A portion of land on Prince Rupert Blvd. is potentially being sold for a parking lot at the property locals know to be “Digby Towers” and was the topic of discussion at the city council meeting on March 6.
Business and property owner of the neighbouring Parkside Resort Motel, Theresa Lee, is in opposition to the land sale and is slighted that she was not given the opportunity to purchase the property despite claiming to have offered to buy the piece which runs adjacent to hers.
Digby Towers, located at 200 Sherbrooke Ave. is an apartment building of 60 bachelor and one-bedroom suites, sold to Michael Shore in 2019, from previous private owners. The property has been under extensive renovation since and is now ready for move-in.
But it can not open for occupancy until adequate parking is sorted out.
Lee told The Northern View that it has been she and her staff who have maintained the parcel of land running alongside her motel for at least 20 years. They have cut the grass, pruned the trees, planted flowers and installed picnic benches for families to eat there, city council members heard at the meeting on Feb. 21. She feels it is unfair for the city to sell the property with a single directed purchaser in view and without offering it to the public for sale, or giving her the chance to buy it.
In a March 7 email to The Northern View responding to inquiries about Lee’s offer to purchase, the city stated, “The current council and administration have no record of any previous offers provided by Ms. Lee.”
“Municipal governments have an ability to dispose of property granted to them by the Local Government Act, which also specifies that decisions of council to dispose of land must be balanced against a local government’s policies and objectives for community development,” the city stated.
Lee also expressed concern at the February meeting that the property proposed for sale, which is also the subject of a new road dedication bylaw, would impede access to her business.
City operations manager Richard Pucci was asked to provide an explanation and mapping for council’s clarification to be ready for the next meeting.
“The Digby Tower property owner has requested to purchase a linear parcel across from their building and council has agreed to sell it at market value,” Pucci stated in his agenda report for the March 6 meeting.
Digby owner, Shore, addressed the mayor and council in person at the most recent meeting, explaining the need for the land and parking.
“I’ve been negotiating with council and administration to purchase the small lot across the road to comply with regulations, which is necessary for the opening of the building. I believe housing is much needed in the city,” he said.
Under the city zoning bylaws, one parking space per residential unit, in a multi-family complex, is required. With 60 plus units in the landmark building, the equivalent amount of spaces are needed, plus two accessible parking stalls. Parking spaces must be a minimum of 2.7 metres wide and 5.8 metres long, with the exception of end parking spaces which have a minimum width of 2.6 metres.
“Additionally,” Pucci said in his report, “The city owns a parcel that bisects the Digby Tower current parking lot and the Digby Tower owns the property that terminates an opportunity for the current lane to provide connected access for fire protection and the public. Therefore to correct this and allow for a uniform parking lot the council has resolved to complete a property exchange as the properties are very similar in size.”
The mapping and report presented by Pucci shows the portion of land currently being negotiated for sale does not hinder access to Lee’s property.
Council adopted the bylaw for the property to be opened and designated a portion of highway.
“[The city] deems that it is in the public interest to open to traffic a dedication of highway, comprising of approximately 203.7 square meters … which is shown outlined…” the agenda motion states.
The BC traffic act defines that parking lots form part of highways.
“The passing of the road bylaw last night was a pre-cursor for the land sale to proceed. Once all legal documents have been executed for the sale, Mr. Shore will be free to proceed with developing parking,” the city stated.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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