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Controversial Bowden apartment building application voted down

Okotoks-based developer Kyle McCowan said he's not sure what he'll do in light of the decision to deny Bowden application

BOWDEN — The town's municipal planning commission (MPC) has voted against an application by a developer to create a two-storey, 26-unit apartment building on land formerly designated commercial in Bowden. 

The motion denied the application because of the request by owner/applicants Leonard and Fern Kobewka and Okotoks-based developer Kyle McCowan to cut the required number of parking stalls to 30 from 39, a 23 per cent relaxation of the requirement in the town’s land use bylaw.     

The decision was made during a meeting held the evening of Jan. 15 at the Bowden Events Centre. About 45 people attended. 

Virtually all those in the crowd -- including former longtime town councillor Sheila Church -- were opposed to the proposal for one reason or another. 

McCowan spoke in favour of the application, citing Canada Mortage & Housing Corporation (CMHC ) statistics on the lack of affordable housing available for people in Canada. 

MPC chair Paul Webb invited people in the crowd to voice their opinions. 

One main objection raised by people was concern about the fact that the proposed building would be composed entirely of one-bedroom suites.  

The fear was that those suites would tend to attract undesireable and transient people and/or criminals. 

A second major objection was that the building would be erected on what was formerly designated as commercial land.  

Several people in the crowd said the town needs more businesses and that constructing a residence in that area would cut down on opportunities for businesses in downtown Bowden. 

Several people said the proposed parking is not enough and expressed fear that the streets in the area will be filled with vehicles, not only from residents but their guests. 

Another concern cited frequently was the size of the suites (468 square feet). Several speakers said that’s too small in their view. 

One woman expressed concern about the fact that the building will allow pets.  

“If two-thirds of the people in that building have a dog, (if) one starts barking, they’ll all going to start barking,” she said. 

McCowan confirmed there would be laundry facilities on the main floor of the structure. 

A woman suggested that’s not enough. She feared they wouldn’t be available when tenants need them and said there are no other laundry facilities available in Bowden. 

McCowan said this particular plan was put forward because that model has worked well in other builds he’s undertaken. He cited a building in Spruce View and Sun Market Suites, a former motel in Bowden that he turned into suites.  

Contrary to what many in the crowd feared, McCowan said the vast majority of people in those facilities are at least 40 or 50 years old, have good, steady incomes, and are good tenants.  

Sun Market Suites resident manager Rose Hartwin backed him up on that, saying she would not have remained in that position if that wasn’t the case. 

When the matter came down to a vote, a motion was made to postpone the matter and allow the applicant to submit a revised development plan that contained no relaxation on the number of parking stalls.

“I don’t want to see a relaxation on the parking,” MPC member Coun. Randy Brown said. Mayor and MPC member Robb Stuart said the same thing. 

That motion was defeated in a 3-3 tie. All of the town’s seven councillors are members of the MPC. However, Coun. Deb Coombes was absent that night. 

Then the motion to deny the application due to the relaxation request was made. It passed by a 5-1 margin. Coun. Marie Flowers cast the lone vote against it. 

In the wake of that decision, McCowan was asked by the Albertan if he planned to redesign the building, taking in the concerns of the public and MPC’s rejection of the parking relaxation request and bring it back before council. 

“I’ll be taking some time to consider, I guess, my options. As of this second, I do not have any firm ideas,” he said. 

McCowan said if the building was redesigned to accommodate the concerns of the public and MPC, “it would mean a smaller development, which means it’s less financially viable.” 

“You know, the more you constrain a development, the less incentive there is to develop it in the first place,” he said. 

“It’s a little disheartening when things don’t go smoother, but I mean, right now, I’ll be putting in two applications south of Calgary by Okotoks so I’ve got lots to do and I’ve got a buffet of options in my life.” 

McCowan was asked if, in light of that, he planned to keep working on this latest Bowden proposal. 

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I can’t give you a clear answer right now.” 

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