Public hearings bring concerns back to table

Last Tuesday Smithers Council moved ahead with the rezoning of the airport, Walnut Drive and an A-1 zoning amendment.

It was a packed house last Tuesday as Smithers Council moved ahead with the rezoning of the airport, Walnut Drive and an A-1 zoning amendment.

However, it was the decision to hold off on constructing the second sheet of ice that consumed most of the meeting which had Councillor Adomeit firing back noting the continuing delays that plague the project.

“In the previous processes we didn’t receive any proposals that met our criteria,” said Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

“Council has committed to a fair and transparent process. This is a project that has been in the works for 15 years and it’s really important  at this stage that we are careful in terms of making sure we exercise our due diligence in these critical steps.”

On receipt of two letters, one from a local engineer and contractor, the other from Venture Pacific, council felt obligated to direct staff to reissue a building tender so as to be fair to all companies interested in constructing the new arena.

After much debate council voted unanimously to conduct a geotechnical study of the property where the arena will be built and in the coming weeks issue a building tender.

However, the chances of seeing shovels in the ground before the year is out are quickly diminishing.

Council also approved the rezoning of the airport lands. After a short public hearing on the matter, council voted unanimously to make two new zones, AP-1 and AP-2, that will reorganize how the properties next to the tarmac will be used in the future.

“The reason for making the zone is to give us some control  and parameters that are fair and equal to everybody,” said airport manager Rob Backburn.

“Now that we have these zones created, we can start to lease out the property and now have some clear parameters on what we can and can’t do.”

The AP-1 zone will now allow for aids to navigation and safety, air cargo facilities, weather observation stations and military uses, among other things. Achieving better access for airside use of the airport. The AP-2 designation will now allow the airport manager to promote leasing the properties for mining and exploration uses, wholesale and warehouse uses as well as heliport and helicopter bases.

This move is to ensure the sustained growth of the airport as population density and development increase over the short and long terms.

Smithers council also approved the rezoning of Walnut Drive and the former Christian Elementary School to pave the way for a new housing development under the R-3, medium density requirements.

Recently, Kevin Stunder of Aurora Resorts proposed a 30-unit housing development to be built on the site of the former Christian Elementary School to provide condo properties and assisted-living units.

However, before the company could begin the project, they needed an R-3 zoning. After a previous public hearing that saw majority of the surrounding neighborhood in support of the project, a second hearing was held to determine if there was any additional concerns from he public. Though there were a few comments about secondary access to the site, council felt is was necessary to approve the R-3 zoning to continue diversifying medium density residential sites in Smithers.

Although all except one voted in favor of the zoning, Councillor Phil Brienesse still felt they could have broken down the zone for better management of the property.

“I’m in favor of increasing the density in our town and R-3 is a good tool for doing that,” Councillor Brienesse explained.

“But I’m still concerned with the location and traffic it’s going to create through the Tim Hortons intersection. I think the residents had some valid concerns that weren’t addressed in the rezoning and I was hoping we could have those addressed before we moved forward. Hopefully we can address some of those concerns in the development permit stage so that some of their concerns are at least mitigated.”

This week Mayor Bachrach will also be part of an 86-member meeting in Penticton for the first ever B.C. Mayor’s Caucus to discuss a better solution to how infrastructure projects are funded in municipalities.

Infrastructure is a growing concern among many B.C. communities as it becomes more difficult to offer local services.

“It’s very exciting,” said Mayor Bachrach. “We’re going to be talking about the common issues facing communities in B.C. A lot those issues have to do with how we fund the work that we do. Municipalities are responsible for 60 per cent of the infrastructure in Canada. In B.C. we manage our infrastructure with only eight cents on the dollar.”

“Communities are looking for a new deal when it comes to how our work is funded. I’m not sure what that looks like but that’s one of the reasons we’re having the summit; to talk about different options and to learn about the situation facing different communities around the province.”

The B.C. Mayor’s Caucus begins today and will wrap up on Friday in Penticton.


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