City of Prince Rupert seeking legal clarity on land development

With the development of Westview Park now off the table, the City of Prince Rupert is beginning to look at future development.

With the development of condominiums at Westview Park now off the table, the City of Prince Rupert is beginning to look at future development to meet the needs of a growing community.

But before it does, council will be looking to clarify a 1965 act that saw CN Rail hand over 12 parcels of land. The agreement, signed by Mayor Peter Lester, CN vice-president M. Archer and Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources Ray Williston, gives the city the fee simple ownership of the land “subject to the express condition that the hereinafter mentioned lands shall not be used for purposes other than of parks, public recreation, municipal public buildings, public schools, hospital buildings, cemeteries, reservoirs, and generally only for those purposes that are for the use and enjoyment of the public at large and are of a non-tax producing nature”.

However, Mayor Jack Mussallem said the agreement doesn’t necessarily restrict development.

“It could be that the agreement was agreed to by both parties, it was deposited at the land titles office but was not registered with each one of the individual pieces of property. That is under review to see if that agreement does indeed have any force and effect,” he said.

Councillor Joy Thorkelson said what exactly the 1965 agreement means needs to be clarified before development can take place.

“We have to be clear about what that legislation means so that when we are doing things, we are abiding by that legislation. If we want the city could seek to have that legislation changed, but I don’t think we can ignore it,” she said.

“The Transition House probably could have been conceived as a building for the public good and therefore fit in with the act. I would suggest that the house next door also was providing a public service, so I think they were in keeping with the legislation. I’m not so sure we could sell those and I would like to be clear about what land, under that legislation, we can put buildings on that are not part of the public good.”

In addition to clarifying the availability of those 12 parcels, council voted to have staff look into a development plan outside of the Official Community Plan and talk with residents about where they want future housing in the city.

“I think that is a conversation we have to have with the public,” said Thorkelson, whose idea was met with quick rebuttal from Mayor Mussallem.

“I am getting concerned that in the last number of meetings when we have come in here as a council collectively, we have asked the staff to continually do more and more things and the staff hasn’t grown.”