Cherry Lane developer defends rezoning application

By Craig Westcott/August 26, 2022

The developer behind the proposed rezoning of 22-24 Cherry Lane says he is not planning on doing anything different than he is already doing in other parts of Conception Bay South.

Brigham Young said his intention is to convert the former school and RNC detachment into a 4-unit duplex with apartments for seniors.

“When I bought it, it was a commercial building, that’s what I thought,” Young said. “It’s still a commercial building, but it’s in an R1 Zone.”

Young’s application to convert the structure to housing has come before council twice this summer. The first time, council rejected his application citing there was no provision for apartment buildings or duplexes in a Residential Low-Density Zone.

That led the developer to apply for a zoning change. At council’s public meeting last week, all but councillor-at-large Rex Hillier, who chairs the planning committee, voted to let the application proceed through the regulatory process of public hearings and a review by a commissioner, the steps needed before a rezoning can take place. A similar rezoning application for a different section of Cherry Lane is already underway.

Young said he thought the story about his application in last week’s edition of The Shoreline “kind of made me out to be the villain. I’m only trying to make a four-apartment unit for the seniors around here, because nobody has anywhere to live,” he said. “Prices are going up dramatically on apartments around here.”

Asked if he could restrict the rentals to seniors, Young was uncertain.

“Well, that’s what I was going to do with it,” he said. “I can’t tell what they’re going to do with it 50 years down the road.”

Young said he owns similar properties in CBS, including a 4 unit building at 2691 Topsail Road in Manuels across from the two schools. “And I’ve got seniors on 6 Mercers Road, and I’ve got some in Paradise and some in St. John’s.”

Asked if all those properties are restricted to seniors, Young replied, “Well, what I tell people is that it’s a 4-unit apartment building and there’s seniors living it,” he said. “So more or less, that’s what it’s for. I find for me personally that when you have four units you have less trouble than when you have two units, because you have four people there and if anything happens at all, you know about it. And they all watch out for each other and stuff like that.”

Young expressed disappointment at councillor Hillier’s opposition to his application, but will apply to get the property rezoned.

“It’s not like it’s a blank piece of land,” he noted. “I’m doing a renovation on that building. The building is still going to stay there. I’m going to jack it up and add on a piece on the back and take off a piece on the back. The thing is, that footprint is going to stay there. There’s a four-foot basement in there now, so I’m going to make it an eight foot basement.”

Young said there’s not enough room to divide the property and build two separate homes.

“I thought there was originally,” he said, “but it’s 100 feet by 150. You need 65 feet (frontage) on Cherry Lane (for a house). So yes, I’m kind of restricted in what I can do, and it’s made worse by some people, I guess. But some people don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. So, hope for the best is all I can do.”

Young said whether the building is turned into a 4-unit or two-unit structure, the building itself is not going to change. “It’s going to get new shingles, be jacked up, and get new siding, windows and doors, but the building is not ever going to change. I’m not going to invent the wheel or anything here., It’s going to be a renovation and apartments. Whether it’s a two apartment, or four apartments. If you have a big house and it’s a two apartment, you’re going to have a lot more activity there than if it’s a four apartment, as far as I’m concerned. There’s going to be more turnover and everything else, because it’s going to be more expensive to rent. It doesn’t do anything for low-income people then, because they’re not going to be able to afford to live there. It’s still going to be a rental property for me, whatever way I do it. Because that’s just what I’m into. I’m not going to move up there myself, and I’m not going to sell it.” Young pointed out that any house on Cherry Lane could be rented out by its owner, if the owner so chose. The result of his effort is that the old building that’s on that particular site now, will be made better, not worse, he argued.

Young said he was surprised after buying the building from the school board, which told him it was a commercial property, to learn at the CBS Town Hall that there were zoning restrictions. He paid HST on the sale, as if it was a commercial property, and is paying commercial property taxes now as the new owner. 

“But I can only put a school there, or a childcare place there (according to the zoning),” he added. “I could do something like that, I guess. I thought a nice looking 4-unit place would probably be one of the best things you could put there for the people in the area.”

As for the rezoning applikcation, Young said he has been told he only needs to get “spot rezoning” for 22-24 Cherry Lane and not the whole road.

He disagreed with the notion that a 4-unit apartment building will change the character of the neighbourhood. Just down the street, he pointed out, there is an old age home that doesn’t cause any problems.

“And what I’m putting there, from my point of view, is going to be for seniors living in it, at least (ages) 50 plus,” he said. “Because I don’t rent to young people. But when I die in a hundred years’ time, I don’t know what they’re going to do with it then. That’s the way that goes.”

Young said he has no intention of flipping the property after it’s built.

“But we’ve got to have places for people to live around here too,” he said. “We’ve got businesses up the shore here that can’t get anyone to work because they’ve got to drive out from town and Mount Pearl, because they’ve got nowhere to live up here. You’re going to end up with businesses up here closing because you’ve got no one to work. And that is happening in places. You’ve got to be careful of that too.”

Young said most new developments have a mixture of single-family homes, multi-unit residential buildings and larger homes. Affordable multi-unit apartments have to be intertwined throughout town to give people in that income category a place to live as close to the same amenities as everyone else, he argued.

“We’re not talking about putting up a hundred places here, we’re talking about 4 units,” Young said.

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