Thursday, June 13, 2019

Residential or Commercial? Biggar Place rezoning quest brings questions on City's priorities

A proposal to rezone some lots along Biggar Place near Five Corners
was up for discussion at Monday's City Council session

City Council took its first look at the latest plans for a number of lots on Biggar Place, with a request in front of them to have the area in question rezoned from its current status of residential, to that of commercial/service.

Monday's review began with a presentation from City Planner Zeno Krekic, who outlined the nature of the proposed change which has been applied for by Marogna Enterprises.

He outlined how the property in question on Biggar Place is adjacent to the Five Corners area of the city, and that the applicant has assembled a number of lots  for commercial purposes in that area on the west side of the downtown  development permit area.

The zoning change would see the land changed from family-residential to service-commercial, Mr. Krekic noted that the proposed change is consistent with the long term downtown plans.

City Planner Zeno Krekic used two maps to highlight the area
in question that is up for rezoning to commercial use

(from City of PR Agenda for June 10 2019)

When it came for a discussion of the proposed zoning change the Mayor led off the conversation inquiring if it is the same owner as that owns the other properties that have been assembled.

Mr. Krekic replied in the affirmative, making note of the material included in the Agenda package  (see page 144) which outlines the specifics to the various lots in question.

Councillor Adey asked if the city knew what the property owner had in mind towards development, and he was advised that the city did not have any indication at the moment as to what is planned and that the process at the moment is that of land assembly for future use.

Councillor Randhawa asked if there were any property tax implications from the change in zoning.

The City's Chief Financial Officer fielded that question,  noting that it would all depend on how BC assessment approaches the change. She observed that her sense is that it would move into Commercial, with the Mayor adding how there were no houses on those lots anymore.

Councillor Cunningham asked how it fits in with the Redesign Prince Rupert planning and that of designing downtown, noting how in the past council has advocated for housing in the downtown area and that this seems to be taking away that option by changing the zoning from residential land to commercial.

"How does this fit into the Redesign Prince Rupert and redesign the downtown? We've had numerous conversations about building residential down in that area and that, and we're taking a big chunk of residential property out and making it service commercial. Does that fit in with the  overall plan?"

On the theme of Redesign Rupert, Mayor Brain noted that the city's program has yet to get underway and how they haven't even made a plan yet  for redesign;  with the team assigned to take on that project not expected to be ready to provide any notes on their work until December of this year

When it comes to the advocacy for housing in the downtown area, Mr. Cunningham's observations do take us back a few years, and some lively council debates over housing proposals in the heady days of potential LNG development.

One of the proposed housing plans that sparked the largest of the commercial vs residential debates, was the 2015 review of the Stiles Place Development.

A project which never did break ground, but did seem to highlight the split in opinion on the Council of the time when it came to how the downtown area should be developed.

The proposed condo development and other significant property related discussions from that period gave council members of the time an opportunity to expand on their preferences. With the need for increased affordable housing for the downtown core, one of the key issues of that time

As for how the public may feel about the need for more housing in the downtown area, it does not appear to be a high priority for some.

The recent study on downtown revitalization through the city's Rupert Talks consultation process indicated that 63 percent of those who responded to that survey were not all that interested in living in the downtown area.

To bring the discussion to a close on Monday, Mayor Brain further noted how at this point, the request in front of Council was mainly that of one property owner who wants to pursue property options in that area.

The Biggar place land also was of note in 2016, when Council discussed the proposed development as part of a lane closure request, with the topic generating a significant amount of talk about past appearances on the theme and how none of the past promises ever seem to be have delivered on.

In 2015, the topic of the lots on Bigger Place had made for some commentary for Council from residents of the area.

With the larger issue for residents of the Borden Street neighbourhood, which is adjacent to Biggar Place that of what the proponent might have in mind when it comes to the development of the land in question.

To move the process forward on Monday, Council then gave the motion first reading and set in motion the call for a community information meeting, to take place at a date to be determined and to be hosted by the proponent of the zoning change.

You can review the presentation to Council from the City's Video archive starting at the 44 minute mark.

Further background on Monday's Council session is available from our Council Timeline feature.

More notes related to Council Discussion themes can be found here, while a wider overview of land and housing issues in the region can be explored here.

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