Proposal is to convert part of Slave Lake hotel into apartments
The Province of Alberta committed $4.5 million to an affordable housing project in Slave Lake, several years ago. Various proposals have come and gone – abandoned for reasons mostly having to do with financial viability.
Meanwhile, the current government favours partnerships with private enterprise. It put out a request for proposals for ways to use the $4.5 million on a housing project that would not cost the government any more. It got one such proposal, from the group that owns the Hotel Northern Star in Slave Lake. Its idea: to convert about half the hotel’s rooms into apartments.
That would require a zoning change by the town, since apartments are not a permitted use in the ‘secondary commercial’ district. That’s why the matter was before town council on Sept. 8.
Also in attendance was Ash Arora, representing Slave Lake Accommodations. He told council the plan was to have a strict separation between the two uses in the building, with safety the prime consideration. That separation would extend to the parking lot – the two parts also having their own entrance and exit to Main St.
Council also heard that the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) had voted against the proposal, citing safety and other concerns.
However, the town’s planning department was in favour. The main objection of the MPC, council heard, was that the proposed ‘urban village’ zoning for the property doesn’t include hotels as a permitted use. Adding it (hotels) was before council as a separate proposal.
Council opted to defer the decision on re-zoning the Northern Star property, pending the inclusion of hotels in the urban village zoning definition. That requires a public hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 5.
It’s worth noting that the Northern Star proposal is not what the Regional Housing Authority (RHA) – or the town – preferred. Mayor Tyler Warman, concluding the discussion on the matter at council’s meeting last week, said it was “frustrating” that the RHA plan to replace aging single-family units in the northwest part of town with an apartment building hadn’t worked out.
However, “I think it’s worth looking in the box,” he said.