Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thoughts on amenities, road safety among Council commentary on Park Avenue housing permit process

The supportive housing project for Park Avenue provided for much of
the theme of Monday night's Prince Rupert City Council Session

Yet one more step was accomplished towards finally bringing a supportive housing complex for the homeless towards the construction phase, as Prince Rupert City Council approved the permit process on Monday night, but not without a range of questions to ask of City Planner Zeno Krekic.

We outlined many of the elements from his report on Monday, included in the document (available on page eight from the City Council Agenda for Monday) were some diagrams of what the structure will look like, it's placement on the site and some of the notes of interest raised by the Ministry of Transportation.

Following his presentation, Council members offered up some thoughts related to the development and compiled a bit of a wish list when it comes to aesthetics and safety concerns related to the project.

For his part Mayor Brain outlined how the City had been involved in the project by looking for available properties for development  on a long term, low lease basis, determining that the Park Avenue lot was the only lot currently owned by the city that was suitable and ready for civic services.

He noted that for other potential sites, there would be the need for adding on civic services and expanded zoning approvals and such, a process that would add time towards any potential development.

"We went in a van with BC Housing to a variety of different city owned lots that could potentially house this many units, but it was determined that this lot here was the only real one that was available that had existing servicing available to the site,  that includes water and sewage and electrical and things like that which require a massive amount of millions of dollars of construction to do if you're going to do it on a lot that doesn't have it, which a lot of the city owned lots are not serviceable at the moment."

Mr. Brain also observed as to how the housing development is to be operated by the Transition House Society, which is on an adjoining lot, it is felt that there are no concerns over security and other issues related to the site. The Mayor also outlined some of the details to the operation of the building and what life support options will be provided through BC Housing and the Transition House Society.

Some of the questions and observations addressed comments raised earlier in the evening by a participant in the Committee of the Whole session, who had expressed some concerns over the chosen location for the facility, noting its proximity to Transition House and some of the nearby commercial ventures in the area

Towards the building itself Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the nature of the construction and how the project will be assembled on the site and what it will look like.

The City planner noted for Council that project will be made up of modular units and that the completed structure will most resemble a modest apartment building. Offering up the apartments on Park Avenue near Five Corners as perhaps the best example.

Councillor Randhawa inquired about on site management of the building, with Mr. Brain answering the question noting that Transition House staff will be providing 24 hour management for the building once it is in operation.

"The North Coast Transition Society will be managing these units, which allows them the opportunity to manage them through their existing office and there's a lot of various security measures that are already in place with the Transition House. So, the staff at the Transition House now don't foresee any complications between having these units next to them, so it seemed to be a win for all parties there." 

Mr. Krekic made note of the limited parking options for the site, noting how the main focus of the building was for homeless or near homeless, he advised that if BC Housing was to expand the mandate for the building, then the onus would be on them to add to parking for the site.

Councillor Cunningham had concerns related to the potential for traffic dangers for the site, observing as to the speed on the highway at that part of the city, noting that there should be some discussion about a cross walk or some other option to ensure for safe transit across a very busy roadway.

"You have a long stretch of highway there, from Five Corners ... down ... people don't slow down on that road and I can see people wanting to cross from this project over to the other side going up to BC housing, or something like that ... has there been any discussion about a crosswalk or anything between Five corners and farther down ... I think it's something that should be considered because you/re going to get people crossing there and we already have enough problems with people getting hit in crosswalks, never mind the middle of nowhere, so I think it's something that we should discuss so the city doesn't end up with a bill for crosswalk or a lighted cross walk"

Mr. Cunningham also inquired as to the status of fencing for the property, with the Mayor joining in to inquire about buffers for the building and whether some of the trees may be left in place to provide for a natural buffer.

Councillor Niesh offered up his support for the project and its location, noting the ongoing need to address the homeless issue in the community.

The Mayor also offered up that he had viewed a similar style of housing last year at the UBCM gathering and it was of high quality, he added that the structure proposed for Prince Rupert was part of the province's rapid response to housing issues and that the city has a choice to either approve a project like this on not, and if not, they will have people living on the streets.

Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson also raised issues of aesthetics and safety for the site, calling for such amenities as a garden, benches, a fountain and such to add some green and public space to the project.

Ms. Thorkelson also noted some of the comments from those living on the streets and their concerns of having somewhere outside to gather and not to just be confined into a single room. She also echoed Councillor Cunningham's concerns over the safety related to Park Avenue and  how the city needs to put their minds towards that.

"The two biggest concerns were having somewhere outside, because many people have been living outside for so long that they are used to sitting outside on park benches and they are looking not just to be confined into a single room. Some kind of landscaping with park benches or something like that, a fountain, something nice ... the other thing is crossing to the other the side of the street and I think that;s going to be a huge concern"

On the theme of Park Avenue and safety, Mayor Brain indicated that some discussion has taken place related to that issue.

With the project on a tight timeline if there is any hope to have it in place for the fall deadline previously announced moving it forward would seem to be an important thing.

Mr Krekic observed for Council that the wouldn't be inclined to recommend any slow down of the development of the project to address those concerns at the moment, noting that it is heading into a critical period of time towards getting a start on construction.

"I don't think that we should stop the progress on this one, issuing the development permit because we are now starting to get into the critical part of the construction season."

Mr. Krekic's observation was a valid one, the timeline for a supportive housing building for the homeless has been one of shifting deadlines for a while now, the original notes from back in November when it was first announced, was for a Spring opening.

Now that we're into summer any further kind of delay could very well put the Fall target into peril.

The project can now move forward towards application for a building permit as part of the city's process of approvals.

Note: The City of Prince Rupert has not made the video re-broadcast of Monday's Council session available as of yet, should they update their video record archive, we will add the Council presentation from Monday to this story.

Update:  The June 25th council Video was uploaded to the City's YouTube portal on July 6, 2018

For more notes related to Monday's City Council session see our Council Timeline feature here.

A wider overview of City Council discussion topics is available on our archive page.

Further background on housing issues across the Northwest can be found from Housing archive here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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