Friday, July 29, 2016

City Council adds Seniors Housing requirement and development timeline covenants to Graham Avenue land sale

City Council has voted to sell a parcel
of land on Graham Avenue to developers
The Bryton Group, but added a number
of covenant items to the sale.
The Bryton Group will be facing some new requirements when it comes to moving forward with their plans for development of land in the Graham Avenue area.

The latest twist in a long running discussion on land use in the west side neighbourhood came after Prince Rupert City Council added a number of covenant items to the plan to sell a parcel of land to the developer.

The new covenants to be put in place were introduced by Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham as part of Monday's council session.

By the time the final comment had been made and the back and forth of discussion had come to an end, Council had put in place what it called their only tool available at the moment, as they looked to ensure that the wishes of the City and the area residents would be heard by the developer.

From their deliberations on Monday a number of additional conditions have been put in place when it comes to the land sale, with the main focus directed towards Council's reinforcement of its desire to see a Seniors Housing condo unit included in the development plan as part of the covenant package related to the sale of the land to the Bryton Group. 

Along with that key element, Council will place a number of timeline benchmarks that the developer will have to meet when it comes to the long discussed property development on the west side.

The lengthy Monday night session featured two distinct sections to the discussion, the first through a forty four minute public comment opportunity provided to residents in attendance at the Council session, with eleven participants taking advantage of the Committee of the Whole Session to express their concerns related to the land sale and development plans for he neighbourhood.

When the minutes of both the Public comment opportunity and follow up Council session are added up the Graham Avenue land issue grabbed over one hour and forty minutes of the two and a half hour Council session.

The nature of the way that the issue was approached by Council on Monday however, seemed to provide the image of two competing sets of lectures, one from the residents of the neighbourhood, the other by members of City Council.

Despite the lengthy amount of time allocated towards the topic, there were actual few moments where each side actually engaged with each other on the many issues that seemed to dominate Monday's discussion.

Of the eleven residents who spoke, ten offered up a list of issues that they wished the city to consider,  among the key concerns were:

The use and timing of the Alternate Approval Process, with some noting that many were away during the summer and calling for a full public hearing in September.

A belief that the City was selling the land at a fire sale price, suggesting to Council that if the City has to sell a piece of land to move a housing development forward then maybe they have the wrong developer in place.

Lack of information provided to the area's residents related to what the proposed development will look like.

A need to respect the long time residents of the neighbourhood and respect their wishes.

Concerns related to increased traffic and the impact on the vulnerable road and sewer infrastructure in the Graham/Atlin Avenue area.

Only one participant in the public comment period offered unqualified support for the project, with Realtor and Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce President Keith Lambourne offering up his observations on the need for more housing in the community and a desire to see some shovels finally hit the ground when it comes to housing proposals.

To try and provide some clarity on the issue of land valuations, Kevin Stunder, who has provided some consultation work on behalf of the Bryton Group offered up some insight as to how the land valuation had been determined.

Once the public comment period had been exhausted, the topic would return later in the evening as part of Council's Regular Agenda, when Council members weighed in for a fifty six minute discussion on the theme,

Councillors Niesh and Mirau provided the opening conversation points as they relayed a range of thoughts when it came to the concerns raised by the public.

Councillor Niesh who noted that he had wished that the Graham Avenue residents had stayed through the Council session to hear his thoughts, noting that he had listened to their presentations earlier in the session.

He then recounted some of his findings from a nine hour tour of the Graham Avenue area on Saturday.

From his study he offered up findings that indicated a split for the most part in the neighbourhood on the issue of the land sale and proposed housing development.

From Mr. Niesh's account he observed that 23 had agreed with the proposed development, 5 against it while 7 were considered neutral. On the issue of the land sale, 20 were in favour of selling it, with six stating that they were against the sale. 

The councillor also offered up his belief that some of the residents appeared to have felt pressured by their neighbours to sign the AAP.

Councillor Niesh also observed that he believes that the City could have done more to inform the residents of the area about the land sale and the AAP approach that the city had decided to use.

Councillor Blair Mirau had many challenges
to offer when it came to Monday's decision
to install covenants to a land sale on the
west side of the city
Those comments related to how the City had approached the issue was something that Councillor Mirau challenged, noting that he believed that there was some misinformation delivered to the community by area residents, a campaign that he said was hard for the City to counter.

He also reminded Council of the city's approach to the efforts that the city made to inform the public, including a video which he hosted explaining the AAP process.

As well, on the theme of misinformation, Councillor Mirau noted that while he lives in the Section Two area, he had not been invited to a meeting related to the land issue, suggesting that organizers had purposely chosen not to invite him, perhaps knowing that he would offer a different perspective.

As they moved through the fifty six minutes of discussion on the issue, other Councillors weighed in, with both Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa noting that they believed that the valuation of the land was low.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to a theme she had raised with the residents earlier in the evening, noting that while she acknowledged that many of the residents felt strongly about  the development, they appeared to be using the land sale issue as another way to try and influence the developer into doing what they believe was promised back in the past.

She observed that the input from the residents puts the focus back on the issue of the wish to see a Seniors housing condo located in the area, reminding council that such a project was something that she had been advocating in favour of for a number of years.

The Mayor also noted that the residents were not saying no to development, but that the issue of Seniors Housing was something that many residents of the Graham Avenue area consider to be something that had been originally promised when the area was first proposed for development.

Mayor Brain observed that through additional steps added to the land sale, the City is providing some assurance to the residents that they are working to achieve that goal, using the only tool they have at the moment to deliver it. 

The debate entered the home stretch with Councillor Mirau and Councillor Thorkelson exchanging thoughts on the concepts of private property rights, compared to collective rights, with Councillor Mirau expressing his concerns as to how any property developer may view such last minute covenants and how it could have an impact on how any developer views their plans in Prince Rupert.

To bring the motion to a vote, Council then heard the covenant proposals that both Councillor Cunningham and Thorkelson had originally offered up for consideration earlier in the evening.

Councillor Cunningham making his
final points on the Graham Avenue
land sale
Councillor Thorkelson responding
to some of Councillor Mirau's concerns
on Monday evening

In his closing remarks, Councillor Cunningham echoed some of thoughts of Councillor Niesh from earlier in the session, noting that the covenants will try to reach the original intent of the project and should help to move the proposed development forward, noting that there has been little progress so far and how the time lines should help spur on the project.

After the final comments were delivered, and with a bit of last minute tweaking towards the final draft of the covenants to be put in place Council voted to 6-1 to adopt the motion, with Councillor Mirau noting that he was in favour of the land sale but strongly registering his opposition to the covenant provisions.

With the motion passed, the following conditions will be put in place when it comes to the sale of the Graham Avenue land.

The construction of the site be completed in full by December 31st of 2019

A percentage of not less than thirty percent of the total number of units be solely dedicated for seniors and provisioned with wheelchair accessibility,

A development permit must be obtained by December 31st of 2017.

And should any of the provisions within the covenant not be met in full within the time lines as specified, the City of Prince Rupert shall have the right to take back the lands previously sold at a rate of the original sale price at appraised value less twenty percent for administration costs.

The evening made for a fascinating, if at times somewhat tiring review, of how local government in the community moves. Any resident looking to learn more about how a number of conflicting views on a controversial issue get thrashed out in Council chambers, should give Monday's session a viewing.

You can review our full overview of both the Public Hearing and following Council discussion through our Council Timeline feature.

The two segments can also be reviewed from the City's Video Archive, the Public hearing section can be found starting at the 26 minute mark, while Council's deliberations on the motion can be followed starting at the one hour thirty two minute mark.

Some past background on the long running discussions related to the Graham/Park Avenue development plans can be found below.

July 2016 -- City set to move on land issue off Graham after AAP results released
May 2016 -- City to make use of Alternate Approval Process for Graham Avenue Land sale
January 2016 -- Council pulls west side road closure bylaw from Agenda consideration

July 2015 -- Concerns over Graham Avenue Road extension dominate Park Avenue Public Hearing
July 2015 -- Park Avenue Housing Development to get Second Public Hearing
June 2015 -- Park Avenue proposal receives petition push back
June 2015 -- Councillor Thorkelson looks to include Senior's Housing in Park Avenue Development planning
April 2015 -- Public Meeting scheduled regarding Park Avenue Housing rezoning issue
March 2015 -- Proposed West Side Housing Development moves to public notification stage
March 2015 -- Council to consider Zoning issues related to proposed housing development off of Park Avenue

March 2014 -- Council takes Graham Avenue Condo project to public comment phase
February 2014 -- City considers townhouse development for Graham Avenue area

More items related to City Council discussions can be found on our Council Discussion page.

1 comment:

  1. Your notes above being said, he was the only one on the evening that appears to have had experience in the concept of land valuations. So his insight did add some background to the topic at hand. As council noted in their discussions, there is the option of seeking a second valuation should they desire.