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Proposed residential rezoning draws ire of local residents

Too early in the process for feedback on a proposed 60 unit complex, Prince Rupert Mayor said
Intersection visibility obstruction looking east at Edward and 11th across from driveway entrance where a proposed 60 unit multifamily complex may be built. Local residents fear for traffic safety with increased population density if a rezoning is approved by the City of Prince Rupert. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Opposition from some community members and written correspondence about a proposed Lax Kw’alaams housing development in Prince Rupert has been received at City Hall prompting Mayor Lee Brain to issue a statement that it is too early in the development process for such communication. Rezoning of the proposed properties is the required first step, which has not yet occurred, he said.

The properties located on 11th Ave East adjacent to Edward Ave. are owned by the City of Prince Rupert, which has applied to itself to re-zone the lots from R2 which is single-family residential to RM2 which is a multi-family residential designation.

The property grouping has been leased for 60 years to the Lax Kw’alaams Waap Housing Society — a corporation set up by the Lax Kw’alaams Band, Mustafa Kulkhan, project manager for the society, said.

Brain addressed council at the Nov. 23 meeting referring the community to the OCP amendments brochure found on the city’s website where it displays a graph of how proposed developments move forward.

“So generally, with any rezoning, this is the first point of contact that a community would become aware of a project,” Brain said.

“ We know that the community has already become aware of this project. Generally speaking, this would be the first touchpoint for any community project,” Brain said.

The rezoning application is a required precursor to the proposed build of a 60-unit housing complex for Lax Kw’alaams Band members which was most recently announced by the Band in its October newsletter.

“The building will be five or six stories high and will have 12 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units, and 30 three-bedroom units,” the newsletter said.

The proposed rezoning has raised concerns for residents near the property propelling at least 10 to 15 letters being sent to City Council an Edward Street resident Maria Bunkowski told The Northern View. She said she has spoken to various area residents about the situation and concerns are high for numerous reasons. She wrote her own correspondence to City Council and received what she said is a very ‘generic’ response.

Bunkowski said she wanted to make it clear that there is no opposition to the building of affordable housing as it is very much needed in the community. The main issue is the location of the proposed development if the property is rezoned to RM2. Bunkowski said there are concerns for safety on the roadway and visibility at the intersection is already difficult and compromised. Adding a driveway entrance for a multi-unit complex would be more of an impediment to vehicles and pedestrians given the blockages on current sightlines.

Vanessa Anderson, also an Edward Ave. resident who spoke to The Northern View said she is concerned about population density, ecosystems, trails, as well as echos concerns about the safety of traffic. She wants the voices of local residents heard.

“My question to our city council was has anybody even done a traffic review? Eleventh Avenue is one of the busiest streets,” Anderson said. She also put her concerns to City Council in a letter and received a reply that it was early in the process.

Brain said that based on the resolution approved by Council at the meeting there will be a community information session plus information packages will be sent out to households within a 200 metre radius of the proposed development. At the information session, residents will have an opportunity to hear a presentation first-hand from the developer, and will also have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

After the information session, the rezoning will have a second reading at which point Council may request further information or changes based on the information session. If Council proceeds forward there will be a public hearing, all of the feedback will be collected, and based on the final designs a decision for the rezoning will be made.

“So to community members, when it comes to the letters that are showing up and expressing your support or not your support, whatever it is your views, that is when we collect all that feedback,” Brain said. “So we’ve had some letters already, and right now is not necessarily the time in the process for letters and that type of thing. It’s more at the public hearing piece.”

“My biggest fear is City Council’s not going to listen to the residents because when we look at the news release from Lax Kw’alaams they say they’re planning to put shovels in the ground in early 2021. Well, how can that be when you have to rezone the land yet? So I feel like they (Council) have already kind of made up their mind and I don’t think that’s right,” Anderson said.

“I’m worried it’s just lip service from the city and it is a done deal - then we’re all just wasting our breath,” Anderson said.

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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