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REPORTING · 22nd August 2014
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council on Monday, August 18th kicked off with a pair of public hearings based on two housing projects. The first of these two public hearings related zoning for the housing development, Riverbrook Estates on Laird and Nadina.

The amendment to the zoning for Riverbrook estates will change the area zoned for 70 houses to an area zoned for 217 units of housing. These will consist of 100 apartments in two buildings, 101 townhouses and 16 single family units.

Collin Hogan, representing the proponent was the first speaker. He explained the proposal, which is for 100 units of apartments, 101 townhouses and 16 houses. This is the third time this proposal has been explained to council, the second presentation can be found by clicking this text.

Hogan explained the housing would be affordable. “We’re really looking at affordability here. One of the things that has been identified as we’ve looked in Kitimat is rising housing prices, the fact that single family housing is out of reach for a lot of households. A townhouse development provides that middle ground. It gives people their own driveways, their covered two cars, their own front doors, but accomplishes that in a way that is simply more affordable,” said Hogan.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff inquired about the elevator shafts which are planned for some of the units which are planned to be accessible. He was told every floor in the apartments would be accessible by elevator. In the townhouses, the market demand would not be great because the people with mobility issues would pick single level living to multilevel living.

These shafts are planned for about 5%-10% of the townhouses, although Hogan expected not many of these shafts would ever see a lift. It just gives people an opportunity to have one. In the housing units, someone could choose to build the master bedroom on the ground floor.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know what demographic was being targeted. Hogan explained it was targeted at families with children, young families and single adults. The condos would suit older people.

Goffinet also wanted to know what the costs were. A marketing consultant was called upon to estimate the costs. He explained the single family new builds were coming in at $500,000. He expected the pricing on the town houses to come in from $300,000 to $325,000. Strawberry Meadows is selling units at $420,000.

Councillor Phil Germuth pointed out the price is not affordable, it’s market value. “It’s cheaper than some of the other new stuff that might be out there, but to call it affordable for 1000 square feet is more of a stretch, it’s more of what the market will bear,” said Germuth.

Hogan explained they needed to make it compact to make it more affordable than market housing. Germuth asked for more information about the Single Family Dwellings. He was told this has not been determined yet, but they will be expected to be typical single family sized lots, 1500 to 2500 foot residences.

Sharon Nichols, from Remax, Kitimat Realty spoke in favour of the housing. “We’ve had a lot of talk about affordable housing. Right now, we have 81 homes for sale in Kitimat of which only 7 are under $200,000. Close to that under the $300,000 mark we are looking at just about 30 homes. It is technically, in today’s market, affordable housing,” said Nichols.

She told Council that 1/3 of the homes in Kitimat were built between 1954 and 1958. 81 of the listings, 3 are under $400,000 were built after 1980. One is duplex, one is mobile on land and one is a small bungalow. There are 12 over $400,000. She said these planed units were well priced for the market.

She explained Kerkhoff Construction are the same people who built the Baxter Landing town houses and she said they are professional. The Units on Baxter sold for $288,000 to $315,000 in less than three weeks. She said there are 4 houses in that price range built between 1956 and 1958.

“Right now, 75% to 85% of my personal clients are from out of town. They are from the big cities, young career people starting out. They are used to new housing. That is the first thing they always ask about, is there any new housing. We have nothing. For us, when we tell them something on smith street that was built in 1980 is our new housing, other then what’s now going up, they’re hard to believe that that’s all we have,” said Nichols.

She stated the townhouses which are on Lahakus and Quatsino do not allow any rentals and most people would like to buy a two bedroom, two bathroom, brand new home for the same price then look at the 60 year old housing.

Shaun Graham, a local resident expressed the proposal would create over 200 units with two access streets. 2 cars would lead over to over 400 vehicles using the two streets. He expressed this was too much. The land is currently zoned for much less houses and he would be ok with the traffic from these.

“The other thing is it is a tree buffer for dust from the dyke road. I don’t see any allowances for trees to stop the dust coming through to the new property and the existing properties,” said Graham

Ray Holahan agreed with everything Graham said. “There are several problems with this project that need to be answered, we’re just asking the questions now, correct,” said Holahan. “We need to be cognitive of what’s going to happen when they build this.”

Edwin Empinado said there is a traffic study being done. It is ongoing. There was no further input so the public hearing will reconvene on September 2nd at 7:30 PM.

Later in the meeting, a report on the development was put before Council. Like the Kingfisher apartments, there were a number of comments which were written to council from an open house on August 6th.

The local Relaters, Nichols and Kenny stated there was no suitable brand new housing in Kitimat for the workers who were coming here from out of town. “They are looking for newer build with little to no maintenance, at least [unidentifiable number] baths, garage and storage. Our homes built in the 50’s are not suitable, even with renos, the dynamic of our residents is shifting to younger career oriented or empty nesters. We currently do not have the housing they are looking for. Many have gone to Terrace to find adequate housing,” wrote the realtors.

Corinne Scott also wrote in favour of the changes. She talked to the developer at the open house and expressed: “There is a shortage of serviced single family lots available for development in the Kildala area and this plan not only fits with the existing neighbourhood, but would provide a much needed upgrade to the area,” wrote Scott.

She was happy to see the developer was taking accessible housing into consideration as there is a shortage of accessible accommodations in Kitimat. However, she suggested the accessible houses be built right away. She also suggested building one less house per condo to make for more greenspace.

A MacLeod wrote there were a number of proposed developments. Listing them off, he wrote: “That’s five, we don’t need six.”

Lorri Sommerfeld stated several concerns. She was concerned with the density increase and how the sewers would hold up under it. Similarly she was concerned where the snow would go when removed and how the traffic from 217 homes would affect Liard and Nadina.

Joanne Hauki expressed concern with the density increase. “I don’t believe there is a need for such high density projects when there are townhouses falling into disrepair in Kitimat,” wrote Hauki.

The final letter was from Larry and Kathy Walker who stated the snow removal would be difficult and the estates would need traffic lights to control the traffic. He was concerned the roads would not be wide enough to allow fire and police to respond. He suggested Council ban parking on the roadway in the estates.

Later in the meeting, Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to receive the report and letters for information. He said he had unease about the town house density but the developers have stated this is affordable, even though it is different then what Kitimat is used to.

“I’m still a little unsure about the density of the town home portion. I don’t know if that density were to change, what kind of impact that might have on affordability of those units,” said Feldhoff.

Councillor Phil Germuth agreed with Feldhoff. He liked the diversity but he disagreed with the number of townhouses. He asked Staff if they could work with the developer to bring the number of townhouses down. He added he wanted to see some diversity in the townhouses as well. He wanted a few of the townhouses to have a yard so the owner could have a child or a pet.

“I think that having a diversified development where you can have something like that might be more beneficial and might be something people would want to buy even more then something with no yard,” said Germuth.

Feldhoff wanted to know more about how the road accesses might make a difference. He also wanted to know more about the apartment which is planned to be low income housing by the developer and how it can be moved forward faster. He wanted staff to help move it forward.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to wait until the Provincial Strategic Housing Study on Kitimat is released in September before moving forward on this. Councillor Edwin Empinado expressed there was a presentation on how snow removal would work, which was presented to Council. He stated this tactic worked down south but did not know how it would work in this environment.

Feldhoff wanted to know when a traffic impact study would be released to Council. Germuth wanted to know if a Traffic Committee meeting has been called. He was told the study had to be returned first. It was suggested Council put off their decision, but the Council had to make the decision to do this.

The motion to receive was called and carried.