A large, vocal crowd delivered one message to the City of Prince Rupert council at a public forum last week: Leave Westview Park alone.
The forum was held to outline the possibility of the city creating a condominium complex on Westview Park and the adjoining lands.
The city wants to develop a high-end, multi-family dwelling after identifying a need for one in the Quality of Life Official Community Plan in 2008.
“There are people in Prince Rupert that are getting older that no longer wish to live in houses and do the maintenance and landscaping required for an individual home,” said Mayor Jack Mussallem.
“If there was a facility where they could have a condominium or townhouse … in a nice area with a possible view, it would be welcomed and appreciated,” Mayor Mussallem said.
The city would sell the property, with the money going into the city’s lands sale account and being earmarked for development of other lands within the municipality. It would also generate further funds by putting another piece of property on the tax roll.
But the idea has met strong opposition; not to the condos, but to their suggested location.
At a public forum held on the subject last Tuesday, city planner Zeno Krekic said the city looks at a number of considerations when planning a project, including ownership of land, land-use regulations, sensitivity concerns and if services are available. Considering those factors, Krekic selected an area on Atlin Avenue that previously held the Transition House, as well as the adjoining lands to the southwest. The land is owned by the city, is already developed making city maintenance easier, and the land is already fully developed with water, sewer and utilities.
While the Westview Park and adjoining land isn’t zoned for residential use, it’s located on a favourable, family-oriented neighbourhood equipped with an outstanding view.
However, at the forum, Rupertites highlighted several issues with developing the area.
A main concern is that Westview Park is home to a Great Blue Heron nesting site, known as a rookery.
Krekic admitted the city wasn’t aware of the rookery, but said the city worked with consultants who suggested a 60-metre buffer zone around the rookery.
Prince Rupert’s Cynthia Spilsted argued 60 metres wasn’t enough when compared to other buffer zones, saying in Minnesota a 180-metre buffer around the outer edge of a rookery was required.
“If they go, they will not come back … to build, then say ‘oh dear, we made a mistake the herons are gone’, [would be] a little too late because you can’t give them an apology card … we’re losing too much in this town.”
An issue for several of the meeting’s attendees was the potential loss of another recreational green space within the community.
“This entire parcel of land, which was intended for public use is even more valuable today … people need these precious, undeveloped spaces,” Atlin Avenue resident Leslie Rowlands said.
Julie Slocombe, a mother who lives on Alpine Drive, said the loss of the park would mean her children would lose the only forest they can play in without crossing the highway.
“My children are outdoor children, they do not spend a lot of time in doors. They like to go trump through the forest,” she said.
“That is the only park my children can play in.”
People also referred to the Quality of Life Official Community Plan (QLOCP), saying developing condos in the area would go against it. The QLOCP designates the area as P1, or public facilities, which restricts its permitted uses to park and recreation facilities, public institutional facilities, education centres, cemeteries, resource lands and activities and accessory buildings and structures.
Krekic said the area could be rezoned by following the proper legislative process.
It was also argued that creating condos at the Westview park and adjoining lands went against the QLOCP’s suggestions for areas for new residential development within the plan.
Emergency access was a concern for Atlin Avenue resident Linda Scott, who said within the community plan the section of town containing Atlin and Graham Avenue was not suggested for future development because of a lack of emergency access.
“I don’t think any kind of increased residential density in that area is a practical thing to think about,” Scott said.
Other concerns expressed were that increasing the number of families in the area would mean an increase in traffic in a tight area. People said Atlin would need to be widened for safety, and questioned if the aging 2nd Avenue bridge was strong enough to deal with an increase.
No one at the meeting spoke in favour of the idea, including city councillors Judy Carlick-Pearson, Nelson Kinney and Anna Ashley. All three said they were not in favour of a housing complex being put in the area.
“Let’s keep our parks. We have to do it,” Coun. Kinney said.
Coun. Ashley reminded people the meeting was held to gather input on the concept.
“No decisions have been made. We are listening to everything that you say … I do believe it’s a bad idea. But we have to let that democratic process happen,” Ashley said.
Krekic will give a report to council on the meeting before the end of the year.