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REPORTING · 9th July 2014
Walter McFarlane
The Kingfisher Townhouse Complex proposed by the Kingfisher Development Corporation was before Council again on Monday, July 7th. Council had turned down their request to increase the number of townhouses they could build by 14 at a Regular Meeting of Council on Monday, June 9th. Now they would have to wait 6 months until coming back to Council to try again… Unless the vote returns earlier and a supermajority of Council, in this case, 4 of the 6 City Councillors vote in favour of it.

But first, it was time for a slideshow from Leland Harris from Margetts street. He told Council he lived on the boarder of the construction project and was presenting on behalf of a group people who live on Margetts Street. He expressed they are not against development, they just want to voice their opinion to make sure the right developments are made.

Harris explained how Kitimat was put together, how one industry led to further developments in the town.

“As we’ve moved through these phases to essentially build the community, a lot of these phases and the construction have stayed. There is essentially no building or development that have been removed, other than a fire to cause a demolition or the dropping of the hospital,” said Harris.

He expressed he wanted to avoid an overbuild situation. In the 80s, there was a population of over 14,000 people and there was no housing shortage. Alcan employed 2700 at its peak and estimated to be around 1000. Eurocan had 535 jobs and Menanex had 136, both are closed. He stated if and when the LNG plants are finished, they offer about 600 jobs.

“At the peak, we had 3400 jobs,” said Harris. “We’re looking at about 1500 jobs after this essential boom has completed which doesn’t come close to that 3400 that we had.”

He stated in 1990, the town homes were planned to be in clusters of 2-3, looking over the natural beauty of the ravines. Twenty five units were planned for the same piece of land and 36 if the engineering was within reach. They were advertised with a double garage and lots of storage room. There was also a proposed buffer between Margetts and the proposed development.

A part of the land, the land adjacent to a ravine, is going to be given over to the District of Kitimat for Parkland. Harris expressed he is concerned it was unstable. In the 90s, it was recommended for the site not to be rezoned for park because it would use up too many municipal assets to maintain the area. Harris expressed human behavior affected slope stability and District Maintenance post construction will be important. He added torrential rains, like those found in Kitimat, contribute to the need for this maintenance.

He expressed he is concerned about the number of vehicles which are going to be parked on this property, asking Council to look at how many vehicles were at the Smith Street townhouses. He showed Council pictures of the slope, how steep it is and its hazards. Finally, he showed two pictures of a beautiful house on Carson Street and the Alexander Townhouses which are across from it.

Harris also showed Council just how high the buildings are supposed to be, in relation to his backyard.

“We would like to see a development that is more beneficial to the golf course, a greater asset to the community. Being promoted as housing for retirees is a narrow townhouse with a 15’ front and no yard. Most retirees are not interested in that,” said Harris.

He expressed the developer had shown a lack of respect for the people on Margetts street. They went to the people only after it was voted down.

“Yes we want to see development in our community but we want to see the right development. When we come out of this boom, a nice consistent stable addition to the community so the town won’t be left with a glut of empty townhouses after an overbuild,” concluded Harris.

During the presentation, Mayor Joanne Monaghan expressed concern that Harris was reaching his time limit. A motion was made to give him an extra ten minutes by Councillor Phil Germuth. While Council agreed, Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked him to quicken his pace. Monaghan expressed opposition on the grounds that she did not wish to set precedent for other presenters and she was just doing what the bylaw says.

Bruce Howard, representing the developer, was also present to answer questions. One question was about the buffer of existing trees. Howard replied some may be taken down, but it will depend on the landscaping and the final design.

Feldhoff wanted to know where a lift station would be located. He was told it would most likely be down by the golf course which would pump into an existing manhole. Goffinet clarified this was not yet in stone. The developers will be working with the people involved to complete a development which everyone is happy with.

Councillor Edwin Empinado asked about a survey of the land to see if it was unstable. Howard told him a Geotechnical survey was done and the land was tested. The setback was recommended. Germuth pointed out the Developer was asked to talk to the residents by Council, but he did not do this until Council turned down his request for 14 more units.

When it came time to make a motion, Councillor Phil Germuth asked for a tabling motion. He said there are many questions which need to be answered. One example was a contribution to Pollution control for a density above what it is zoned for. He was told administration would have to get to the bylaw to look at the wording on it and get back to him.

Germuth asked who would be doing the study of the runoff during peak season into the sewers. According to the covenant from the original, the proponent would pay to do it. According to a report to Council, the District would do it. He asked who would be paying for the sewer capacity study, the tax payers or the proponent? He was told during the original proposal, it was the developer. However the District is looking at a grant which will cover all the development in town. They do not know if they have it yet.

Germuth’s next question related to the land which would be turned over to the District. He was concerned with the legal liability they would be getting into. He pointed out that Kitimat had a wet climate, rain will saturate soil and cause land slip. He stated they needed to get this straightened out before they approve anything. The planning department stated the surface drainage would come up during the development permit section.

“If that bank starts to go away, that’s on our property and it starts affecting his property development, we should have something in there so that the Kitimat Taxpayers will not, down the road, be legally responsible for what might happen. That is not in here yet, is it?” said Germuth. He was told there was not, but surface drainage would go into the North end. There would be storm drainage going in so the water does not go down the hill.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to waive the requirement for a 6 month waiting period to the rezoning of Kingfisher, give it first and second reading, refer it to the APC and the Kitimat Housing Committee, schedule a public hearing for the 28th of July and grant the authority to execute the development governing Kingfisher.

“The key question that I believe should be addressed is whether we should waive the 6 month request and basically move this forward sooner or not,” said Feldhoff. “I believe that in this particular case, the changes proposed by the developer are substantive in nature and warrant proceeding with a new process prior to waiting the 6 month period,” said Feldhoff.

There was one notable change to the proposal which was discussed during the presentations earlier, a three story four unit town house which backed Margetts would be reduced to a two story building. A second one, a six unit townhouse which has one unit bordering Margetts street would not be reduced, but would have no windows facing the backyards.

He stated there will be a public hearing and the outcome is not clear. He suggested the developer look at the plans as recommended by the presenter. Feldhoff pointed out that as the land is zoned right now, the developer could develop 40 nine metre tall buildings which are close to Margetts Street. Feldhoff wanted a program the people of Margetts Street and the developer could support.

Germuth was against the recommendation because the Density bonus was not where it should be and the project did not meet the Official Community Plan. He argued the town houses would not be accessible to wheel chairs. He pointed out none of the units would be wheelchair accessible.

“Another thing is, this developer has not acted in good faith with the community. We already negated this, we really owe this developer nothing at this time. They made the residents feel disrespected, they completely ignored Council,” said Germuth.

He explained they ignored Council by not following Council’s direction to go and talk to the residents of Margetts Street to work something out. “He didn’t do that until we negated that development, till we negated that policy. And now, we’re going back and reconsidering it after a few weeks when we told him you’ve got to wait 6 months. What kind of message are we sending to every other developer out there at this time in Kitimat’s history. This is our best time, when we have the leverage to do thing right,” said Germuth.

He said he would be happy to revisit this motion when there are policies in place, 2-3 months down the road.

Feldhoff expressed it would not set precedent, other developers would be careful if they wanted to follow the same course of action. At this time, Kitimat needs affordable housing and some people are moving out of town because they cannot find a place to live. Germuth stated the substantive difference was one building going from three floors to two. He pointed out the townhouses will not be affordable houses.

Councillor Edwin Empinado expressed they need to improve the way they communicate public hearings to the people of Kitimat. He said there were concerns from the residents. He was waiting for a second public hearing as a part of the Development Permit Process.

Councillor Rob Goffinet reminded Council they are looking at 14 units. He said they have to work with the proponents and the neighbours. The people of Margetts Street need to feel that this is a good development being built in their corner of town. He expressed the only way they can leverage this is through discussing and having a density greater than 40. He wanted the buildings adjacent to Margetts Street to be two stories high so the people feel unencumbered.

He clarified that the Covenant was there to protect the municipal interest and the council’s consideration of the development permit will require public consultation with the residents of the neighbouring streets. People in the 90 metre buffer area will receive notices. City Planner Gwen Sewell stated that people who have opinions on this project should bring them to Council.

Feldhoff closed debate. He stated if Council were to turn down the proposal, the developer could go ahead and build forty units and build forty 9 metre tall building next to Margetts Street. The developer is willing to put forward a smaller building.

“We do not want to get into the pattern of denying and having developers come back to us,” said Feldhoff. “We shouldn’t be holding the community back from development either.”

Goffinet wanted to get the word out to more people as a courtesy. He suggested giving the notice to everyone on Margetts Street. It was taken as a friendly amendment.

The motion was called and carried, Councillor Rob Goffinet, Edwin Empinado, Councillor Mario Feldhoff and Mayor Joanne Monaghan in favour, Councillor Phil Germuth opposed.
Harris was there reprisenting Margetts Street
Harris was there reprisenting Margetts Street
Howard reprisents the proponents.
Howard reprisents the proponents.