understand this is a project for public housing. Let’s talk adequate parking. 4145, 4149 and 4153 is public housing, they have “adequate parking” and the “adequate parking” has lets say less then 10 vehicles. I’ll think 20 years ahead, these “adequate parking” will still have no vehicles to occupy them.
    One thing i’ll agree on is accessibility. Wheel chair it up!

  2. Posted by Snapfish on

    I agree with Northerner, folks who live in public housing don’t typically own many cars. The money saved could go toward another unit for a needy family. Just more council bafoonery.

    • Posted by Brad Chambers on

      This is a good debate – there are solid points being made by both sides. Yours was a fine addition to the debate until the end of your comment. This is not at all buffoonery: they are not fools and this is not a bad joke. Hiding behind a fake name and hurling insults at elected officials making reasonable arguments that happen to disagree with yours is by far the most negative part of this story (unless the absolutely brilliant irony of your use of ‘bafoonery’ was intended). Good decisions come more often from good debate; let’s encourage those putting facts and ideas on the table – they are giving their time and energy and putting themselves out there.

      • Posted by Civility and a Fake Name on

        Not everyone has the freedom to speak their mind in the comments section, but I agree that those who post anonymously should be civil.

        From what was reported, I think I’m in agreement with the Mayor and I disagree with the two councillors quoted. This is a welcome evolution in the Mayor, who used to be a big automobile booster with his previous scorn for the lifesaving rocks and posts. Bravo!

        Culturally and bureaucratically too much importance is placed on parking (and thus vehicle ownership), and surprise surprise our community now has intermittent traffic congestion that is not getting better.

        If we are serious about looking 5, 10, 20 years down the road maybe we should be thinking about reducing reliance on vehicles rather than rolling out the red carpet for them? Especially at Joamie Court, which is fairly central and totally walkable.

        And speaking of walking, can we have some more trails please to encourage more people to walk and make it easier and safer for those who already do? The one running parallel to the creek between the medical boarding home and DJ’s is great, but we need more. (Hint: map out where people are traipsing through the snow)

  3. Posted by Geoff Ryan on

    I am disappointed in how the the addition of accessible ramps is characterized in this article. It is the law in Canada that Service Providers, including the Nunavut Housing Corporation, have a duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship. $70,000 for an accessible ramp is not undue hardship. Service providers can actually get grants from the Government of Canada to install the ramps. Also keep in mind that while a ramp may provide access to one unit, the person with the disability can not visit family or friends in other units. This increases the isolation that many people with disabilities face. I am pleased that city councillors raised the issue of accessibility for the proposed housing units. I just wish the council would reinstate the Iqaluit Disabilities Advisory Committee that was recently dissolved by the city.

    • Posted by Romeyn Stevenson on

      Geoff, I always appreciate your insight. Council has made it a priority to keep pushing developers to build with accessibility in mind. We have instructed our Planning department to review accessibility issues on all new developments and to have a box on all requests for decision that demonstrates this process. There are so few places in Iqaluit that are truly accessible to all our citizens, we need to work to make this better.

  4. Posted by We need more housing on

    NHC: ‘There’s a housing shortage! We need to build Holmes as quickly and affordably as possible.’

    City: ‘No.’

  5. Posted by Bert Rose on

    Council is 100% correct on this decision. Traffic congestion will only get worse in future and full vehicle parking is a requirement for any housing construction.

    • Posted by Is It Irony or Egregious Wrongness? on

      This sounds like a 21st century update of the Vietnam era “It Was Necessary to Destroy the Village in Order to Save It.”

      “We have too much congestion, so we need to encourage more automobile ownership?”

      Or are the two parts of your second sentence unconnected thoughts?

      1. Congestion will only get worse in future (fatalism… nothing we can do about it).
      2. Parking is a requirement for housing construction (the by-law is the by-law).

      (as with the Vietnam quote, hopefully there’s a nuanced explanation of your Solomonic pronouncement?)

      I guess you’re worried about people parking on the street? But isn’t it the case that those broad boulevards encourage speeding?

      I say skip the full parking for some of the units as NHC proposes, the city can build a sidewalk (even if it’s gravel) and cars can be parked on the street.

      None of our local climate action squad have anything to say about this?

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