The CDC wants to move into the vacant Christian Reformed Church on Columbia Drive.

The CDC wants to move into the vacant Christian Reformed Church on Columbia Drive.

CDC gathers support for Columbia Drive move

The Bulkley Child Development Centre has gathered hundreds of signatures of support before its hearing at the next Smithers council meeting

The Bulkley Child Development Centre is back where it started in its attempt to move into town at the vacant Christian Reformed Church on 1471 Columbia Drive, and executive director Kerri Bassett Kluss is hoping the hundreds who have signed petitions in support will help get it the rezoning it needs.

“We had community members from Smithers and Telkwa supporting this move, but we also had other professionals who have been using our organization,” said Bassett Kluss.

“Professionals that use the Child Development Centre (CDC) as a location to deliver services such as Sunny Hill Psychology Services from Children’s Hospital is located at our centre, as well as a Northern Health regional assessment network. Our psychologist from that team, she supports the move, as well the paediatrician from Prince George who’s on that team from Northern Health assessment who comes to Smithers. They’ve commented on it being a more inclusive and accessible location.”

The petitions will be presented at the rezoning hearing scheduled for Monday’s Smithers council meeting. Councillors and councillor candidates for the Nov. 15 municipal election have been invited to tour the CDC and view the plans for the Columbia Drive property. Bassett Kluss said members of the public are also invited to call or visit the CDC if they had any questions about the move.

The journey to move to Columbia Drive started in February, when Bassett Kluss says the CDC first approached the town to find out what it would take to rezone the property. It is currently zoned P3, which only allows religious buildings on the property.

The CDC is trying to rezone the property to public use two (P2), the same designation the town’s advisory planning commission first passed on June 11. A child development centre would have to be added to the allowed uses of a P2, which currently allows institution-type uses such as recreational facilities, seniors’ housing, government offices, medical centres, and schools.

The original attempt to rezone to P2 became stalled when concerned neighbours petitioned the town to not allow a P2 zoning of the property, located near the Bulkley Valley District Hospital. Neighbours who spoke at council meetings on the subject said they were in favour of the CDC moving in, but were concerned about the long-term tenancy of the property if the CDC chose to rent or sell the property. The CDC does plan to rent some rooms in the building to help finance its operations.

Council passed a rezoning compromise that placed a covenant that restricted who the CDC could possibly sell the property to in the future. That led to the CDC being unable to secure financing for the major renovations it has planned for the church. The compromise rezoning was rescinded on Sept. 9.

“That’s what we’re asking council to look at, our original proposal, just for them to make a decision: Do they accept the application or not accept it. We’re just ready for an answer from council,” said Bassett Kluss.

“This has been a long process for a simple zoning application. We thought it was simple,” laughed Bassett Kluss.

The CDC has been around for 33 years, and has grown to now serve 22 communities according to Bassett Kluss.

“We do this with the highest integrity of the community in our minds when we’re planning. When we’re looking at this building, I think what the community was seeing was that we’re investing a lot of money into renovating this building. That’s the assurance that they’re going to get from us, is that we’re going to be there for a while. This is a big investment for our organization… this is a long-term plan for our organization and the community of Smithers,” said Bassett Kluss.

“The other key point is the majority of child development centres in the province of B.C. are located in residential settings, like the one on Columbia Drive. We’re providing a community service; we’re not a commercial business. I think that speaks to the work that we do: we’re helping children and families.”


“Child development centre” (CDC) would be added to the P2 zone definition. CDC would be defined as “a not-for-profit organization that provides government funded pediatric early intervention and family centred programs such as infant development, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, family support, early childhood education as well as other specialized services.”

Current permitted P2 principal uses:

  • assembly, cultural and recreational facilities including but not limited to arena, auditorium, community centre, skating rink, curling rink, tennis court, racquet sports, swimming pool;

  • golf course;

  • campground, RV park;

  • hospital, personal care centre, intermediate and extended long term care facility, assisted living, rest homes, retirement housing, senior citizens’ housing and receiving homes;

  • school, college, nursery school, kindergarten;

  • municipally owned building, government office;

  • medical centre, voluntary social service organization;

  • public library, museum, art gallery, tourist information;

  • cemetery;

  • fairgrounds, exhibition grounds, circus, providing that for these uses the minimum parcel area shall be 16 hectares;

  • youth centre, provided that premises licensed for the consumption of alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the same parcel.

Auxiliary uses:

  • not more than one dwelling;

  • food concession or restaurant, premises licensed for consumption of alcoholic beverages;

  • buildings auxiliary to principal buildings;

  • general commercial retail sale of goods not otherwise permitted as principal uses provided that such retail sales shall be limited to a total of four days… per calendar year.