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REPORTING · 9th October 2014
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council began with two public hearings on October 6th, the second in relation to the Riverbrook estates proposal for the Konigus, Liard and Nadina area by Kerkhoff Construction. The motion was up for third reading, meaning if Council wanted to move on with the bylaw, they would have to end the public hearing.

Leonard Kerkhoff was at Council again to speak to the development. He put on another slide show of Council showing them the ‘pretty pictures’ of the housing which he was proposing. He said the density would increase the property tax base while marginally increasing snow clearing.

“Overall it’s a benefit to the tax base of Kitimat and the denser forms of development use municipal infrastructure more efficiently as each metre of infrastructure serves more households,” said Kerkhoff.

He told Council he has been meeting with BC Housing over the last week concerning the low income apartment he has proposed. He explained it has been a positive experience and they have established there is a need for housing, they want to do something and they are looking at the Riverbrook site. It is still subject to due process.

“Should an agreement be reached, BC Housing would be looking at development and construction in the near future, as early as 2015,” said Kerkhoff.

He suggested they were going to add a clause to the covenant which they wish to register that should no affordable housing come to the plate for 18 months, they will contribute $5000 per door to the District funds to show their commitment to making housing in Kitimat affordable.

Kerkhoff also presented two options for Council to decide. He reflected on a question Councillor Phil Germuth asked at the last meeting, if Council could request which phases of the development get put in at which times.

Kerkhoff suggested if they want to monitor the phasing, they will do the first phase, which is 47 town homes and the site infrastructure and not build the apartments. This would remove the affordable housing from the application.

“Option one would be to approve all 199 units and leaves us the opportunity to work with BC Housing and put that deal together and decide which phase would go first and how many units is the max the market can manage. Option two would be the town homes only and the single family,” said Kerkhoff.

He added the staff supported option one and the time lines mattered. Kerkhoff told Council it has taken them three months without adjourning the public hearings.

“If all were approved today, we’d be spending the next two months or so preparing for a market launch for the townhome phase one project. The next three months after that, once we have our presale market in place and construction drawings and getting ready to submit for a building permit, typically, it takes a month or two to get a building permit. Some of these tasks overlap. What would be 6 months from today in order to get a building permit for the townhomes. We would be under construction by April 20th which allows us to get the roofs on by the final winter following… like we’re doing at Baxter,” said Kerkhoff.

He pointed out that if Council picks option two, they will need to resubmit an application and would have to resubmit rezoning if BC Housing wants to make a deal. He was concerned it would take another three months to go through the public hearing process again.

“There is also elections and winter holidays and Christmas in there that would delay that process. Traditionally, we’ve seen that it really sets back projects with the new Council getting up to speed and that sort of thing, plus, the four months we’ve spent preparing construction drawings for apartments, a much more complex program then a townhome, and then add a two month period for a building permit and we’re looking at 10-11 months to get a building permit on that apartment should BC housing come to us and want to start next spring. That would be entirely off the table at that point,” said Kerkhoff.

He said if Council picked option 2, the affordable housing would be delayed by a year. He expressed there would be parks, walkways, affordable housing, an affordable housing fund and taxes. He said it would be a quality build rather than a manufactured home. He told them the townhomes would add a variety. They would be helping with upgrades to the sewer system and they would be creating townhomes which is not being offered in other developments.

Councillor Phil Germuth asked if he had to go through BC Housing to create affordable housing or if he could go through another avenue. Kerkhoff replied his company is not in the business of creating affordable housing, they would need to do a joint venture with a society.

Councillor Edwin Empinado commented that even though there are timelines, Council still needs to meet the needs of the community.

There were many more speakers concerning the project. Some were in favour, some were opposed, and Council would have to make a decision. Come back tomorrow to hear the rest of the argument.