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The PTI Process came before Council on Monday, June 3rd at their regular meeting for third reading and final adoption. Councillor Mario Feldhoff made the motion. All 6 Councillors who were there spoke concerning the motion.
Feldhoff spoke in favour of the motion. “I have reflected upon all written and oral submissions received from the public, from various institutions, committees and commissions and from our staff,” said Feldhoff. “Upon careful consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is an overall benefit in supporting the proposed residential dormitory OCP and zoning amendment bylaw.”
He explained Kitimat is undergoing tremendous change and most likely will enter an even larger, extended, but temporary period of significant industrial development. He said there is a promise of more diversified employment for future generations and an increase to the local tax base.
“The projects don’t build themselves; we will have to accommodate a significant influx of temporary construction workers in order to reap the benefits of industrial expansion and diversification. I know this places stress on the community, more so for some residents and businesses than others,” said Feldhoff.
He pointed out it would create 200 jobs in the community and many improvements have been incorporated into the project since it was proposed, along with enhancements to the infrastructure. It will directly contribute to a district housing fund to help address social housing needs.
“The Advisory Planning Commission made a recommendation that a housing agreement between PTI and the District of Kitimat specify that the proposed lodge be for housing temporary construction workers only and not for housing permanent operation workers. I too am concerned that our community’s businesses not become fly in fly out operations, as that does not foster long term community growth, stability and vibrancy,” said Feldhoff.
He expressed they need to take a second look at the conditions associated with the establishment of existing and new camps and lodges. He did not want to see the facilities remain occupied after the construction period. He does not want Kitimat to follow a pattern of the operators of the plants are flown in and out of the community. He pointed out there are already people driving in and out of the community as many workers live in Terrace, Thornhill and elsewhere.
“We need to encourage that Kitimat remains an attractive and affordable family friendly community with a high quality of life and services available to all residents and discourage fly in and fly out operations after industrial construction boom is over. From my perspective, that is something that should be discussed in the coming weeks, after this OCP and zoning amendment has been dealt with,” said Feldhoff.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan expressed she has heard both sides of the story and all the input. “When ATCO Trailers first came into our community, we had complaints about them. They are too far from retail and restaurants and so forth they said, and now we have an alternative and now we have individuals saying this is not exactly what we want. I think they have the misconception that PTI could have located in Service Center or the industrial area. These options were not available,” said Monaghan.
She said that she will be voting for PTI because it will be closer to the retail sector, restaurants and bars. The shopping dollars would go to the down town core. PTI will be investing millions into streets and sidewalks and other infrastructure. PTI will be hiring 200 locals, increasing the tax base by 1%. They will support the reality of a 24 hour walk in clinic and will leave a legacy of $1,100,000 for affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities.
“Whether PTI is built here or in Terrace, where I can assure you, they are waiting with open arms for this development to be located there for their employment dollars and legacy, traffic over the bridge will be the same,” said Monaghan.
She expressed during the last boom, apartments and condos were built and the buildings remained after the boom. They are now no longer habitable. Also, if the camp workers live there, they do not get a living out allowance. When all is done, PTI will be dismantling their site to move elsewhere. There will be no derelict buildings left by the project in town.
Councillor Phil Germuth was the next speaker. “We have heard from the public, and clearly the public does not approve of this project at this specific location. The General public does not have anything against construction workers or PTI and while they residents of Kitimat are thankful to the Oviatt family for everything they have done, are doing and will continue doing for the betterment of Kitimat, it is clear that this application is not acceptable as it is being presented. There are so many problems with this application, it is hard to pick where to begin,” said Germuth.
He started with the zoning. Expressing a camp should be zoned as M1 across the bridge and changing its name to a residential dormitory so they could put it in residential zone is not proper planning. He suggested zoning the area as M1 to match the rest of the work camps.
“You don’t change the description of a project to suit the zoning, you change the zoning to suit the project and 20 years should not be considered temporary,” said Germuth. “The traffic issue has not been properly addressed. There is no legal written commitment from PTI to traffic calming. What should be done is for PTI to hire an independent professional traffic consultant to reliably predict just what the traffic flows will look like with the proposed camp at full occupancy and knowing that one of the primary concerns of this project is traffic congestion. How is it our planning department didn’t think to refer this to the DOK Traffic committee as part of the consultation process?”
He suggested making PTI renew the contract every 5 years so PTI toes the line with the residents.
He wanted to know what impact this would have on the rental market in town. He stated the District of Kitimat would have absolutely no recourse to ensure the existing rental owners are protected. He suggested the District of Kitimat should have control over the amount of beds.
”This process has been flawed right from February 4th when it was first brought to Council. It started with the separate consultation process that was to be managed by administration on behalf of Council and got worse from there,” said Germuth.
He pointed out a comment from a recorded Committee of the Whole meeting regarding a public town hall meeting where a planner stated a councillor would know the answer to his question if he read the minutes. It also stated the decision by Council had been reversed. He added the decision was not actually reversed.
Germuth said an idea from the APC was ignored, that the lodge be for temporary workers and not for permanent operation workers. They suggested upping the percentage of temporary workers who could stay in PTI from 80% to 100%.
“Then there is the grossly inadequate 90 metre consultation zone. A motion by Council changed this to be more realistic, but the newly included residents had less than 24 hours to voice their opinion in writing as the letter delivered Wednesday afternoon stated replies had to be submitted by 8:30 Thursday Morning,” said Germuth.
He pointed out the Local government act states notices must be mailed at least 10 days before a public hearing and for these residents, it was not done. He added with all the public meetings, the proponent is still butting heads with the residents, even though they were recorded in the newspaper as saying they do not wish too.
“With the number of concerns that have not been properly addressed, it would be irresponsible for us to proceed any further at this time and any future meetings or negotiations with PTI should have Council in the room to avoid any more complications and seek possible solutions,” said Germuth. “This process has been an example of how not to plan for our future. We would be throwing caution to the wind and telling our community to keep your fingers crossed because we have absolutely no idea how this will turn out. As one resident of Strawberry Meadows stated, this process is a breach of trust. While it may not be a legal breach of trust, it most definitely is a moral breach of trust by the District of Kitimat against its own citizens.”
Councillor Mary Murphy spoke next. “Early last year, after receiving complaints and some communications from realtors, Mayor and Council directed staff to be creative regarding zoning and planning when projects or opportunities come forward. The message was clear, zoning and planning can and must be challenged to promote Kitimat and promote development. There was opposition to the Bechtel camp, siting workers not utilizing the services available in town and supporting the local business. This opposition escalated when an application for a bar license arose. The appetite of the day was to house workers within the municipality. Ironically, I’m getting the same people who are communicating with me now speaking against this. There are many issues facing our community and many misconceptions facing us today,” said Murphy.
She expressed it is not true that PTI will be developed in the down town core. It will be developed adjacent to the downtown core. There are other camps within the municipal boundary and they left behind resources which the community can expand on, which this project will do as well. It will leave hydro, gas, sewer, sidewalks and much more.
She said the other suggestions for locations would cause problems in other areas and would not address the issue at hand. She said putting the camp in a location accessed by a bypass road, which was suggested by Bill Kearley, would take away from the natural view of the valley. It would also interfere with plans for a recreation site there.
“When viewing the map of the PTI proposal and driving there many times, the closest property to the end is far and not in someone’s backyard. 165 feet from the centre line of the road, the distance from the closest edge of the lodge and the nearest existing home is 225 metres or 738 feet. There are no buildings west of Loganberry,” said Murphy.
She stated Kitimat must enhance the opportunities to welcome the workers who will be building these projects, reap the benefits of having them in the community, and deal with predicted problems. She pointed out there were more people living in Kitimat at one time, using the same bridge back and forth.
She pointed out Kitimat was at one time very busy. The Nechako area was wonderful. The people of Kitimat need to focus on stabilizing the population and project the declining population as construction phases down.
“This doesn’t take away the concerns of the citizens in the area or concerns facing the community. As the plans come forward, communication suggestions and changes will be made to the plan, including maintaining a tree buffer, maintaining the communication with all stakeholders,” said Murphy. “It’s not going to be perfect. I wish I could assure citizens that it will be. There will be ongoing issues and problems to be addressed quickly. Continued communication is the key, again involvement from all citizens. […] I want to remind you that there will be benefits from the PTI Camp, infrastructure upgrades, service upgrades, legacy for the community. Development will be opened for the future of this area leaving the services, with the least amount of cost to our taxpayers. More importantly, there are no other applications or plans for housing temporary construction workers in Kitimat in front of this Mayor and Council.”
Councillor Rob Goffinet was the next to speak. He said the debates have been going on for months and he has tried to be open to how people felt in revising the official community plan and welcoming a developer who will be building a lodge to welcome the construction workers who will be coming to shape and rebuild Kitimat for the future.
“No one disputes the fact that we must have worker accommodation in Kitimat. The only bone of contention which has separated people is the location of such a facility. Up until this moment, we have been discussing the possibility of a theoretical better position of the 2100 beds in the PTI proposal. The problem is, no one has brought to us any credible, realistic or, in fact, known location that could compensate for the location which PTI is proposing for the downtown,” said Goffinet.
Two locations across the river are currently in use and are already camps. In addition, these lands could be used for industrial development in the future. Service Centre North was looked at by the proponent and found the parcel, price or the willingness to sell made the development of PTI there impossible. It is prime industrial site for manufacturing who is actively petitioning staff and planning to site in Kitimat.
Goffinet said Imatra heights are already being purchased, but Council does not know what it is. Forest Avenue is already slated for development. Haisla Hill has also been purchased by a developer for their needs. This leaves the land which they are considering zoning… and one more location…
“Terrace. As a citizen and a leader of Kitimat, I do not wish to entertain that as a possibility, but we’ve systematically gone through every viable place in this community to put another large worker accommodation; that on top of the RTA / Bechtel camp which we believe will be expanded, the brown field site at Eurocan which I believe is LNG Canada, that will be expanded as well. With the PTI, we should have the accommodation within our boundaries to assume responsibility for the very people that are coming from all over the world to build our community. I do not really think it can go out of our town,” said Goffinet.
He hoped this development would rejuvenate the down town, add infrastructure, fund affordable housing which can be built on the footprint of the land, $200,000 in taxes, 200 local jobs and no vacant unused surplus accommodation. He talked about a good neighbourhood agreement between all of the parties to discuss common concerns which everyone has.
“Behind all of this, as well, there are 10s of billions of dollars’ worth of development that is literally circling this town right now and listening to this discussion. We do not want to send the signal that we are an impediment to investment but we are not a pushover either. This bylaw has systematic things in it, stages where our interests, the interests of that neighbourhood and the entire town as well as the proponent, we think will be guaranteed. We think that this will be a win win for the people and the proponent in Kitimat,” concluded Goffinet.
Councillor Edwin Empinado was the last Councillor to speak. He explained how he came to his decision. He thanked the residents who put forward their concerns. He thanked PTI for going out of their way and meeting with the public and listening to what was said. The Councillors asked a lot of questions.
He explained he saw Kitimat was a family. The Council is the Father, the administration is the mother, and the rest of the community are the children. He expressed the people who are concerned about the camp are the kids who don’t want anything, but in a good way. When it comes to expensive purchases, the parents look at whether or not they have the resources and make the decisions for their five kids.
“Supporting what we are discussing now is very hard, because it’s like family to me, having five kids. Each one wants its own way, but we are at the level where we have to decide,” said Empinado. “Where I am standing from, is how I feel, how I want to see the community, and where we’re going in the next 5 – 10 years. There will always be uncertainty,” said Empinado. “There will always be things that will be change, and there will always be things which will be happening. There will always be that but we have to look into where we want to go,” said Empinado.
He explained he had originally moved to Kitimat for two years but stayed longer because he saw people who cared for the community. He saw that in the public forum: people with different views and different focus and different passion, focused for the better good.
He stated he would continue to talk to the proponent on how people can make Kitimat a better place to live.
Feldhoff made some clarifications. Germuth stated the council would be giving away any bargaining rights the community had, pointing out the good neighbour agreement nets a community meeting room. He suggested the camp could be located elsewhere in Strawberry Meadows.
Council asked further questions. Germuth pointed out the changes to the OCP would also allow for Camps at Imantra Heights, Haisla Hill and Strawberry Meadows. He was told the OCP would recognize those sites but proponents would have apply for rezoning as well.
The motion was re-read Third reading and final adoption was called and carried with Councillor Phil Germuth in opposition. The discussion took about 50 minutes.