The majority of Ponoka seniors living nearby a proposed development are opposed to a four-storey condominium going up a stone’s throw from their backyards.
Potential developers Jim Hamilton (owner of Hamilton’s IGA) and Grant Jorgenson (owner and general manager of Calanah Builders Ltd.) revealed their preliminary plan for the 1.5 acre lot south of the drop-in centre at a public meeting March 12.
The meeting, which was attended by about 20 seniors, was held outside in the green space that was recently declared surplus by the town and which is now up for sale.
“We have endeavoured to minimize the impact on neighbouring properties in our preliminary design process and are hoping to share these plans with you in an informative way,” said Hamilton and Jorgenson in a signed letter of invitation to residents.
Hamilton and Jorgenson say they are “working to enhance our community through innovative and proactive projects.”
The partners approached town council in 2020 and presented their concept.
According to Hamilton, the town council gave him the right of first refusal on the lot when he built the IGA store in 1986, which means if the land was ever to come up for sale, his offer to purchase has to be considered first.
“If anyone was ever going to buy it, I’ve always had the option,” said Hamilton.
The development planned is a plus-55, four-storey seniors’ condominium and includes an access road and parking space.
“I believe there’s a real shortage (of housing) for seniors,” he said, adding seniors’ facilities in town have waiting lists.
“I’ve had quite a few customers I know that’ve left town, because they sold their house and wanted a place and couldn’t find anything in Ponoka.”
Lynn Shaver, who has lived on 44 Ave., directly south of the green space, for 23 years, is opposed to the proposed development.
Shaver and fellow area-resident Marjorie Feil went door-to-door dropping off information and speaking with their neighbours a couple of times recently.
Her main concerns are the size of the development and the blocking of the line of sight of surrounding homes.
“(I’d be) losing totally my privacy in my backyard, along with all the other people along here,” said Shaver.
She says if the proposed development was farther away from the homes, it may be manageable, but as it is, “it’s affecting everybody in this area.”
Shaver says all but two of the people they spoke to were against the proposed development.
Marty Schmidt, the developer of the original Heritage Park Estates by the vacant lot, has concerns about the proposed development.
Schmidt says he believes the original development permit included a continuation of the green space but he has been unable to find any records that confirm that.
After the units of Heritage Park Estates sold, he says a three-storey development was proposed on the empty lot by another developer in the 90s, which the residents opposed and was ultimately defeated.
The land, described as Block 1, Plan 862 1472, located at 5015 46 Ave., was previously declared as surplus land in accordance with the town’s Land Disposition Policy.
Feil asked council on Feb. 23 to reconsider declaring the lot as surplus, saying the local area residents enjoy the green space as it is and don’t want to see it developed. She also pointed out there is only one access point to the street.
Council decided later in the meeting during an in-camera session to go ahead with advertising that the town has received an offer on the property and will consider it at their March 23 regular council meeting.
The sale price has been set at $225,000.
In Hamilton’s and Jorgenson’s present plans, the mature trees on the south of the lot would need to be removed, if the development went ahead.
The WWI cenotaph on the north end of the lot would also need to be moved.
The Ponoka Legion has been discussing a possible move or refurbishment of the cenotaph for about two years, says president Lee Arnold.
They hadn’t settled on a definitive spot for moving it, and should the development be approved, they will work with the developers, he says.
He added the cenotaph itself isn’t in too bad of shape, but the plaque to the east of it has sunk down and is becoming covered.
“The situation is, the whole thing needs to be re-worked,” said Arnold.
Ron Labrie, local wartime remembrance advocate and social studies teacher at Ponoka Secondary Campus, confirms that there are some errors with the existing cenotaph, such as spellings of names, or names of soldiers who perished from their wounds sometime after WWI ended.
He noted that such errors were common and some human error in records over time is inevitable.
The town put out a press release on March 3, informing residents of their intent to consider the offer and informing them of the opportunities to express their concerns.
Residents are invited to speak during the public forum portion of council’s regular meeting on March 23 at 6 p.m. via electronic means.Written comments can be also submitted by email.
“Once council has listened to and reviewed all submitted comments (spoken and written), it will give consideration at its March 23 meeting to making a decision on the offer to purchase the land in question,” states the release.