There is a growing concern amongst some New Hazelton residents recently who were informed about the potential rezoning of a parcel of land on 7th Avenue.
Several residents attended the last town council meeting to voice their concerns but a decision to vote on the rezoning was postponed until the next meeting.
District of New Hazelton Mayor Pieter Weeber explained the situation.
“Last year a questionnaire was circulated to New Hazelton residents asking for input about District properties,” he said. “The overwhelming response was to work on creating jobs and growing the economy. There was also a demand for tourism related activities as those jobs usually come without as much noise or pollution relative to industrial jobs. Shortly thereafter a unique opportunity came to the attention of our administration and council members.”
According to Weeber, two fishermen who own a culinary magazine in Italy brought a business plan to create a lodge in New Hazelton. He said they were looking for a quiet neighbourhood to build a lodge and create a food service suited to their Italian taste.
“The site they selected and purchased is zoned residential and, wanting to comply to the spirit of our zoning bylaw, they applied to the town for rezoning of the property to commercial,” he explained. “Based on the intended use of their lodge they may have teen able to skirt District bylaw as their guests will be long-term guests and they will not be operating on a drop in or storefront basis. Thankfully they have chosen to attempt to adhere to the spirit of our bylaws.”
For residents the concern is that once a parcel of land is rezoned commercial in the middle of a residential area there is no going back, according to New Hazelton resident Sue Urban.
“They say they are building a quiet lodge but once you change the zoning, it won’t be changed back,” she said. “We are really concerned because this is our neighbourhood and having a business beside our home is not what we had hoped for at all. I thought more people would have come out to the town council meeting but I don’t think a lot of people knew it was being discussed.”
According to Weeber the concerns raised by residents at the April 4th meeting were more about increased traffic and the project proponents that would open a public lounge or bar.
“These fears will not likely come to fruition,” he said. “Furthermore, the proponents would not be able to open a public liquor establishment with the support of council and neighbours. It should also be noted that we are not under the impression they would be interested in opening such an establishment.”
For Weeber, overall the pros seem to out weigh the cons and are worth the risk.
“The benefits of this to the municipality are that they will then be taxed as a business instead of a resident,” he said. “Based on assessed value of $800,000 and 2010 tax rates, this would mean over $20,000 in tax revenue annually versus approximately $8,000 in tax revenue.”
For residents such as Urban the town’s perception of making more money is not good enough and she hopes people will come out to the next meeting on Monday April 18th at 7:25 p.m. at the New Hazelton Council Chambers.