Mayor argues with Councillor over prepared statementWatch the Council Meeting online on our video website here
Council finally had their discussion on creating a camp policy on Monday, February 4th. It was neither the right time nor place for the discussion to take place. However, it had been put off for so long that Peace Trailer Industries (PTI), who build lodges which serve a role similar to a work camp, has put in their application to come to Kitimat.
The discussion for the camp policy had been further put off. Set to fall dead last on the reports put before Council, PTI had been placed as the number 2 report on the agenda, a request for a change to the Official Community Plan (OCP) to accommodate PTI.
Councillor Corinne Scott made a motion to have the discussion prior to the discussion on changing the official community plan. Councillor Mario Feldhoff expressed he hoped it would be incorporated into the discussion on the zoning request.
There was some discussion on how this change would affect their meeting.
“[The camp policy discussion] was a motion which was made in October of 2012, that the District of Kitimat Draft a policy with regards to camp facilities. We have never drafted a policy, we have never discussed having a policy for the District of Kitimat and I think it’s important that we at least address this long standing motion prior to us making a motion to amend our OCP.”
The motion to move this was called and carried. Councillor Phil Germuth also made a notice of motion to have a town hall meeting about the proposed PTI project. When the time came, Germuth was asked by Councillor Mario Feldhoff for a second motion to have a discussion on camp policy which was called and carried.
“Work camps are primarily and almost exclusively located in remote areas and not directly in the middle of a community. An argument can be made that financially for a communities tax base, it is beneficial to have new housing, apartments, and hotels built as opposed to having a ‘camp’ built within the community,” read Germuth from a list of points he brought with him.
“One could also argue that for the promotion of healthy families and the social well-being of a community it is beneficial to have workers with their spouses and children living together in a community as opposed to residing in a work camp being separated from the family unit,” read Germuth.
He stated the Official Community Plan laid out how growth should be dealt with: land should be used to encourage development and fill in developed areas, support re-development of existing residential developments. He went on to state the lands which PTI wants to use are identified as being future lands for residential use, but only to proceed with a significant population increase.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan permitted Scott to interrupt Germuth’s reading. Scott wanted to let him know the motion was to discuss a policy. Germuth expressed he was putting forward a basis for the policy.
“You are not because no one else has been able to discuss it, you are the only one who is discussing it,” said Monaghan. Germuth informed her everybody would have an equal opportunity to have their input. Monaghan told Germuth this was not the right time and setting for this discussion.
Feldhoff said he was willing to listen to Germuth, reminding Council the next item concerned the Official Community Plan where the Council would be discussing what makes an open lodge and who would be able to stay there. He added they needed to discuss this in an open manner rather than throwing manifestos back and forth. He suggested Germuth’s statements were better saved for the discussion on PTI.
Monaghan had more to say. “I do believe that people need to understand that you’re speaking that this is not necessarily what Council wants, they are your ideas,” she told Germuth.
“Of Course, that’s why it’s my presentation” replied Germuth.
“Usually when we have a discussion, everyone is involved, not just one person,” retorted Monaghan.
“I’m just saying my point, everybody has their opportunity to speak after I’ve spoken,” said Germuth.
“It’s usually not in this setting, however, please continue,” said Monaghan, annoyed.
“Madam Mayor, we’ve waited three months for that policy. Administration didn’t give us any direction in that three months. We didn’t have it at any [Committee of the Whole Meeting (COW)]. To come now and say we shouldn’t be talking about it when we’ve had three months when we’ve sat around and done nothing, is not really fair to the presenter of the motion,” said Germuth.
Monaghan permitted him to finish.
Returning to his prepared statement, Germuth expressed there are numerous areas in Kitimat which could be used to accommodate workers and their families, pointing out a camp approach gives little incentive for revitalizations.
“If we promote permanent investment, and opportunities for the workers to live outside of a camp , there is a greater chance that they bring their spouse or family with them. This gives us the opportunity to greatly enhance the social fabric of our community. It helps promote a better lifestyle, volunteerism, and all over community involvement. One possible example of this would be the potential for increased Golf and Winter Club usage thereby decreasing the tax payer subsidy,” read Germuth.
He told Council camp workers tend to take money home to another community rather than spend locally, using Dawson Creek as an example. He stated Dawson Creek has had over $150 million dollars of private investment in the city, which includes 5 hotels, 3 apartment blocks and hundreds of housing units.
“The feeling in Dawson Creek is that if they allowed camps, a lot of that development would not have happened,” said Germuth. “We may also find that there is an opportunity for compromise with a combination of housing, apartment, and hotel developments along with a smaller scale camp. I look forward to the public hearings and other input so we as a Council can create a policy which supports long term permanent investment which will have long lasting positive impacts on Kitimat.”.
In his conclusion, he suggested Council should proceed with extreme caution until they have put their policy forward.
Feldhoff thought it was a good idea, but they should be looking at it alongside the zoning change. He suggested Council have a workshop to get input from the staff, community and zoning amendment. Feldhoff also expressed he believe industrial workers should be encouraged to living in permanent housing in a community. He added camps have their merits as well but wanted to remain open to input from the community.
He hoped Council would agree to look into a review of the OCP where all of this will come out.
Scott agreed with the discussion based on the motion to establish a policy. She stated it was critical and wanted the policy in place for lodges and temporary housing units because Council was looking at these on a piecemeal basis.
Monaghan stated she had no problem with a policy, just the time and venue for the discussion. She suggested it should have come up at a COW or In Camera.
Councillor Edwin Empinado expressed he supports the idea of having a policy. However, he does not want to get the public confused between what is a camp, a lodge and the policy. He stated this is a tangible issue with lots of concerns coming out of the community, because people and business men are being affected. He encouraged the public to write their questions to the district so they can be answered.
Monaghan stated PTI is planning on having open houses to answer the questions of the community.
Feldhoff agreed with the idea of creating a policy over several nights hammering out the details. He did not think the policy would be done at Council that night because there were further items on the agenda.
Scott stated council should be asking the community how they feel about an issue, and they are doing this when they have an application in front of them. The policy and the application should not be tied together at the same time.
“This policy should have been worked on in October or sometime before we’re faced now with doing an amendment to the OCP. We don’t want to tie up potential businesses and opportunities and that is where the problem is arising now. We’re tying it in to PTI, which isn’t fair, it should be a policy,” said Scott.
Feldhoff suggested they could make a policy where they look at applications on a case by case basis and defer them to the OCP and zoning. However, this discussion is helpful for both the application and the future.
Councillor Rob Goffinet said the discussion was positive and he was looking at it seriously, agreeing with the previous comments made by Scott. He said he hopes the discussion will deliver what the community and the proponent wants, needs and requires. He said it was a positive discussion and opens up what the PTI proposal means to Kitimat.
With no further additions, Council moved on to the PTI application.