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REPORTING · 10th February 2015
Walter McFarlane
Tonight, February 10th, at a City Council of the Whole Meeting, the Public Hearing relating to the Alexander Townhouses continues from Last Tuesday’s City Council Meeting.

On Tuesday, February 3rd, Kitimat City Council held a public hearing concerning the proposed improvements and rezoning.

Council did receive an anonymous written submission which was read into the record. The writer was in favour of the application but had a few concerns which they felt Council needed to make sure were addressed.

They were concerned the density of the project would leave little land in the area for recreation, snow storage and parklands. They asked why there were 8 separate buildings instead of one large building. They wanted to know if the buildings would be protected by fire sprinklers. They asked if there would be elevators for older folks, or if the unit could be converted to be made accessible. They wanted to know if the sewer system could handle the additional load.

“Who is going to be living in these units. News about oil prices falling, Chevron scaling back, etc. seems to indicate that this housing is not going to be needed. There seems to be a lot of things this developer hasn’t even thought about,” read the letter.

The writer advised Council to think about the application before they make a decision.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked why there was no name. He was told by Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen the point of the public hearing was for people to come forward and explain how a development will affect them. He felt Council should have all the information and decide how they wish to use it, rather than not providing the information at all.

Dan Condon, the architect and Dennis Vincent, who was representing the proponent, got up to present to Council. They told Council nothing much has changed, but they brought samples of the colours for the buildings for Council to see. Council was told the buildings would have a ski chalet look.

Councillor Mary Murphy asked if they would be able to address the concerns from the letter. She was told the buildings would be 30 feet apart with greenspace between them.

“One of the reasons why you do a project like this, with individual buildings, is that each unit has windows on two sides of the unit and a huge deck so when you actually live inside the unit space, you are living in a luxury apartment essentially,” said Condon.

He told Council each unit was a corner unit and there would be no interior units.

For accessibility, the townhouses were going to be at grade level and there would be ramps to two of the buildings. The units were not intended to be handicap accessible. Council was told a unit could be torn apart and rebuilt to be accessible. He added assisted living units like at Delta King Place are designed to be torn apart and rebuilt to make them accessible.

Feldhoff wanted to know about fire sprinklers. He was told they were not required, except in the parking area. The building will be built to the building code. Feldhoff also asked about the sewers. He was told it has not come up, although engineering did talk about the water supply and the hydrants.

Feldhoff explained the reports from Staff, the Advisory Planning Commission and the Traffic Committee said this would be too dense. He wanted to know how much lowering the density would impact the cost to the purchaser. He was told it would. Feldhoff asked if there was a plan B.

The response was the general belief was the land should be used to its maximum potential, unless the developer wanted to do something different. There were no plans for a big open park space or a large snow dump. They kept the parking to the minimum to meet the bylaw.

Feldhoff asked if there was adequate space for snow removal. He was told there were adequate snow removal areas. He was also asked if Kitimat takes away the excess snow in dump trucks like Terrace does. He was told no. Council was told the area between the buildings could be used for snow.

“What the owner wants to do is build the maximum density. That’s what we’re asking for,” said Condon. He offered to come back with a plan for whatever Council thinks to work.

Murphy informed him most projects have green space because it is something Kitimat values. She asked him which unit they could take out. She was told it would probably be on a corner, and be a combination of parking and green space.

Council also discussed making the building accessible for seniors. Condon explained seniors in his mind can still walk, maybe not up flights of stairs but up the three steps to the patio.

There were no further questions so the delegation sat down.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to discuss this further prior to putting a motion forward. He wanted to amend the application to reduce it by one apartment. Council was told the comments they have received from the public is the public wanted to see more greenspace, more parking and more snow storage. Council was told how this could be done by staff.

Council also had questions concerning the sewer system which were answered by District Engineer Tim Gleig.

Mayor Phil Germuth asked Staff to try and insure the people who are living in the townhouses are able to find a place rather than be displaced. Council was told they could make this a condition of rezoning. Feldhoff expressed he did not share the concern of the relocation plan as KMP would be completing and rental accommodations would be freeing up.

Germuth counted by pointing out landlords might not be willing to reduce rent because other projects might be reaching their Final Investment Decisions in 2016. Murphy stated landlords are lowering their rents around town.

Feldhoff made a motion to direct staff to reduce the number of units and work with the developer. He also wanted more information about a relocation plan. He said he wanted something which worked for the developer but addresses the concerns which were raised. The motion was called and carried.