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The PTI Process has been going on for some time. There have been two open houses, several presentations to Kitimat City Council, a Town Hall meeting on camps which was hijacked by PTI and many letters, motions and votes regarding PTI.
The only Public Hearing into this ongoing process to change the Official Community plan (OCP) to rezone a portion of Strawberry Meadows took place on Tuesday, May 28th at Riverlodge. The Community Room was packed full of people who were ready to have their say, or listen to what the community wants. The room was set up much in the same manner as the Council Chambers complete with sound system. Sound was still an issue though as the speakers did not carry the sound all the way to the back of the room.
“This public hearing is pursuant to the local government act, to consider the PTI Residential OCP and Zoning Amendment Bylaw #1, 2013. All persons present who believe their interest is affected by the proposed bylaw shall be given an opportunity to be heard on the matters contained in the proposed bylaw, or present their written submissions to the corporate officer,” said Mayor Joanne Monaghan.
Gwen Sewell, the City Planner provided an overview of what this bylaw would do. She explained the worker accommodation was currently permitted in the M1 Manufacturing Zone. Currently, there are two locations which are being developed as residential areas, Forest Hills Heights and Strawberry Meadows. There are two areas which are being developed, Imatra, Haisla Hills and an area up Forest Avenue which has lovely views of the Douglas Channel.
She told those assembled the 2008 Official Community Plan (OCP) summarized: “was all about diversifying our economy and creating a sustainable community, which Kitimat was designed from the outset to be. The future, projected in 2008 was one of moderate or declining population so what we’re trying to do now is turn that around.”
“Council must fine tune the policies to respond to the future as expected economic boom or what we now anticipate will be a significant boom begins to unfold. The bylaw that Council is considering tonight is fine tuning to manage impacts and prepare for this economic transition,” said Sewell.
She explained there are a number of proponents who are investing in Kitimat as well as a number of proponents looking to invest in any number of projects. Recently, one of the topics which crossed her desk was the question of workforce accommodation, from multifamily housing to temporary worker accommodations.
Overall, the town is expecting a large number of temporary workers, presuming many of these projects go through. Sewell expressed they are expecting 10,000 construction workers in Kitimat assuming the projects go through.
There has been an application to change a part of the OCP. Staff has reviewed it, and there was a presentation to Council which launched the community consultation. It has gone through the ropes and ended up as a draft bylaw which was approved on April 29th. The draft bylaw was refined, advertised to the public and ended up at the hearing.
“The application before you is to propose some sites for Temporary Worker Housing by making an amendment to our [OCP]. Those four sites are in no particular order, Service Centre North, Haisla Hill, Imatra Neighbourhood and Strawberry Meadows,” said Sewell. “The specific Bylaw would create an R3B Zone on a portion of the Strawberry Meadows site […] and then through a density bonusing system, allow a residential dormitory as an official use for a period that would end on the 31st of August, 2035. It would be a four phased development starting off with up to 360 rooms, 240 additional rooms, for a total of 600, than 480 further rooms to about the midway point of the project, and finally adding up to 1024 rooms in phase 4 to bring the total population of the site to 2104.”
For each of these rooms, the developer would pay an amenity bonus of $500 which would got into affordable housing to help the community manage the impacts of the projects, notably the displacement of people from affordable housing.
In 2035, on September 21st, the site is to revert back to R3 residential zone for multifamily dwellings for Blackberry Street and park space left over from the PTI Project.
The microphones opened. Mayor Joanne Monaghan encouraged people to proceed to podium and present their views on the proposed bylaw. Each of them would have 5 minutes to speak. Once everyone had spoken, there would be a second chance to speak. Council had the opportunity to ask questions for clarification but they were just there to listen to the views of the public.
The first speaker was Bob Greaves, representing the proponent. He thanked Council, administration and the people of the community for making them feel welcome. Geaves expressed Kitimat is on the front line of significant change.
“PTI, as Mrs. Sewell has mentioned, has applied for a facility to care for and feed 2104 industrial workers, and that sounds like an awful lot of people. But as Gwen mentioned, that could be as little or as much as 20% of the potential workers coming to town, or as high or as low as 5% or 10% depending on the size of the projects and how many workers they need. The success of these projects, on the books, is dependent on the quality or the availability of the workforce,” said Greaves.
He expressed one of the problems in a boom is the workers come in, drive up the cost of housing, and when they leave, the price of houses crash and PTI is a solution to this problem while providing a safe place for workers and being a good neighbour at the Strawberry Meadow’s Site.
Deputy CAO, Warren Waycheshen read a submission from the binder from the Groves family on Dewberry Street. The letter was a response to a mass last minute mail out of letters to residents of the Kildala Neighbourhood outside of the 90 metre from project limit.
“We are opposed to locating the PTI project so close to City Centre and in particular, the land backing on to Dewberry Street lots and residences. We were one of the first to build our retirement home on Dewberry Street, we selected lot #10, 76 Dewberry for the peaceful surroundings and knowing the lot backed onto a forested area reserved for agriculture. We thought someday, that area would become parkland. It would now seem the District is preparing to hand this parkland opportunity over of this poorly located project. This will adversely affect the quality of our neighbourhood and the zoning change will be a breach of trust,” wrote the Groves.
This letter set the tone for the evening. Leon Dumstrey Soos was the next speaker. He expressed the notice of 90 metres was ill planned as well. He asked if the community could sustain itself on 15 years of projects, he did not think so. He was not against the project but was concerned with what the final and long term benefits to the community are going to be.
He stated there was a problem with social housing in Kitimat, and asked for the people who proposed the project to build a subdivision of the community of low cost housing and benefits to the community other than bare land when the project is finished. He wanted to see Kitimat grow, not reduced in 15 years.
Joe Dos Santos also on Dewberry referred to his property as Prestige Land. “I find it hard to believe now that this prestige land is being taken away from me. I don’t want my property to become an industrial area. I bought it for a reason, I love the setting and the wildlife. You want to build something, you can look at the eyesores in Service Centre and keep it as industrial area,” said Dos Santos.
Jack Oviatt stated he is proud supporter of what PTI is bringing to Kitimat. He wanted to know if any of the other camps are offering any other legacy for Kitimat. He stated it is true he is going to benefit from this project. He has been trying to gift some land away for social housing, active adult housing and PTI has been supporting this project and it will not proceed without his support.
A part of the proposal is to complete Loganberry and also take on upgrade to an intersection which has come to Council numerous times for completion. They are going to provide a huge improvement to Strawberry Meadows.
Norman Delong from Yukon Street told Council he was out of the distance for notification but felt affected by the project. “I’m also in favour of growth and diversification for Kitimat but I think there is a couple of things we need to consider,” said Delong.
He wanted to know if the roads will hold up to the traffic flow from the camps. He stated the forefathers picked locations for certain forms of development. “I believe we should stick to developing where we have the zoning. M1 is zoned for this kind of proposal. We shouldn’t be changing the name of a proposal to make it fit the zone. […] We should go through the formal application process to do it the right way, not cut corners,” said Delong. “Remember that we are here to serve all of the public and not just economic development.”
Luella Froess expressed she still had concerns about PTI, such as how it will impact the area it will be in. She questioned how it will affect Haisla Bridge, the only bridge connecting Kitimat to Service Centre. She pointed out it was already overused, which would affect people in Kitimat during a busy shift change.
Froess also wanted to know what effect this project would have on the hospital, where there is already not enough room. She stated Council is talking to Northern Health but there are no comments coming back to the public.
She read there will be rooms which will be useable by the public at the end of the project and wanted to know what those rooms would look like after 20 years of use. She wanted to know if they will be upgraded and what they will be used for.
Bill Kearley from Blueberry Street said he was opposed to the location of the camp because Kitimat has not endured a boom and bust as described. In fact, the town has also supported Terrace during difficult times. There is a history of good economy and jobs and he wanted to see it continue.
He expressed he talked with Oviatt about the location of the camp. He put a proposal to Oviatt where he suggested putting the camp next to a possible bridge location, while expanding Service Centre.
Kearley stated, if PTI’s core business is accommodation, they do not come clean that their doors would be open to those who want accommodation. He asked what effect PTI would have on the current motels and other chains. He expressed he did not want to discourage PTI.
He believed PTI would be obligated to provide parking for each of its residents. He pointed out there is land in Service Centre, but he stated Oviatt has done a lot for the community and should be able to provide land for PTI. “Maybe put it closer to his house, where a crossing could be put across the river,” said Kearley.
He suggested PTI put up a bond expressing what the beds will be used for and pass it on to the future owners of the property.
“Does Council have the right to disregard the wishes of the public? Of course not. There is a possibility here to leave nobody with any question marks. Put it to a referendum,” said Kearley. “We’re talking about a 20 year endeavour here that is going to really, really significantly impact the community and I don’t think for one second that that location is acceptable.”
He wished Oviatt luck.
Dan Stenson said he has been in the town for a while; he came to Kitimat as a child. His concern was the increasing traffic in Kitimat which has doubled from 2 years ago and is becoming a problem. The proposal is to put 2000 people into a small area with a tiny intersection.
He said no plan has come before the traffic committee and he wanted to know how the proposal could go ahead without knowing how it would affect the community. Stenson expressed turning left out of and into the mall will be difficult.
The proponent has stated there will be 24 busses on the site of the project, but does not believe the workers will not bring their cars. In addition, there are construction vehicles all over the community.
“2000 people down there and all that traffic? It can’t be done! It’s the wrong location!” said Stenson.
Roland Sarabun said most of his points had been touched on. He wanted to know what Council’s duties are in this project. He does not know how transportation will be dealt with but he does know the psychological effects of camps on people.
“I don’t really think that anybody with the interest of the people of Kitimat would have a camp within the town limits,” said Sarabun. He pointed out, when a camp closes down, there is a ‘s***hole’ sitting there. He asked Council if they want it in their back yard. He is opposed to the location, not the project.
Matt Magrish agreed with PTI because when the work starts in Kitimat, there will be a large influx of people and when they leave, the housing prices will drop. He stated the location will be decided. He stated if there is no camp in Kitimat, people will move into Terrace and there will be people who die on the highway due to the road conditions in the winter. Their other option might be to take up residence in the woods around the town.
Brad Hildebrandt said he was for PTI. He said Council had a monumental decision ahead of them. The boom is coming and they need rooms, hotels and PTI. The town needs everything. The town needs to get ahead of the people who will be coming to town.
Dumstrey Soos provided some history of Kitimat in relation to the camp which originally built Alcan and how the town survived. He stated there are less families in Kitimat now and the camps will not make the community sustainable.
One of the people from the Strawberry Meadow’s got back up to comment that he built his retirement home and asked how he could retire with the camp in his back yard. He asked Oviatt to put the camp in his backyard.
Larry Thompson stated most people are in favour of camps. He asked for a show of hands for people who live in Kitimat followed by who firmly supports the camp’s location. His reaction to the number was: ‘Holy smokes.’
Daniel Carter of Cranberry Street spoke next. “The other day, I got mail. On May 22nd, hand delivered in my mailbox. I was allowed 13 hours to respond and I put together a short response,” said Carter.
His first concern was the timing of the letter. He said it was one day to get a message out. He said his concerns included pressures on the city sewer main, noise pollution and heavy traffic during shift changes, particularly at the entrances of streets and the hospital. He expressed he was not against progress, but he thinks they should have chosen a better location for the camp.
“The zoning, G3b Strawberry Meadows should remain as it is and should not be changed. If it is an industrial camp, then it should be zoned in a zoned area. As such, it is not a Club Med or a name change such as dormitory so it can fit with the zoning,” said Carter.
Trish Parsons got up to talk about the closure of the Eurocan Mill and how it changed a lot of things in Kitimat. There are a lot of people coming into Kitimat. She thanked Council for giving everyone an opportunity to have input. She wished Council a lot of luck in their deliberations and in making either a good decision or a bad decision, depending on who you talk to.
Kearley got back up and asked a Councillor at random (Councillor Mary Murphy) how she thought the town hall meeting on developing a camp policy went. Murphy replied it was good, there were good comments for and good comments against.
“It’s a huge issue going forward for our community and we’re going to work really, really hard on this to make the right choice,” said Murphy.
Kearley stated in all, 92% of the people were against if the letter read on behalf of Oviatt and the guy who had no issue who did not state if he was pro or con. Kearley added there were 9 in opposition, 3 who did not state one way or the other and 1 which was for. He said 90% against location.
Monaghan reminded the public was there to make statements, not to question Council.
Sheila McIsaac of Blueberry Street said she was in favour of the PTI Camp, just not in Strawberry Meadows. She suggested putting it in the Industrial area.
Jack Oviatt got up and gave a plug for Bull-O-Rama which is set for Saturday, June 8th at the Tamitik Arena.
Rick Flegel stated Kitimat feels like a camp because of all the construction vehicles in town. He stated he is in favour of the camp, just not where it is going. He was concerned Kitimat was becoming over crowded.
There were a few comments remaining thanking the Council for the opportunity to speak and reminding Council their decision could affect long term residence for non-permanent residency.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan reminded the community this was the final opportunity they would have to influence Council now that the public hearing process has been concluded. She asked the public not to call, contact or talk to Council Members after the public hearing. Council will consider the bylaw on June 3rd.