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REPORTING · 6th August 2014
Walter McFarlane
There is a public information meeting at Riverlodge, Wednesday August 6th from 6:30 to 8:30 Pm reguarding Riverbrook Estates

Leonard Kerkhoff of Kerkhoff Construction came before Council on Tuesday, August 5th concerning Riverbrook Estates. He wished to answer some questions Council had after his last presentation. The Riverbrook Estates Zoning Amendment Bylaw was due for 2nd reading later that night.

He started by showing Council a slide showing there are playgrounds and soccer fields within a five minute walk from the site, answering a question Councillor Phil Germuth had. There are plans to put parkland into the property and the existing housing and on the edge of it and down the centre. This buffer is 24 metres or 80’.

They will put a freeform playground at the end of the cul-de-sac of Liard. He suggested giving the children something they can climb over. The entrances to the parkway will be marked by standing stones to identify them to snow clearing.

Kerkhoff expressed they will be making a development permit for the phase one of three story townhomes in the coming weeks. He showed the Council a lay out of the adaptable town houses.

In the adaptable units, a shaft for an elevator has been worked into the plans. It will have a floor framed in it so it could be used as additional storage space until the home is required to be adapted into an accessible home.

“You could add an elevator for $20-$25,000. If you don’t allow for the space, it’s almost impossible in the future to add that feature,” said Kerkhoff.

He went into concerns which were raised during the first reading. He explained density translates into affordability, as the costs for roads and infrastructures are spread into additional homes which would reduce the cost of the home while smaller homes are more environmentally conscious.

Due to the phase development, the 200 units will not be hitting the market all at once. They will sell some of the homes on the market before they build so they know what the market can bear.

“The demographics and statistics of society are changing. Smaller families, more efficient homes, smaller homes. People want to be a little bit more mobile,” said Kerkhoff.

There are plans for affordable housing and keeping costs low is what they are trying to do.

“We are working with BC Housing on one or multiple apartment building units. Still no structure but they are doing their research and hopefully, by the end of August, they will have that concluded. We hope to work with them on some aspects of this project,” said Kerkhoff.

He explained they are building new buildings after looking at renovating projects in town which are in really bad shape. It would be more expensive to demolish and then build on top of the land. This would take away from the affordability. The renovations cause renovictions as well.

Finally, he invited Council to attend a public information meeting at Riverlodge, Wednesday August 6th from 6:30 to 8:30 Pm.

Councillor Mary Murphy wanted to know about the traffic patterns. The traffic is planned to leave via two streets, Laird and Nadina. Murphy expressed there was a lot of traffic planned to go through those two streets. She suggested another road joining the Dyke road. Kerkhoff offered to bring in a traffic consultant.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff expressed concern about the number of townhouses being put into the footprint of the area. He was told they looked at the cost of a single family home which was out of the price range for a lot of families. These families still want a place to call home and must choose between the apartment which is too small and the single family home which is too expensive. The townhome fills this niche, particularly for people who are coming to Kitimat to work.

Kerkhoff expressed this is what they were bringing to the table. They could choose to bring single family lots and cut back on the town homes.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked who their target market was, if it was the construction workers. The reply is that Kitimat is a growth town and will have construction for industrial development for the foreseeable future.

“What we are looking at is providing, not the camp housing, but more the permanent housing for the ongoing staff that are still coming from out of town and looking for housing,” said Kerkhoff.

He expressed only one or two locals purchased a townhome from the Baxter Project which is being built. The rest were bought by out of town investors.

Councillor Edwin Empinado wanted to know which phase the affordable housing in the apartments will be. The reply was they will build it as soon as BC Housing makes their decision and they are able to make a deal and fill the building.

Councillor Phil Germuth clarified information on the park lands, where they would be and the information on the buffer zone between the two. Empinado asked who would take care of the park. He suggested it fall to the District, otherwise, people who were not living in Riverbrook could not use it.

Second reading came up for the Riverbrook Estates. It was moved by Councillor Mary Murphy. Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to attend the session at Riverlodge and learn more about how the public feels about it.

Councillor Edwin Empinado clarified the current zoning of the land, R1b and it will be amended to R3a for the townhouses and the apartments will go in the R3c zone which is being created by the bylaw. The current subdivision does not meet the current zoning request so they have to rezone it to allow apartments and townhouses.

Councillor Phil Germuth expressed he was against the recommendation. “This still doesn’t fit in with where Kitimat needs to go, where we have been and where we want to go. We still don’t have any final investment decisions or anything like that,” said Germuth. “There is only one reason you take a plot of land meant for 80 units and put 217 in there. I still believe the developer can achieve a healthy respectful profit margin by leaving the zoning as is and building a combination of possible ranchers and bungalows in there.”

He expressed if any first time home owners were asked about where they wanted to live, between a place where their neighbour was on the other side of a wall or their own place with a yard, they may choose to pay a little more.

Germuth stated the apartments were not for rent, they were for sale. This would not help with the rental stock. He stated the affordable housing may be a good thing.

“We know we are waiting on an affordable housing study to be completed next month. We also know that we have a piece of land that, potentially; we might be willing to give to a developer, after that, for an affordable housing project. I don’t see the need to promote this just on that aspect. This does not fit in with what Kitimat needs. This is way too many units within one small area. I don’t see how this is going to help anything, I won’t support it,” said Germuth.

Councillor Mary Murphy took the other side of the argument. “We know that land is an issue in Kitimat and we are struggling with that on a weekly basis. Council directed staff to prepare a density bonus policy and that’s what they are doing. Not very long ago, we were being slammed for not having enough housing in Kitimat and now we are dealing with that all the time. Now we have developers in front of us who want to address the density bonus and we have a land issue and I think we need to let this process go forward, allow people to come forward and make their statements and then decide exactly how we feel after all the public has put in their input,” said Murphy.

Germuth corrected her; Kitimat has a lot of developable land. The Wakita development is going ahead with its next phase, Oviatt is going into its next phase. Immatra Heights and Haisla Hill have not been developed. There are also overpriced properties in Kitimat which could be redeveloped before going into a density bonus.

“What happens if that housing agreement doesn’t go through? There is nothing in this that talks about density bonusing or amenity contributions or anything like that. That’s also missing at this point,” said Germuth.

Murphy said he was correct: “There is lots of land, District of Kitimat doesn’t own that land so people can put whatever price tag they want on it and nothing moves because they’ve got big dollar signs right now. We need to let this process move forward,” said Murphy.

Empinado stated the developer was going to attempt to meet three of the six housing needs: seniors, fixed income, people who cannot afford housing and people with disabilities. The study was going before the government because of Council’s push. He wanted to go through the process.

“Fifty of those units will be affordable. Of course, our question is, how affordable? I don’t even know” said Empinado. “As long as the developer makes sure it’s affordable, considerably in our terms, I would like to see that.”

He asked administration how they could make the agreement with BC Housing a part of this bylaw. He was told that land could be zoned as affordable housing or an agreement could be placed on the land.

“I think it would be inappropriate to kill this proposal. We have to hear from the public and give some things for the developer to think of. It would be wrong to kill it at second reading. It’s my opinion and staff could correct me if I’m wrong. It isn’t in keeping with our Official Community Plan and we live in a market economy. There are other proposals going forward tomorrow and in the next month. As much as we like to control and dictate what will happen in our community, we live in a market economy. We have some rules and I think we are following those rules and going to second reading is entirely appropriate at this stage,” said Feldhoff.

He said there is the option for elevators in some units to address second reading.

Germuth stated it did not fit with the OCP. Seniors on fixed incomes may not be able to afford the units because they do not know how much they will be. Council is still waiting on a study on affordable housing which is due next month. He also reminded Council they have a plot of land they want to give away.

“As for accessibility and putting elevators in, if you stick with the original zoning for 80 houses and put ranchers, possibly and some bungalows then obviously you don’t need to have a person come in and spend tens of thousands of dollars putting an elevator in the house because as a rancher, it’s already going to be a one story unit,” said Germuth.

Feldhoff asked if the proposal was in keeping with the OCP. He was told it was. It required an amendment to the municipal code, not the community plan.

Councillor Rob Goffinet expressed they were discussing this on whether they were in favour or not. He asked staff if they could table the motion. He stated the proponent goes in front of the community on Wednesday and then it goes to a public hearing. He wanted to hear what the public said first. He was told they could delay.

Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen expressed they typically take their time so they can give a motion sober second thought. While it draws out the process, it gives Council more time with the bylaw. He expressed zoning amendments are complex. Finally, if Council did want to make changes to the bylaw, they would have to rescind second reading and return to it.

“It makes no difference if you pass the second reading, it’s still following the process,” said Murphy. She was told this was correct.

Goffinet expressed they have the time to look at this and it will not hurt the construction period as it is already August. He cautioned against second reading and wait until after the public hearing. Then Council would be clearer in their approval or disapproval of the project.

Feldhoff asked when the public hearing had to take place. He was told it has to take place after first reading but before third.

Second reading was called and carried. Mayor Monaghan, Councillors Feldhoff, Murphy and Empinado were in favour.