With their arms crossed, all the Kingsway Kort residents could do is sigh as they watched city councillors pass a controversial request to rezone a portion of land they live on in southwest Brandon.
The land, which includes Kingsway Trailer Kort and a vacant parcel at 21 Willowcrest Ave., will shift from a commercial arterial zone to a residential high-density multiple family zone after passing the third and final reading on Tuesday.
But the vote wasn’t unanimous as councillors Garth Rice (South Centre) and John LoRegio (Meadows) opposed the rezoning. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres ) and Corey Roberts (Rosser) were absent.
Approximately a dozen residents got up and left the chambers after hearing the vote, some upset and confused.
"There are still so many unanswered questions," resident Liz Bhugwandeen said. "Right now, I don’t know what this means."
Another woman felt her councillor, Stephen Montague (Richmond), "betrayed" the residents in her ward.
"It just shows you that (the councillors) won’t even protect the people within their own borders," she said. "Who’s next?"
Montague defended his vote in favour of rezoning following the meeting. He said in 1999, the land was designated for commercial use because it was on the edge of the southern boundary of the city, but with the continued growth and based on the neighbouring properties, it makes sense to now rezone it residential.
The land was also designated for future residential use in the city’s planning documents.
Montague said the rezoning doesn’t change the residents’ battle with the developer, Brandon Evergreen Developments, which issued an eviction notice last summer only to have it be deemed invalid by the Residential Tenancies Branch on Dec. 30.
"Kingsway is going to operate tomorrow the same way it has today," Montague said. "It’s been an emotional issue and no one likes to see the situation that some of those residents are put into, but it’s a balance. Many of them have looked at redevelopment. Many of them are still struggling with the situation. Brandon is continuing to grow and the need of that area is residential given the neighbouring condos."
Montague said since the Kingsway story broke, the number of phone calls and emails about the issue have tapered off.
"It’s been pretty quiet," he said. "I’ve been open to discussion with them. The evictions and the rezoning are very separate."
Two separate bylaws that will see the city relax regulations for secondary suites and boarding houses also passed third and final reading.
The city’s planning department has been working on easing restrictions for secondary suites and boarding houses for months to address Brandon’s tight rental market.
Changes will relax regulations on size and percentage of floor area that can be used as rental units.
However, in all cases the boarding houses and secondary suites affected by the changes are required to be owner occupied.
The second bylaw will attempt to tackle homes that may already have an illegal suite. The bylaw will create a process for the city to address the issue of illegal suites and essentially grandfather suites into existence, provided they meet safety requirements.
» Twitter: @Charles Tweed