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REPORTING · 11th October 2014
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council had a Public Hearing on Riverbrook Estates on Monday, October 5th, the same Public Hearing which has been going on for THREE MONTHS

There were two letters to Council which were read at the public hearing. Both were in opposition. They agreed the density was unacceptable. They were concerned about traffic, noise and the demand on the sewer and much more.

“I would urge Mayor and Council to consider the original plan for Kitimat and Cherish what is unique about Kitimat and avoid haphazardly overbuilding and losing sight of what it means to be a planned community,” wrote Joanne Hauki.

Hauki asked what would happen when work forces reduce in the spring and the contractors leave. Penny Spicer commented in her letter that her family chose the neighbourhood knowing single family homes would be going in there and were concerned about the resale value of their home.

Lori Sommerfeld from Okanagan Street got up next and presented a petition signed by people opposing the rezoning bylaw. The petition had just under 300 signatures.

“We do not see the need for this development as the market is currently flooded with houses for sale. Since there are already over 100 homes for sale in Kitimat, we ask Mayor and Councillors, where are the jobs coming from to warrant this development at this magnitude at this time,” asked Sommerfeld.

She stated Rio Tinto Alcan is close to the end of the modernization and the closures which Kitimat has faced over the last decade have reduced Kitimat’s population. She pointed out the land is currently zoned for single family homes which can be built at any time, and single family homes would match Clarence Stein’s Plan for Kitimat.

“He planed our town with beautiful walkways and gardens throughout our community and designed for a population of 50,000. In 1980, Kitimat had 14,500 residents. Now, we have approximately 9500. We are now being forced to accept a rezoning application to allow the development of 199 units, which is 149% increase from the established zone,” said Sommerfeld.

She stated this does not fit with the plan for the town or the neighbourhood. She asked Council if this is what they wanted Kitimat to look like. Sommerfeld told Council there are a lot of dilapidated buildings in Kitimat and they should be bulldozed.

She expressed she is not against development and she would not petition some of the other developments. However, many taxpayers were opposed to the development and reminded Council who voted them in.

“We respectfully ask you, Mayor Monaghan, and the Councillors, to consider our concerns and objections and say no to the rezoning bylaw, 1854,” concluded Sommerfeld.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked when the signatures were collected. The response was the previous week.

Councillor Edwin Empinado told her they will be looking at the professional and technical advice from staff, statistics and studies. He said they could look at the physical side but they have information there is a deeper core to this.

Bill Kearley was the next speaker. He expressed he canvassed around and found out people were aware the first phase, which would have been 51 townhouses at the time (the number has since decreased) but they were not aware of the zoning, which would have been 217 at the time he canvassed. He expressed the area is zoned for about 80 and would not kick up a fuss about 51. However, they were surprised to find the 51 would swell to 217.

“The issue is zoning. The issue is high density,” said Kearley. “That’s this whole issue is the density, Period.”

Kearley pointed out that 40% of the houses which are on the market will sell for less than the units purposed by Kerkhoff. They would not be low income. They would most likely have strata title on them so the low income home buyer would neither be able to afford them or the strata fees.

Councillor Mary Murphy told him it is the apartment which will be for low income, not the rest of the project. She explained the apartment would be run by a society and by the government. There would be no purchasing.

Paul Legace was next. He said he had some serious questions about the apartments and the density. However, he met with Kerkhoff earlier.

“I’m thinking of things from a housing perspective here. Any future apartments with connection is way down the line with BC Housing if there any new building,” said Legace.

He stated when he first talked to Kerkhoff about the low income housing, it was a long way off, now it was closer. Legace stated there were other paths towards affordable housing, which is not just through BC Housing. $5000 per door would mean $230,000 for the city of affordable housing if the BC Housing fell through.

He expressed he was not in favour or against the project, but Kerkhoff had put something on the table and the city should consider it from that perspective.

Goffinet wanted to know if there was any chance of low cost housing from BC Housing. Legace asked Leonard Kerkhoff who was sitting in the back who replied he would know in a few weeks. Councillor Mary Murphy asked who was responsible for affordable housing. She was told there has been some downloading and municipalities were looking for partnership with businesses. People have to look for alternate means. It is not the developer’s responsibility but the community needs to look at different partnerships. This could get complicated.

Jason Pender was next, a partner with the applicant. He expressed 45 units would go towards the affordable housing initiative. He also told Council they have an economic commitment to their partnership to sell the units so the development can go ahead. They will not build in the area if it did not sell.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know what the strata fees would be. He was told that on Baxter, they would be $145-$155 per month per unit.

Council decided they needed time to absorb the new information so they decided to adjourn the Public Hearing until November 3rd.