Council unanimously opposed both first and second readings of a bylaw last week, that, if successfully adopted, would have rezoned eight lots on Eighth Avenue from residential to public use.
“The way this is presented, there is no stated plan here,” Councillor Charlie Northrup said of the paperwork supporting the proposed bylaw change. “Without a specific plan of what they’re changing it for, I can’t support it.”
It was a concern that the rest of council had as well. By changing the zone for the Northern Health owned property, located just across Eighth Avenue from the hospital, it could mean a variety of things, Director of Development Services Mark Allen said, such as an assisted living facility, or parking.
But throughout the entire application, there was no mention of their intent, Allen added.
“If council would have seen a plan, what they wanted to do with this property, I think it would have been more palatable for council, but just for the sake of saving tax dollars, that’s really not, for council, a good enough reason,” deputy mayor Jo Ann Groves said.
She did add that if the hospital were to reapply with a clear plan of what they wanted to do with those lots, council would reconsider the request.
“Even a parking lot, something for the use of that property, that would be a whole different matter and we would entertain it again,” Groves said.
In speaking with Bulkley Valley District Hospital Health Service Administrator Cormac Hikisch afterwards, he reports that he’s since spoken with members of council and plans to reapply within the next 30 days, with a clearer plan for council to consider.
“The revised outline to council will be more clear in terms of the rationale,” Hikisch said.
The eight residential lots don’t make a lot of sense for Northern Health, Hikisch said, so by rezoning the eight lots into one public use property they can better align that property with future planning initiatives.
“In perspective it makes sense we go forward with this so when opportunities in the future present themselves to allow expansion or development on that property, Northern Health will be ready,” Hikisch said.
While he wouldn’t suggest what those future plans would be, it would assist the usage of that space to be used for a community garden space. A project proposed by the Groundbreakers Collective, it’s one that they’re interested in partnering with, Hikisch said.
“In the short term that would be a good and productive use of that space, but in the longer term we were hoping to rezone the land to prepare for the future,” Hikisch said.
He pointed out that while a long time in coming, the hospital is in line for replacement, and this would help things along once that did go underway. The proposed rezoning was not intended to lower taxes on the properties for “no clear reason,” an interpretation by council that he has since apologized for, he said.