Smithers town council is keeping the ball rolling on a new $13 million affordable housing project that is slated for 1611 Main Street.
Councillors approved some development variances for the Indigenous Housing Project by Dze L K’ant Housing Society at the former LB Warner site between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues during the Aug. 9 regular council meeting.
The site was formerly a Highways Operations Yard, which the Town acquired from the Province in 2004. The Bulkley Valley Gymnastics Club leases a small portion of it, with the remainder largely underutilized due to its ‘contaminated’ status.
The Town agreed to the Dze L K’ant’ Housing Society’s request for providing a clean site for a 30-unit Indigenous residential development and approved the society’s request to enter into a long-term lease agreement. Currently, the parcel is undergoing a subdivision process, as necessary to meet BC Housing’s funding requirement for the proposed housing project.
The Town agreed to demolish the buildings on site and remediate the land to help create more housing in the community.
The cost to do that, at the town’s expense, is $650,000. It will be paid through Northern Capital and Planning Grant program.
Town staff recommended council approve the society’s variance permit by decreasing the number of parking spots required for the development from 45 to 33. After much discussion, all of council was on board with that change.
However, a couple of other variance requests for the development were not approved unanimously.
Town staff also suggested waiving the ornamental street lighting requirement. This would save the project around $50,000. While it did pass, Councillors Frank Wray and Mika Meyer opposed it. They were against it because of inconsistency with new projects.
“If it isn’t necessary, then we shouldn’t make it necessary anywhere,” said Wray. “And by waiving stuff like ornamental street lighting, we are saying that if you live in low-cost development, you don’t deserve the same kind of lighting, or whatever, that everyone else deserves. It sits right to do affordable housing but it doesn’t sit right with me to waive things that other people have.”
Another recommendation by Town staff was to approve the developer’s application for the maximum $30,000 off-site servicing incentive toward completing the off-site works associated with the proposed development.
It too passed however Councillors Lorne Benson, John Buikema and Wray opposed.
“We’ve spent a lot of money getting this site ready, my expectation is that we aren’t treating this [the project] differently,” argued Wray. “We put BC Housing on notice that we want the offsite works done especially since we’ve put in $650,000 to remediate the soil plus the value of the land.”
Benson added that in a roundabout way, the money is coming from tax dollars anyways because BC Housing is paying for it.
“It is true that the town contribution is large and that is acknowledged,” rebutted Coun. Casda Thomas. “However we deliberately decided to make this property available for housing and we would have done that regardless of who the proponent was.”