BOWDEN — A developer has come back with a new plan to create apartments in the old Lions Hall.
The matter is scheduled to come before the town’s Municipal Planning Commission on Jan. 25.
After a previous proposal presented to council in 2019, Kyle McCowan of Okotoks has dropped the number of apartments proposed to 22 from 26.
He has also asked for a “relaxation” on the number of parking stalls required.
During an interview, McCowan said the town’s current Land Use Bylaw calls for 1.75 stalls per apartment.
McCowan described that requirement as “huge.”
“I mean, that’s almost two vehicles for a one-bedroom apartment. It’s excessive,” he said, adding his calculations call for 1.22.
“They have a one size fits all for all apartment sizes – be it one-bedroom all the way up to a four-bedroom townhouse,” McCowan said.
“We’re not building a four-bedroom townhouse with four occupants, and so we’re asking for a lower amount of parking per apartment to accommodate, since we are only building one-bedrooms.”
Back in the summer of 2019, Bowden council passed a bylaw rezoning three lots along 19th Avenue — including the old Lions Community Hall, located 50 metres east of Highway 2A, southeast of the former Bowden Hotel.
The lots, originally zoned low density residential (R1) were re-zoned general residential (R2) which allows for higher density development on the property, rather than just single-family residential homes.
However, during a public hearing, reaction to the proposal among members of the public – in person or in written form -- was split, with some supporting it and some opposed.
In general, those opposed to it worried the increased density of the project could increase crime and risk to public safety, there was insufficient space for parking, insufficient green space, no public transportation available for future residents, and the proposed development could hurt property values for surrounding homes.
Those for it liked the idea of more accommodation in town and saw the project as a way to revitalize the town’s downtown area.
McCowan said he decided to bring back the revised proposal to council now because he’s heard that opposition to the project is softening.
He’s also heard that council is revising its Land Use Bylaw so he’s hopeful he and council can strike a compromise on the parking requirements that could make the project viable.
McCowan sees the project as a “win/win.”
“It’s an older building which has been sitting empty now for I don’t know what. Five years? So it’s not getting any better, it’s not making the town any better and I think some change would be positive,” he said.
The previous iteration of the project also called for the development of a couple of cottages on property adjacent to the building.
McCowan said he’s now abandoned that idea.
“It was thought that it would be a space that would work well as an experiment for a new kind of I guess, rental-type accommodation, which would be kind of more close to you know, say a cabin, a cottage; something more personal and quite affordable, that someone might find more attractive than an apartment with four walls and windows on only one side,” he said.
“That being said, we thought we’d give that a try. But you know what? It’s a question mark to a lot of people because it hasn’t been heard of or seen of, so there’s some hesitation.
“So in the effort to clean this application so that it’s-- we’ll say -- more easily understood and accepted, we’ve dropped that.”
Dave Dittrick, director of planning and development and assistant Red Deer county manager, is intrigued by McCowan’s proposal.
“It’s one of these tough ones,” he said. “These old downtowns; to get revitalized you almost need to have some more density down there and stuff. It'll be interesting (to see what happens on Jan. 25).”