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A rendering of the proposed Ethos Ridge development in Saint John. Image: Saint John council agenda

Council nixes proposed changes to Ethos Ridge project

By Brad Perry Jul 26, 2023 | 7:08 AM

Saint John council has turned down proposed changes to a Millidgeville retirement community.

The Ethos Ridge development, located off Sandy Point Road, was originally approved back in 2021.

Developers appeared before council this week asking to increase the number of units from 125 to 167 and add a fifth storey to the building.

They also wanted to substitute underground parking with surface parking and extend the timeline for completion from five years to seven.

Scott Walton, one of the project’s developers, said “unforeseen circumstances” in the market have drastically changed the development landscape.

Walton said they have been faced with increased construction costs and higher interest rates over the last few years.

“These changes enable us to proceed and also have a positive effect on the neighbouring Pelton Road community,” Walton said during a public hearing on Monday.

Work was supposed to start in the fall of 2021, but Walton said construction price volatility, the availability of labour and supply shortages held them back.

He said they repriced the project twice that year, and both times the prices were 20 per cent higher than initially budgeted.

“With these things happening, it was essentially impossible to proceed with the original site plan and pro forma. We would have been making a grave mistake if we started that year,” said Walton.

The developer said they now hope to start construction before the end of 2023, barring any further delays.

Walton said the updated building design is much smaller than what they originally started with. Underground parking, the proposed hair salon and the pool have all been removed from the project design.

The communal dining facility has also moved from a pre-packaged meal plan to an à la carte model provided by a private operator in an effort to reduce costs.

But a number of residents who spoke during the hearing felt the proposed development is no longer a supportive facility given the changed approach to food service.

“I have nothing against development — this city needs good development — but this is not a good development. It’s in the wrong location. This is not what was passed in 2021,” said Robert Bazaluk.

Under the city’s zoning bylaw, a supportive facility can be defined as “an establishment devoted to retired residents where common amenities and services, including communal dining, are provided exclusively to such senior residents.”

Walton said despite the proposed change in the food service model, communal dining would still be provided exclusively to the building’s residents.

However, some residents and councillors questioned whether it is still communal dining when residents would have to pay extra for the service.

Some of those who spoke also raised concerns about stormwater runoff, particularly with the additional surface parking that was proposed.

City staff noted that a stormwater design conforming to the city’s drainage bylaw is required with the building permit application, adding that post-development stormwater runoff is limited to pre-development levels.

Coun. Gary Sullivan put forward a motion to turn down the proposed changes to the Ethos Ridge development.

“I certainly understand and accept the explanation with regards to the economic changes, but the design we have in front of us tonight, sorry, doesn’t inspire me,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan’s motion passed by a 7-2 vote, with councillors Brent Harris and David Hickey voting for the changes to go ahead.


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