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Zoning amendment public meeting packs City Council

“Of my six years on council, this is the most well attended public meeting I’ve seen.” Those were the words of Fort St. John City Councillor Bruce Christensen, following a packed public hearing following Monday’s City Council meeting, discussing whether or not to amend a zoning bylaw.

Applying for this amendment to the city’s Official Community Plan is the land’s current owner, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Prince Rupert, with the sale of the land to the developer dependant on the zoning and OCP amendments.

The property in discussion, located east of 96 Street on the south side of 102 Ave, is currently zoned as an R2, meaning it is a single family and duplex residential area. The proposed amendment would see the area be changed to an RM2, designated for a multiple family, high density residential area.

The proposed development in discussion would consist of three, 4-storey apartment buildings, totalling 144 units which are intended to be sold as condominiums, which would cover 1.75 hectares of land.

Monday’s public hearing meeting began with a presentation from developer Dave Wolstenholme, who spoke in favour of the zoning amendments.

Wolstenhome touched on topics such as the significant projects on the horizon in Fort St. John, which would attract workers and result in population growth as well as a significant lack of cost effective housing in Fort St. John.

He also made clear that the proposed changes would not occupy all the available land, as currently, the property supports 156 units, but development would only result in the construction of 144 units.

Development would also include 37,500 square feet of open/green space, 45 spaces for bicycle parking, will include an innovative green space located on the building’s roofs and will be well situated for access to public transportation, the downtown core and the city’s facilities.

Following Wolstenhome’s presentation, the mass of people in attendance began making their way to the microphone, most of whom stating their opposition to the amendment.

The majority of speakers, mostly residing in the discussed neighbourhood, expressed issues regarding safety of children because they believe the area would turn into a very busy area, an increase in neighbourhood traffic, and a depreciation of the surrounding property values.

Some speakers even went as far as generalizing the type of people who would reside in these newly developed condominiums, saying it would attract a young, party happy crowd which would increase the level of noise within the neighbourhood.

Following a few more words from Wolstenhome and City Councillors, who spoke about necessary changes to the area if development would take place, such as the instillation of sidewalks, Council eventually voted in favour of the proposed amendment.