Judging by the tone of a meeting held earlier this month, Athenry Developments’ proposal for an Irish cultural centre and low-rise residential buildings will be a hot topic at Township council’s Monday evening meeting.
Since a public hearing in 2008, Athenry has eliminated a pub from its multi-faceted development plan which includes an Irish cultural centre, the relocation of Willoughby Hall, and seniors’ and general housing.
The development covers four acres on the northeast corner of 83 Avenue and 208 Street.
The cultural centre will be the home of the Irish Heritage Society of Canada; Athenry plans to relocate and restore the 1938 Willoughby Community Hall.
Commercial and office uses are planned for a two-storey building facing 83 Avenue, with access from within the site.
Residents who spoke against the proposal at the hearing told council of their objections to the height of the buildings, the extra traffic and noise that would be generated on already-busy 208 Street, and garbage and loading zones abutting their back yards.
Resident Hank Der told the 2008 hearing that he had approached the proposal with an open mind, but had become “vehemently opposed” to the development.
The sentiment was evident at a meeting in early January when residents took shots at each other, planning staff, the architect and landscape architect.
One resident said he was seeking clarification on a point because “we don’t want to think of you guys as money-grabbing pigs.”
Architect Fred Adab, hired by Athenry to make revisions since the 2008 public hearing, was asked about his experience designing residential buildings.
Adab, who has designed buildings all over the Lower Mainland, replied: “How many do you think I should have done to satisfy you?”
There were frequent interruptions. When a resident was speaking, he slammed his fist on the table and admonished a woman who interrupted him.
“You can go to hell,” the woman replied, and walked out.
The meeting reinforced residents’ πconcerns about the height of buildings, lack of sufficient buffer between their homes and new buildings, and that mid-rise buildings would keep their back yards in the shade.
On Monday, four components of the Athenry proposal will be back before council. These include third reading for the rezoning bylaw which pertains to land use and density.
The public will not be allowed to speak on this, but the development permit application allows residents to address council on issues pertaining to the form, character and siting of the development.
In a letter to The Times, Der revealed that Jonathan Baker, an expert in municipal law, has been retained by a group of homeowners impacted by the development, and will speak to council on Monday.
Der said that “affected residents have been ignored and treated with contempt, while the development process has been pushed forward by the Township.”