Sandy Casselman 
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

EMBRUN – The township of Russell will see multi-unit housing on Gamble Drive in the Russell Trail Subdivision.

At the May 3 council meeting, politicians voted in favour of the zoning by-law amendment for all three properties in question: Blocks 97, 98, and 99. Director of planning, building and economic development Dominique Tremblay reported that time was running out for Russell to decide about the amendment application, as the 90-day window allotted in provincial regulations would soon be running out. If that happened, she said the developers would be in a position where they could submit an appeal through the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act (LPAT), giving LPAT the power to decide what happens. This, she added, includes the potential for the approval of five-storey buildings rather than the staff recommending three stories.

With backlash from some area residents, council had deferred the decision during the last council meeting on April 19, with a note that the decision would be revisited when more information was available from developers about the types of buildings to be erected. Unfortunately, Tremblay said additional information was not yet available, but the deadline to decide was looming.

While Coun. Mike Tarnowski questioned whether there were protocols in place to make sure the new developments would be compatible with the rest of the subdivision, Mayor Pierre Leroux said he is quite comfortable with Tremblay and her team making appropriate decisions when it comes to site plans. Tremblay explained there are provincial guidelines staff must follow, but they also have a good relationship with the developers, which is important in terms of compromises that favour Russell.

She said following discussions with both contractors, Block 97’s owner has agreed to the three-storey limit for height. Tremblay noted there are clients already waiting to move into the future 35-unit building. As for Block 98 and 99, the owner of that development said he would agree to three stories for 98 but would like a minimum of four stories for 99. She said it looks as though the soil report will show that this is the best area in Russell for supporting five-storey buildings, which both developers could push for if they went to LPAT. Both owners, however, agreed to the three-and-four-storey height limits provided the amendment is approved right away.

Councillor Jamie Laurin moved to alter the motion, changing it to match the developer requests. The new motion would approve the zoning by-law amendment with a three-storey height limit for Blocks 97 and 98, and a four-storey height limit for Block 99. With Coun. Cindy Saucier absent due to illness, the remaining four council members voted in favour of approving the motion.

“Right now, the developers seem to be happy with this scenario. Members of the public are more than welcome to appeal this to LPAT, but keep in mind the risk,” Leroux said, reminding viewers that should the developers push for it, Russell could end up with five-storey buildings in those locations. He said a similar situation has happened in Russell in the past. “I think it’s a very good compromise.”