Expressions of concern about transparency and that not enough information is being released about the proposed 11th Ave. housing development by Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing Society are being voiced by a Prince Rupert community member.
In an email received by The Northern View, local resident Vanessa Anderson said on May 5, that she feels the public is not being educated in some of the ‘basics’ like a 60-year lease for $1 per year, and that the development will be for Lax Kw’alaams members only.
Anderson states that the current R2 zoned property lots could be sold by the city, but instead they are proposing to rezone for a multi-family complex in which a potential of 300 people could reside. That is a major safety issue to the area, she said.
“Residents in that area are not opposed to more housing, just not such density in such a small space on such a busy street,” Anderson stated. “That is a very high density.”
A public information session was held by the society and architects on April 8 to hear from, and address some community concerns.
“It’s a very important project, not just for Lax Kw’alaams, but it makes a good dent in the needs for Indigenous housing in B.C,” Mustafa Kulkhan project manager for the society, said. “[Funding is] through the Indigenous Housing fund which is a $500 million investment over 10 years … to support projects on and off nation. The program itself is aimed at Indigenous families, seniors and those with disabilities.”
As the need for family units in the area is so dire, increasing the height of the building allows the addition of ten more units to cater to this need and allow for more diversity in the building, Kulkhan said.
Harvey Russell, who represented the Lax Kw’alaams band council at the public forum, said several sites were looked at with 11th Ave. E. proving to be the most suitable due to its location to public transport and recreational facilities.
“In our opinion, the site was the absolute best … the design of the building will be fantastic,” he said.
Anderson questions what the other proposed sites were.
“No one seems to want to divulge that information, but I think the taxpayers have a right to know that info. The proponent picked 11th from three sites — why do the taxpayers not get to know which other sites were proposed? Maybe one was better suited from the city of Prince Rupert residents view,” she stated.
Harvey said they didn’t go into this lightly. It was a campaign promise during a candidates forum that the commitment to provide housing for band members was issued.
“This will affect roughly 7o families from Lax Kw’alaams which translates to 200 plus members. This project alone, of 70 units … imagine that for Prince Rupert — 70 brand new units which will provide more housing opportunities for people to come into Prince Rupert and work.”
“We are going to make this project a reality, one that will not only benefit the membership of Lax Kw’alaams but the community of Prince Rupert,” Russell said.
“This is going to provide a dream come true for a lot of members,” he said.
Anderson said the community had only two days’ notice of the public information session that was held in April which wasn’t enough notice.
“Myself and quite a few other Prince Rupert residents just feel that City Council is not being very transparent with this proposed development and we would like all of Prince Rupert to have their questions answered and to be informed as the taxpayers will be the ones on the hook for some things possibly,” Anderson said.
“How can we say this is a good idea when not all of the information is out in the open,” she said.
Rosa Miller corporate administrator for the City of Prince Rupert explained that the city has heard residents’ concerns about the processes and transparency. For future project matters, the city has amended processes to be information loaded at the start of rezoning applications.
There are two separate municipal processes involved Miller said, with one for zoning and the other for development. There will be a community information session regarding the rezoning, as well as a public hearing where any feedback will be placed on record.
While the council is welcome at the public hearing, it does not have a conversation about the issues until the information is reviewed afterwards.
The information session on April 8 was hosted by the proponents of their own volition Miller said, so it is still early in the process for commenting on the project.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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