A rendering of the proposed condominium development on Bill Murray Drive.

Condominium proposal sparks council debate around planning for future development

A large condominium and commercial development proposed on Bill Murray Drivewas formally introduced to city council last Monday night.

A large condominium and commercial development proposed on Bill Murray Drive by SwissReal Group and Frank and Cynthia Pyde was formally introduced to city council last Monday night.

The condominium building, which would sit eight storeys high and encompass 80 residential units, also includes a commercial building for medical and business offices adjacent to the structure.

As part of the proceedings, council voted to pass first reading on the Proposed Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 3377 – which comprises a section of downtown Prince Rupert, labelled Central Commercial Zone or C1 – to amend the maximum building height from 16 metres to 29 metres to accommodate the eight floors.

“While this may not be a complex application, it does merit the effort to identify the different elements that are part of it,” said Prince Rupert city planner Zeno Krekic.

“One part is amending the maximum building height in the zoning bylaw … the second one is the purchase of city property for additional parking, which is required to be brought to a certainty during this process – the area for parking that they are suggesting is part of a parking lot that is now within Chances’ parking lot. The third one is the development permit, which will be scheduled to be introduced at the second reading of the proposed bylaw and before the public hearing.”

Coun. Joy Thorkelson expressed her concern that with one broad rezoning effort, multiple buildings designed for different activities and purposes will now have to function alongside each other in a zone that allows varied building heights. Thorkelson offered a split-zoning solution, whereby areas within one zone have different maximum building elevation levels.

“I have a problem with changing all of our C1 zoning to permit this building to go ahead,” she said at the July 20 council meeting.

More concerning for the councillor was the lack of any sort of official community plan that includes resident input as to how they would like their city to look with significant developer interest.

“My concern is what we want to leave as a legacy during this period of expansion … Do we want, for example, all the wealthy people located downtown in an area? … We need to have that discussion,” she said.

Coun. Thorkelson stated that she will vote against any sort of development without first making a plan to develop a community document that profiles residents’ wants. Not wanting to bottleneck construction or hold things up too much, Coun. Thorkelson was adamant she is not anti-development.

“And I can just see it and I don’t really care to tell you the truth – that people are going to say that Thorkelson is anti-development. I am absolutely not anti-development, but I’m big on planned development. I have been fighting for four years on this council to get some kind of land development plan for our own land that we own as a city – which isn’t very much land, but also what do we need to do to control development so our city looks like the way we want our city to look like … so that we can have this community that is proud of itself?” she said.

Coun.Barry Cunningham responded to Coun. Thorkelson’s concerns by stating that while he agrees with her, meetings have been held in the past to gather input on an official community plan concerning land and attendance was so poor that city officials outnumbered residents.

“We’ve got to hear from the people in this town coming out and telling us what they want, not sitting back and waiting until the last minute every time,” said Coun. Cunningham.

At the conclusion of the council meeting, Coun. Thorkelson said she would table a motion in the future for council to hold a workshop and public consultation session to determine residents’ feelings toward community land use.

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