Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Park Avenue Hotel plans move towards Public Hearing opportunity

A project that was proposed prior to the City's adotption of the new Official Community Plan and then found itself on the outside looking in towards land use will now move forward, after Prince Rupert Council voted to move a proposed hotel or Traveller's accommodation  development forward towards a future public hearing.

The proposed development for the Park Avenue area made for two blocks of the Council members time on Monday, the first portion of the review coming from a presentation from the proponents, the second as part of the approval for a zoning change and the forward progress now for a Public Hearing on the topic.

The presentation for council which took place by phone with Daniel MacGregor noted of the need for a rezoning and return to Commercial status for the land which is now listed under residential provisions of a new Official Community plan,.

The focus of the update made note of the work by the local investors and the partners from outside of the city who have made for a significant amount of background work on the land in question and a review of some of the challenges that they have found with the property in question requiring some changes towards their planning.

The structure related to their application would feature three floors of modular construction, along with 60 units and parking for 66 vehicles, the clientele would be a range of customers from backpackers to temporary workers in town for the range of port projects underway.

From the presentation package provided to Prince Rupert
City Council for Monday's session

Mr. MacGregor observed that he believes the development is the most appropriate use of the land in question, noting of similar C3 Zoning properties nearby and observing of some of the drawbacks towards developing family housing along the busy Park Avenue corridor.

He also provided a look at the expansive amount of support that they have received from both local organizations nearby and residents in the adjacent neighbourhood to the proposed development, observing that the proponents were quite humbled by the support that they received from those in the immediate area.

"On the public feedback ...  a fantastic and overwhelming amount of support from the public through our public consultation  program,  from May 29 to date we received 34 letters or emails of support which is in your package.  You can see a sample of some from the Transition Society, Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society a lot of community business support for this proposal" -- Daniel MacGregor to City Council on Monday night

Mr. MacGregor also outlined how their proposal makes for a better fit for the location in question as opposed to any plans for residential housing.

"We believe it makes sense here as its on a major highway halfway strategically between the Ferry Terminal and downtown, the current multi family development RM2 would be less desirable here. The building that we are proposing is a new modern high quality hotel provides benefits to the city and helps to meet that need for accommodations" 

The council members offered up no questions to Mr. MacGregor following his presentation, with Mayor Brain noting that the zoning request would be up for consideration later on in the evening by the Council membership.

From the presentation package provided to Prince Rupert
City Council for Monday's session

When they did take up that request for new zoning later in the evening, the Council members stressed that while the land is now zoned as residential, the allowance for a return to commercial was still within the spirit of their plan to direct commercial activity to the downtown core.

With Councillor Randhawa excusing himself from the discussion noting that he lives in proximity to the proposed development, many of the Council members then shared some opinions or comments on the zoning change request.

Councillor Adey was the first to speak to the topic, noting of the presentation at the start of the evening from the proponents and some of the previous times that it has been brought before council. He noted how he had been struck by the number of letters of support that the project gained, but also called attention to some of the concerns related to the development.  

Among his top item of note, those concerns expressed by the Prince Rupert Fire Department, with the Councillor asking where Council members would find details as to how those concerns have been addressed.

With no members of the city's contract planners in attendance at the session, Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller offered up a response, observing how this was only a first and second reading and that details could still be provided before the process moved forward, she also noting how she would contact the Deputy Fire Chief for further background.

Mayor Brain also added some notes on how the process could evolve and observed how this is the first project that has taken place as a rezoning issue under the new provisions of the Official Community Plan making note of the volume of community engagement that the proponents had engaged in prior to this first appearance.

"Just a note,  this project is I think probably the first rezoning that's in our new development guidelines, which we have mandated to have all the public engagement up front. So it's rare for us to see letters of support and engagement at a first presentation. And the reason why we did that is because most of the time we have rezoning it takes almost months for the community to have a chance to have a say which allows speculation in the community to occur. So in this case it's up to the developer to reach out to the community  and present their project to the community just as they did tonight, that was their presentation to the community" -- Mayor Lee Brain

The Mayor also outlined that there will be more opportunity for commentary as part of the Public hearing that will come in the future as part of the proposed development. 

Ms. Miller did note for the record that one letter of opposition had been received by the city towards the developments. She also provided some further clarification on the covenant that would specify the nature of the development and limit it to the accommodation use proposed.

Councillor Mirau echoed the Mayors comments and noted how he was impressed with the applicant's work on the community engagement aspect of the file, suggesting that future developers could use it as a guide towards how to proceed.

"I don't think we've seen a project at first reading have that much input ... from what I read in that report the applicant was out handing delivering the notifications which was fantastic so I want to commend them for that and I think other developers would do well to take note of that approach in the future"

He also spoke to the city's change in zoning, suggesting that the reversal from residential to commercial is not as such against their commitment to shifting commercial development to the downtown core, adding how he feels the covenant serves to limit any other development other than the travellers accommodation proposal.

"Our intent was to cluster commercial development closer to Cow Bay and you know there was some suggestion that rezoning this back to commercial or letting it remain commercial was contrary to that objective ... the covenant question I think was an important one because it strikes a really great  balance on land use as well as size, because by restricting the land use for the purposes of temporary accommodation you're not now opening up the door for retail development ..."

He also expressed his interest in the feedback that the public will provide at the Public Hearing.

Councillor Niesh also noted of the change in zoning that came from the new Official Community Plan and suggested it was all unfortunate timing for these proponents and with an amendment now something he considered the right move. 

"As it was pointed out to us in the presentation earlier. .. We did make a move to change this zoning, but I do believe it was just a matter of unfortunate thing for these proponents and I think that this Council is open to hear you know even though it is kind of funny that here we are after just approving our Official Community Plan  we are doing an amendment to it, but I think that is the right move"

He followed up with some thoughts on how the accommodation would help to address some of the temporary housing issues in the community.

Council then moved the process forward and will set a Public Hearing in the future for the development application.
You can review both the presentation and Council's follow up commentary from the City's Video Archive starting with the presentation at the 19 minute mark and then the forward momentum for the approval of the zoning change at the 58 minute mark.

A look at the information package related to the proposed development is available through our preview notes of Monday.

Some Further background on the proposed Park Avenue property can be found below:

For more on Monday's Council Session see our Council timeline feature here.

A wider overview of past Council themes is available here.

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