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UPDATED: Opposing sides of proposed 11th Ave. housing debate were voiced at public hearing

Prince Rupert City Council postponed the hearing and rezoning vote pending more information
Michelle Bryant-Gravelle expressed her desire, at a public hearing on Aug 23 held at the Lester Centre, for the proposed Lax Kw’alaams housing project on 11th Ave to obtain the green light. She said local homeowners need to set aside any privilege they may hold so the affordable housing complex can be built.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect a comment made by Kaylia Daniele at the public hearing. Daniele was misquoted in the article. Daniele said, “I’d like you to please understand why we don’t want a commercial-sized building in the middle of a highly dense, [high traffic] residential area.” (Not “highly attractive” as reported). The Northern View apologizes for the error.

More than 35 speakers voiced their concerns to Prince Rupert City Council on Aug. 23, at a public hearing held at the Lester Centre, regarding the proposed Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing development set for 11th Ave. East.

The issue at hand which council needed to consider was the approval of the proposed area rezoning. If approved, the affordable housing project may obtain a green light. However, the rezoning decision was left in limbo with an amber light still flashing.

The city council agreed it did not have enough information to answer the public’s questions or undertake a final vote on the matter. A decision was made to postpone the public hearing pending a report from the City Planning Department to be presented at the September council meeting.

The residentially zoned properties, which are combined to make the parcel of land where the 70 multi-sized unit complex may be built, have been a topic of contentious discussion for months, with two opposing community petitions in which “not in my backyard” has become a coined phrase around the affordable housing project.

Issues brought at the hearing include residents’ concerns about the location of the project pertaining to traffic flow and density in the area, views from neighbouring homes, aesthetic blending into the neighbourhood, parking, water and sewage, as well as lack of sunlight and dampness from the woods and ravine environment.

Citizens and interested parties shared rivalling views during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

Kaylia Daniele, a homeowner on 11th Ave., said when she purchased her property, it was based on information provided by the city and located in a single-residential area with parkland adjacent. With the approval of the rezoning application, she will have a six-story apartment building next door to her, which is not what she signed up for.

“I’d like to get the mayor and council to please just close your eyes, picture your own homes that you’ve saved for, made sacrifices for, your biggest investment. Now go look out your bedroom window, look out your living room window, look out your kitchen window. Don’t put a building bigger than a hotel in that window,” she said.

“I’d like you to please understand why we don’t want a commercial-sized building in the middle of a highly dense, [high traffic] residential area. The bylaws are set up for a reason, and in rezoning this, you’re creating precedents for future commercial-sized buildings to be allowed next to our family homes,” Daniele said.

Michelle Bryant-Gravelle voiced a different opinion and said she grew up in a BC Housing complex providing the opportunity for her mother to purchase a home very close to the proposed property.

“I am a privileged homeowner. I can buy a house, and I’ll tell you why. Without places like this [project], my mother could not buy her own house … This afforded her the ability to purchase a house which I then grew up in … I think we have to put aside the privilege that people have as homeowners, especially in affluent areas and recognize the need for places like this. We must not forget this is unceded Nine Allied Tribes territory. It was stolen from us, and yet we are here, seeking permission to build a unit of housing for our members.”

“… But this has been talked about for a while now, and to hear the privilege that is coming out from homeowners in the area … would we still hear talk about the same issues if this was a luxury apartment building. I don’t think so,” she said.

“I want to put into perspective for people and take away the colonial attitudes and the colonial ways of thinking of telling us, as Indigenous people, Tsimshian people, where we can live. [This] takes us back to the Indian Act. Do you want us to go back to the reserves and not be in this town. I’m sorry, that’s not going to happen,” Byrant-Gravelle said.

Mustafa Kulkhan, project manager for Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing, answered some of the concerns raised and said funding for the projects is through the Indigenous Housing fund, which requires the funds to be used for Indigenous Housing. Hence the project will be for Lax Kw’alaams members. The funding doesn’t allow for land purchase, so a partnership was created with the City of Prince Rupert to supply the land at a nominal lease rate.

More than 1,400 Lax Kw’alaams members live in Prince Rupert, which is more than in the home community itself.

All of the development costs, including water and sewer installation, will be covered in the project costs and borne by the housing society, Kulkhan said. A traffic flow and feasibility study has already been completed for the area and will be available online shortly.

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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Mayor Lee Brain chaired a public hearing on Aug 23, to hear public concerns and considerations for the proposed rezoning of residential properties on 11th which would allow for a 70-unit affordable housing complex to be built. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)