Kitimat City Council had two public hearings concerning housing developments on Monday, September 15th. The first of the public hearings concerned the housing development on Kingfisher behind Margetts Street.
This bylaw would increase the amount of housing on the lot at the end of Kingfisher by 13 units. It is already zoned for 40. The motion was given two readings in early July but second reading had to be rescinded. The bylaw was amended and given second reading in August. The public hearing has been going on since July 28th.
During the public hearing process, a petition was handed to Council. Since the petition was first handed to them, the number of people who have signed the petition had increased to 137 names.
The letter from the people of Margetts Street, found by clicking this link
, was read into the record. Attached to the letter were a number of articles concerning changes in the LNG market and Robin Rowland’s article concerning the need for a plan in Kitimat for development found by clicking this link
Spencer Edwards, a Margetts resident wanted Council to look at a vision for Kitimat, the community plan and the proposed developments. He expressed he was not against development. “I feel that we are at the mercy of recent industrial developments and housing developments as well,” said Edwards.
He stated, quoting highly regarded planners and developers from the United States, success comes from good planning, capitalizing on distinct assets, environmentally responsibility and community leadership, which needs to be inclusive, collaborative and connected, not just remaining with a select few.
Edwards asked Council which Official Community Plan they are following. A graph predicted Kitimat is going to follow a medium growth to 13621 people by 2026.
The OCP says we need a ‘cultivated diversified economic growth and enhanced sense of place.’ Edwards compared the Smithers OCP to the Kitimat OCP. Smithers wanted natural materials, tasteful building styles and materials that are reflective of the local history. Kitimat wanted to promote energy efficient designs.
He reminded Council the OCP was put together by an Advisory Planning Commission put together by Mayor and Council and the APC+ which is twelve representatives. He expressed the community need to promote a ‘leaderful’ community, which would reflect technology, talents of every sector in the community.
Edwards finished with two quotes: “’I feel a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.’ I don’t see a strategic plan in place for Kitimat at the moment. ‘Our Future is in our hands.’ The best way to predict our future is to create.”
Councillor Mary Murphy talked about the Retire in Kitimat Campaign, where Kitimat tried to get some retirees into the community. She told Edwards many of the retirees sold their houses in the housing boom and have moved on. She also stated the OCP needed to be updated regularly. “Unfortunately, things are moving so quickly for Kitimat that it’s a daily action that we have to address,” said Murphy
Edwards pointed out again they need to put a plan into place to guide the town. “It’s sad that you feel that the District of Kitimat doesn’t have high standards,” said Murphy.
Edwards corrected her: “I said it’s important to ensure that high building standards are in place as they are.”
Bruce Howard of Quatsino presented on behalf of the Kitimat Development Corporation, reading a prepared statement by them. The statement stated there have been dozens of inquiries from the community about the prices in relation to purchasing a town house across from the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club. The Corporation has addressed concerns from the neighbourhood and have worked with the planning department to find solutions. The letter asked for Council’s Support.
Luke from Skeena Street wished to speak about both developments. He explained both projects have high end standards and there are a lot of people who want to buy the houses. He added the people who wanted to buy were both local residents and people from out of town.
“I know that both of these developers, they have owned houses and they have other properties in town. They have provided, they have been here for over three years, for Kingfisher and the Riverbrook Project. They are staying here to build this community for families,” said Luke.
He said there were 5 elementary schools in Kitimat, and now there are only 2 left. He wanted to see more families living in Kitimat, explaining the proposed town houses at Kingfisher will support good living standards while being high end. He said the minor concerns can be addressed.
He expressed he would like to buy one from either of the two developments which were before Council.
With no further presenters in the first Public Hearing, Council was asked if they wish to extend the hearing or end it tonight.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated Kingfisher has been extended numerous times and the public has let them know how they feel about the project. Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to make a motion to adjourn the public hearing to a later date to take another look at the Housing Action Plan, which they were briefed upon last week.
Councillor Phil Germuth agreed with Feldhoff. Murphy made the motion adjourn the public hearing. Councillor Edwin Empinado disagreed with the motion because these developments are dependent on the results of the Housing Action Plan.
Feldhoff stated the Council has had plenty of time to read the draft of the Housing Action Plan. He did not see it as a reason to keep dragging out the process. Germuth agreed because the bylaw was for 13 extra units and the number would not have any impact on the Housing Action Plan.
Goffinet stated the Council has not discussed the long term implications in the Housing Action Plan. He stated the report was still confidential and there were concerns in the long term housing needs of the District of Kitimat. He pointed out there were concerns about which population estimate they were basing their decision on, but no one knows what the numbers will be.
“If we misstep now, we set in process a possible dealing between the objective future needs of housing and future is in the next year or two because things could change in a year or two. The long term strategic needs of housing in Kitimat, if we misstep right now, we’ve thrown it out of whack and we’ve set the precedence,” said Goffinet. “If we say yes to the first development, where are we going to say no?”
He stated if they adjourned, they cut everything off. He wanted to keep listening. Council was told they could go back into the public hearing process but they would have to advertise. Their decision tonight was not irreversible. The motion was called and carried with Goffinet and Empinado opposed.
Later in the meeting, it was time to make a decision on the third reading for the Kingfisher Development. Between the two public hearings which the Council had gone through, they had spent just over an hour and 30 minutes on the housing issue.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to give second reading to the bylaw. Councillor Mary Murphy seconded to it. “This has been before us for a long time. The public has been given ample opportunity to comment and raise concerns. We’ve listened. The Proponent put forward a material change some time ago, after we turned down the original proposal,” said Feldhoff.
He said the buildings that were adjacent to the Margetts street homes were reduced in size, the park dedication has been removed from the proposal and the APC, Housing Committee and the staff were recommending approval. The sewer and the traffic concerns had been addressed. Feldhoff stated the need for housing is required by the changing household demographics. People have smaller families then they did many years ago so Kitimat needs more homes.
Councillor Phil Germuth expressed he was opposed. He expressed the bylaw had already been negated once. Council expanded the consultation zone so they could hear from the people.
“In the six months this motion has been in front of us, the 5-6 months we’ve been dealing with this, besides one person tonight, every single person who responded on Margetts Street was against the extra 13 units. Not only that, 114 other residents came out and said they do not support this project, the extra units,” said Germuth.
“How do we morally justify adopting this bylaw. When we said we wanted to hear from the people, they came and told us. To adopt this bylaw now makes us no better than any other level of government or any other corporation out there that says, we want to consult because we care about what the public thinks, and then to completely ignore them because their minds were already made up before,” said Germuth. “If it is, we are showing that the consultation was nothing but a facade,” said Germuth.
Councillor Rob Goffinet stated that on the surface, the developments looked good. However, he agreed the densification was something to look at, but they should only densify if there is a long term need. He stated they should listen to further consultation so the Council could take more time to look at the development and what it was setting the precedence for.
He argued the community is concerned that Council is over building or could overbuild with no need. The Housing Study is in draft form and they have not had a chance to look at the bigger picture and ask the question: ‘Do we require this?’
Councillor Mary Murphy state there were previous citizens who were concerned about the lack of housing and Council’s inability to respond to the issues. The building proposal would not move forward if there was no need.
She told Council that the Alexander Apartments did not deteriorate the values of people’s houses in the Whitesale Neighbourhood. “We have good citizens who work on our Advisory Commission and other committees that give us recommendations along with our staff,” said Murphy. “I believe that everybody’s concerns have been addressed. We’re talking about three units. Because we did not accept the parkland as District land, it’s given them more land to build their project on.”
Councillor Edwin Empinado said there have been a lot of comments on this. They are instructing staff to make a housing strategy. He said the Council is waiting for the finalized housing action plan before they sit down to decide if they need the additional 13 units.
Feldhoff suggested passing third reading because there will be time between third reading and final adoption to discuss the Housing Action Plan. He suggested there were three courses of action, adopt it, table it or vote it down.
Murphy stated the recommendations which came forward from the draft of the Housing Action Plan were things Council has already been addressing and implementing.
“If we want to delay this, our deputy has said it could always be brought back. We can pass this, we don’t have to finalize this and we don’t have to bring it back,” said Murphy.
Germuth stated there was no reason to table it. He said it was time to support the people as the community has spoken as a whole and the Council has heard loud and clear. Murphy asked if the signatures on the petition were in opposition to the entire project or to changing the bylaw. She was told it was in opposition of the bylaw.
“Some of the people on that list, were some of the people who had addressed me personally and said that we had not been dealing with the housing situation in Kitimat several years ago,” said Murphy.
Germuth stated if they do not approve 13 units, it will not fix things but it will not cause problems either. There are enough townhouses being built in town.
Council was told if they table this, they would have to reopen the public hearing again because Council is supposed to make the decision without further information. Goffinet expressed they were looking at a 3-3 split. Council is faced with a decision on whether they proceed. They have cut discussion off when they adjourned the public hearing.
Feldhoff stated they are not making a hasty decision. “This has gone on for a very long time. The developer’s made substantive changes. The consultation and the public hearing process has not been a fascade as suggested by one of my fellow councillors. We’ve listened to a lot of input. The remaining people that, they have reasons to not be supportive of what’s being proposed and there are others that are in favour,” said Feldhoff.
He stated the development is in the best interests of the town as a whole and this was just 13 extra units in addition to the 40 that the land is already zoned for. It was time to let the developer move on.
The motion was called and negated, a 3-3 tie. Feldhoff, Monaghan and Murphy were in favour and Empinado, Germuth and Goffinet opposed. Empinado attempted to make a deferral motion but he could not make it because after it was defeated, they have to start the process over again at square one unless Council brought it back without making any changes.
who,s aloud to build .