University seeks nod to develop more land
By HEATHER MCLAUGHLIN
March 1, 2011
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the Friends of the UNB Woodlot urged city council to apply the brakes to any more development of the University of New Brunswick’s woodlot.
But city council voted unanimously to support a proposal by UNB to subdivide and rezone eight highway-commercial building lots on university property at 75 Knowledge Park Dr.
Monday night’s vote with nine councillors in attendance gave second reading to the zoning changes. Third and final reading of the bylaw comes in two weeks time.
The university hasn’t signed leases with prospective developers yet, but the lots are intended for everything from restaurants to a hotel.
The university is asking for the zoning change to try to attract a variety of developers to the area across from the Grant*Harvey Centre.
Mark D’Arcy, speaking on behalf of the Friends of the UNB Woodlot, said the university should have sent representatives to the planning advisory committee and to Monday night’s city council meeting to answer questions about why it needs to develop more land and the consequences of doing so.
“If UNB continues to develop as planned, we are going to see increased taxes, increased flood risk and decreased quality of life for our community and our children,” D’Arcy told city council Monday night. “Our group’s focus right now is on an intact UNB woodlot (and it’s) our insurance policy against catastrophic rain events of climate change.”
D’Arcy said southside Fredericton residents are protected by the forested wetlands atop Regent Street that are owned by the university.
Kevin Matthews, speaking on behalf of the conservation council, said his group opposes any further development of the UNB woodlot.
“To take any more of the capacity out of the UNB woodlot in terms of its retention of water will head us down the road to further disaster,” he said.
For reasons of wildlife protection, biodiversity and public safety, there should be a halt to development, he said.
“We call upon the university to stand up and take its responsibilities as an institute of higher learning … They’ve got a lot of people up there who should know better than to be developing those lands.
“And, in fact, I’m willing to bet if you polled the faculty up there, they will tell you that most of them object to what is going on. We would like the city to take a leadership role in developing something other than paving over the UNB woodlot. You could turn it into a community forest.”
Ward 11 Coun. Jordan Graham wanted to know if UNB has undertaken a flood risk study of its property.
Richard Smith, a consultant with ADI Ltd., representing UNB, said the project is in its early stages.
“A flood risk analysis will be undertaken with the particular development only. It’s not for the entire UNB woodlot. That question should be asked to the (UNB) administration,” Smith said.
Sheldon Lee, the city’s manager of engineering services, said the city has adopted guidelines that require no net peak increase in storm water generation. When development occurs, he said, the developer has to take steps to mitigate for displaced lands.
That’s why the city is building a storm water attenuation pond to be jointly funded by taxpayers and by UNB to handle surface water collection in the vicinity of Grant*Harvey Centre.
“If a development goes in above stream of an existing development, the downstream properties cannot be adversely affected by that development,” Lee said.
The city is planning a 20 per cent increase in pipe sizes as it develops storm water systems to compensate for global warming and changes in the weather that the city is seeing.
Major drains are intended to be able to handle one-in-100-year events, but as pipes are changed, they’ll have an additional 20 per cent capacity for drainage built in, he said.
Not all of the city’s street drainage pipes can handle huge flows. Some are designed for one-in-10-year floods.
Heavy rain in December also caused some city water drains to become overwhelmed as they experienced an unexpected one in 25-year-flood, Lee said.