An application for three apartment buildings in East Clayton is creating concern for some townhouse owners who fear their quiet side-street could turn into a traffic corridor.
Cheryl Kelemen and Ron Hegedus live in Zen Townhomes on 195A Street in East Clayton. As president and vice-president of the strata council, they’re worried about the impact this high-density application could have on their community.
“Don’t get us wrong, we’re not opposing development,” Kelemen said. “We’re good with development; we know it’s going to be developed.
“It’s just how they are developing it.”
|A rendering of the proposed apartment buildings at 6595 196 Street.
(Steelix information board photo)
The application, put forward by Steelix Builders Group, would see the treed lot at 6595 196 Street become the site of three five-storey apartment buildings, with 142 units between them.
The lot, located to the south of Zen Townhomes, would go from one-acre residential housing to a high-density area.
The apartment units are divided between studio apartments, one-bedrooms, one-bedroom apartments with a den, two-bedrooms and two-bedroom apartments with a den. The goal, according to boards at Steelix’s information session, is to provide housing options “for a range of homeowners, including downsizers, first-time homebuyers and young professionals.”
The three buildings would be divided by an extension of 195A Street, the road that connects Zen Townhomes. The development would also see the creation of a new west-east road, connecting to 196 Street.
This development application has been submitted to the city, but is currently under review by city planners. It has not yet gone to council for consideration, and elements of the proposal are subject to change.
This application is similar in many ways to another apartment building proposal to the south, which passed third reading in council on July 23.
That proposal would see 6529 196 Street go to a high density designation, with 147 units on two acres. The two five-storey buildings would also be divided by an extension of 195A Street, going north from 65 Avenue, as well as an eastern extension of 65 Avenue.
The two apartment building applications are not related.
For Hegedus and Kelemen, the Steelix application brings two main concerns: density and traffic.
“We didn’t think it was going to get developed for about 10 years or so,” Hegedus said about the lot. “To have this green space was just huge for us, and to have this roadway here was huge for us too, because it was a dead-end roadway.”
The residents of Zen Townhomes knew the property would be developed eventually — it was in the East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan, a design put out by the city to help guide the future of the community.
In the plan, which was last updated in 2003, the lot was designated as high density, with 22 to 45 units per acre. That is the same density as Zen Townhomes.
However, Steelix is requesting an amendment to the concept plan, which would see the property go up to a density of 30 to 70 units per acre. This is the highest density in the East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan, and is only proposed for a few properties.
“The density in Clayton Heights area has already exploded enormously,” Hegedus said. He believes residents need to stand up for the designations in the concept plan in the face of developers who wish to increase density in already dense areas.
Keeping the concept plan the same is so important, Kelemen added, because that’s what homeowners look to when they buy their properties.
“We knew that it was going to be developed, but when [the real estate agent] looked at the 2003 East Clayton community plan, this was just to be a little cul-de-sac,” she said about 195A Street. “It’s a huge decision when you’re buying a place.”
Unlike many townhouse complexes, which have private lanes that connect the development, Zen is bisected by a city road: 195A Street. This street divides the complex in half, which means that residents from the west side of the development have to cross the road to access the amenities building, mailboxes and playground.
“Our concern for our complex is the child safety, [the] health and wellness of all our residents coming from the [other] side to this side,” Hegedus said.
“The potential of somebody getting injured or killed, especially if it’s a kid skateboarding out of that side to come over to this side,” will only go up with more traffic on the road.
Currently, the East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan suggests that 195A Street be divided by two cul-de-sacs. The plan does note that “these cul-de-sacs might not be required if consultation of the parcels,” i.e. the properties between them, “takes place.”
Currently, there are two residential properties in between 196 Street’s two development proposals. Neither of those lots are under an application for development. In order for 195A Street to become a thoroughfare, it would have to pass through those properties.
But even if the road didn’t become a connecting route, the pair still have concerns about the amount of traffic that will go through their complex. Kelemen has lived in Zen Townhomes since 2013; the homes across the road were completed in 2014.
“Even living here from 2013, the increase of of traffic with just the additional  units? Huge,” Kelemen said.
The Steelix application proposes 227 underground parking spaces for its development. At least some of those spaces would be accessible from the extended 195A Street.
Although the proposal has yet to go to council, Hegedus and Kelemen are already starting several petitions against the Steelix development.
The first is a petition to turn 195A Street into a private lane for Zen Townhomes and have it remain a dead-end road. The second is a general opposition to the development. According to Hegedus, nearly all of the 62 homeowners in the complex supported the petitions.
“I’ve been through this already,” Kelemen said. She lived in a single-family home on 168A Street and 85 Avenue that also saw a development open up her roadway to more density.
“We fought it. They didn’t care,” she continued. “And I’m hoping this doesn’t happen again.”