Thursday, May 7, 2015

India Avenue Housing Proposal gets Council approval, but not without controversy

The proposed Housing development for India Avenue consumed a good portion of Prince Rupert City Council's attention at last weeks Council session, with the project subject to both a Public Hearing and then a final vote on zoning issues and permit applications.

And while in the end City Council voted to approve the proposed redevelopment of the old Bethel Baptist Church, the evening did have some moments of controversy on the way to that vote.

The process started with a Public Hearing, where Council received an overview from the City Planner recapping the process to this point and providing some background on the proposed development to convert the old Church into executive suites housing.

As part of that process, Council heard concerns from one resident of the area, who urged Council to turn down the application, as well Council received comments of support from the proposed development from one of the city's Realtors.

Geoff Greenwell of 2G the developers of the project, also offered up some commentary related to the concerns expressed and what he has planned for the development.

The Public Hearing portion of the process can be viewed from the City's Video Archive from the beginning of the session until about the 22 minute mark.

Later in the evening, Council then moved on to consider the zoning amendment and other aspects of the proposed development, which is where things became a little heated.

For the most part of the discussion phase of the review of the proposal, Council members addressed a range of topics, the majority of them related to parking issues on the site and the number of residents that would be living in the 17 suites to be developed.

Those were key issues of concern for both Councillor Cunningham and Councillor Niesh, who both asked a number of questions and made numerous observations related to the congestion that they fear will come from development of the site.

The area of the evening's discussion that has now become the talk of the town arrived as the vote neared, as Councillor Niesh outlined a number of his concerns related to the developer and called upon the memories of council members to remember the past when it comes to what the City is promised and what eventually takes place.

In particular Councillor Niesh's thoughts related to the overview of the project from the Mayor and the Councillor's comments related to the proposed development produced some language and inferences that the Mayor took issue with in follow up commentary.

Using the video player above you can review the full discussion related to the India Avenue proposal starting at the 55 minute mark and continuing on until the one hour thirty one minute point.

Councillor Niesh's concerns and the Mayor's subsequent rebuke of his language run from the 1 hour 10 minute mark to the end of the discussion at the 1 hour thirty minute mark.

In the end, Council voted to approve the zoning amendments by a vote of 4-2, moving as well the variance permit and development permit phase of the process.

Councillor Thorkelson then offered up some observations after the sharp words of the discussion between Councillor Niesh and the Mayor.

A more expanded overview of the presentations s related to both the Public Hearing and the Regular Council session discussions on the topic can be found on our City Council Timeline.

Following the vote,  Ms. Thorkelson observed that for the future the City should explore what measures they could use to ensure that what developers say they plan to build is what is finally developed.

Suggesting that it is something that Council should look have a discussion about in the future to avoid such unseemly discussions as to whether Council members believe anyone or not. Putting in place guarantees to be sure that they what they see at the development phase is what they in the end get.

What comes of the exchange between Mayor and Councillor Niesh, as well as the thoughts of the proponent of the development over the commentary on the night remains to be seen.

The evening's session does however highlight that on this particular development, there is somewhat of a split on Council when it comes to some of the aspects of the proposed renovation of the church and what uses may come of it in the future.

Further items related to India avenue proposal can be found from our Housing archive.

More background on Council discussions can be found on our City Council Archive page.

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