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CHARLIE LAKE, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District held a Public Hearing on January 29 in regards to a Proposed Zoning Amendment Bylaw.

Landowners, Florian and Kimberley Schwarz, are seeking to rezone a 27-acre parcel of land from Residential Zone to General Commercial Zone.

The property of discussion is a 27-acre triangular shape, located north of the Ben Jensen Subdivision, that has three-quarters of a kilometre of Alaska Highway frontage.

North Peace Fringe Area Official Community Plan By-law No. 1870, 2009 (Map 3). Source PRRD

Originally, the Schwarz’s submitted a formal application to the PRRD in 2013 looking to rezone the property from residential to commercial.

Since then a number of hearings and considerations have been held by the Regional District as there has been a large public interest in the matter since the submission.

In 2012, prior to the application submission, a petition was conducted to see if residents of Charlie Lake were opposed to the rezoning.

From that petition, 81 residents were opposed to the rezoning of the land.

In 2014, a petition was conducted to see who was in favour of the rezoning.

From that petition, 127 were in favour of rezoning the property from residential to commercial.

Then on October 26, 2018, Florian Schwarz wrote a letter to the residents of the Ben Jensen Subdivision stating that if he was unsuccessful in rezoning the 27-acre property for commercial use. He informed them that since commercial zoning was no longer an option, he would be converting the property to agricultural use for a farm of 200-300 swine.

Since the release of that letter, a number of residents have written letters in favour of the rezoning of the property to commercial use, rather than allowing for the now proposed swine farm.

At the hearing, Schwarz presented to Regional District Chair, Brad Sperling, his vision for the property if it were to go ahead as a commercial zone.

“Our vision of this property is to supply local and travelling public with key services. Supplying key local jobs for locals by locals. These local services will cut down on unnecessary travel to Fort St. John and help reduce our carbon footprint., all the while adding to the tax base in this Region for projects like trail systems, parks, recreation, general public services, and future development.”

Some residents, that want neither option to happen, now feel forced to pick between the commercial zone or the swine farm.

During comments from the public, one concerned resident questioned the validity of the letters of support as they were sent to Schwarz before being received by the Regional District.

“My concern with this is, is that all of these letters attached are in approval but they weren’t sent to the PRRD directly, they were sent through a mailbox that appears to be owned by the Schwarz’s. We don’t know what the original text said, they could have been edited and the people replying, in these positive letters, are not stating where they live or who they are.”

Another resident even called Schwarz’s decisions as a form of bullying.

“The biggest concern that I have is the tactics used. In the movies we see people threaten people with something extremely negative if they don’t accept their plans for commercial increase in an area. I’m quite shocked, actually, and I have to say that the residents that I’ve seen opposed to it have been very professional and proper online, which is someplace where the Nation’s people are the biggest jerks. I’ve seen a lot of respect be paid regardless of the anger and negativity that has happened on all sides… We can talk about C-2 Commercial Zoning and, yeah, that may not have a negative impact but the other side of this is we get a couple hundred head of pigs. So everyone in the Charlie Lake area is going to smell pig crap because somebody is upset that they didn’t get what they wanted. All we are doing is saying, “hey as long as we have something worse than that, that’s is even going to make people worse off, that’s okay”. I have to teach my kids, and they have anti-bullying days at school and they wear pink shirts, so what does it make it okay for adults to do the same thing? We’re not just talking about bullying that can be dealt with, we’re talking about bullying to do something that’s going to affect us for the rest of our time.”

The Regional District Board will further review the matter of rezoning and will provide an update at a later date.

The full Public Hearing Agenda can be found on the Regional District’s website.

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