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Port Edward council sides with residents over contentious rezoning bylaw

Councillors say they barely know the owner and there will be little tax benefit to the community
Cabin built by Clint Thompson in Fauct, Alta. Thompson planned to build eight similar cabins in the District of Port Edward to expand the campground. (photo Debbie Colter)

The Port Edward council chambers voted down a request to rezone four parcels of land next to the Kinnikinnick Campground and RV Park from residential to commercial use.

The decision came following the Nov. 12 public hearing where a dozen residents showed up to oppose the plans to build eight new cabins on the property.

Residents showed up in numbers once more at Tuesday’s night meeting as they waited for council’s final decision.

“Thank you guys for listening to us,” said one resident during the discussion period after the meeting. The comment was followed with applause and multiple “thank you’s” echoing through the council chamber.

Councillor Christine MacKenzie chaired the meeting in place of Mayor Knut Bjorndal, who participated in the meeting by phone along with Councillor James Brown.

During the debate, councillor Dan Franzen was first to speak on the point saying he did not know too much about the property owner or his experience with finances.

“Do we really want a campsite encroaching on residential land? Personally, I don’t think so,” Franzen said. “He can house people in there long term which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it prevents people from buying houses and renting in the community.”

Franzen said one positive aspect of the proposed development would be another business in the district however, he does not see much of a tax benefit from the project.

Prior to the council meeting, BC Assessment informed district staff that the current campground received tax exemption under the Tourist Accommodation Assessment Relief Act (TAARA), approximating $91,000 in taxable assessed value. Should campground expansion proceed, the owner would be eligible to apply for tax relief under TAARA.

READ MORE: Port Ed council chambers full over campground dispute

Councillor Kristoff Murray seemed in favour of the development during the debate despite voting to turn down the request for rezoning.

“Part of me says let him build it but I also want to listen to the constituents that are here,” he said. “I think it is good business sense to make an addition to the campground, it might provide more solid financial footing for the campground. If it ever shut down it would be sorely missed around here. It does bring a lot of tourists in town.”

Bjorndal and Brown both echoed the statements of Franzen and Kristoff. Bjorndal said he felt it was perhaps not the best use of the land and there would be very little job generation from the development, aside from the workers already on the campsite.

“It is not the type of development residents of Port Edward are looking for. There’s no value to Port Edward and I don’t think this is well thought out,” Bjorndal said.

Clint Thompson and his partner Debbie Colter are the residents looking to rezone the property. Thompson provided council a letter that he intended to abide by requirements, and three drawings explaining where he intended to build the eight cabins, illustrating buffer zones for noise and disturbances.

“I’m just devastated. I don’t know what to even say,” Thompson said. “Nobody has even contacted me yet after the meeting.”

Thompson added that his family business and himself personally have been investing in the district since 2013.

“I don’t think the residents understand what they lost,” Moe Berrigan, one of the residents who was in favour of the development, said. “The whole thing is extremely disappointing. My husband and I considered settling here permanently but now we are rethinking that.”

Bjorndal ended the discussion by asking residents to corral the passion they displayed regarding the issue and put it toward moving things forward in Port Edward.

Water bill to go up over time

Water rates will rise in 2020, adding an extra $10 per quarter for each household.

Lorraine Page, director of finance services, explained that revenues from utilities should be able to sustain themselves and the rates for water was the most out of line compared to other utility rates.

Business development, Diana Lake, road upgrade

The district’s new chief administrative officer, D

Danielle Myles Wilson, has made a point of providing council with monthly updates on the staff’s work.

With economic development as one of the main priorities for the district, staff are exploring the concept of a business park on Harbourview Drive, right off the CN tracks, next to Maverick Foods. The city owns seven plots of land for commercial use and wants to work with the province as well as Community Futures to find ways to incentivize development in that area.

The sprinkler and boiler system of Port Edward’s old school has been decommissioned. Staff is preparing cost estimates to either repair the roof of the building, or demolish it completely, a decision for council to make at a later date.

Work is underway to improve Wildwood Road, including storm water upgrades and road reconstruction. Ninety per cent of the plans are complete, with tendering expected to begin in February. Tendering will also begin in February for work on a new muskeg dump, once federal grants come in for the project.

Staff plans to overhaul the outdated Emergency Response Plan for the district, with a new one set to replace it by March and bi-annual mock exercises to take place.

Other council notes

Kevin Mudge, Clarence Martin and Thomas Barnett, all residents of the District of Port Edward, were appointed to the Board of Variance. A board of variance is very rarely used but needs to be in place to act as an appeal board when a variance does come forward.

READ MORE: Council: Port Edward discusses issues with parking for travel trailers, more revenue expected from busing in 2019

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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