Eighteen letters were sent to council regarding the proposed subdivision of the ‘castle’ at 160 Van Arsdol Street. Approximately 20 people came to the Oct. 30 council meeting in person to find out what would happen to the historic property in Prince Rupert.
At the Committee of the Whole, two members of the public spoke out against the planned changes. One of them was Judy Warren, who was on the Heritage Advisory Committee for more than 30 years and worked on the Quality of Life Official Community Plan.
“We were a planned city, and that plan is still excellent today. We have good, sound bylaws and zoning,” Warren said. “We are all tired of every few months having to write letters and come to council to say ‘no’ to speculators who wish not to abide by the OCP (Official Community Plan) bylaws and zoning. The castle is the second most significant heritage home in the City of Prince Rupert and deserves protection.”
She asked council to give the planning committee the power to reject such proposals so that neighbourhoods don’t have to intervene.
Councillor Wade Niesh said, “I do not believe that we should be setting the precedent of making non-conforming properties all over this town, because everyone will want to do that in order to split up the properties. On a personal [note], I can’t believe they would think about destroying that beautiful house, but that’s not why we’re here.”
Councillor Barry Cunningham said that when the council decided at the last meeting to put the variance application to public notice, the public has since responded “with a resounding no.”
“To be clear to folks that are here, council has a legal obligation to accept any proposal that comes forward,” Mayor Lee Brain said. “It’s not council necessarily bringing these things forward as it is developers … Personally, I’m not in favour of this either. I believe this is a poor idea and a poor proposal … why would you ruin such a beautiful property and also add unnecessary density?”
Council’s unanimous decision to deny the Van Arsdol variance proposal was met with applause from the gathered crowd. Some stood in a standing ovation.
Other bylaw and zoning variance permit proposals were moved forward by council. Niesh said he is in favour of the plans for a three-unit condo at 134 1st Avenue West, because it meets objectives to refurbish, build a tax base and bring more density to the downtown area.
Cunningham said, “These are the types of variances I like to see to pass because it’s improving the neighbourhood and it’s improving the quality of the house. This is a win-win.”