Rezoning by Smithers council doesn’t please all

Smithers council recently rezoned two vacant lots on Third Avenue for a proposed apartment building that has some residents concerned.

Smithers council recently rezoned two vacant lots on Third Avenue for a proposed apartment building that has some residents concerned about the impacts of increased traffic and loss of privacy in their neighborhood.

At council meeting on Feb. 28 council voted unanimously to change the R-2 zoning to R-3.

The R-3 zoning, defined as medium density, accommodates a possible eight unit apartment building that would be located near the corner of Third Ave. and King Street, across from Muheim Elementary.

With the R-2 zoning the developer would only be able to build a five-unit complex, however with the R-3 rezoning the Town of Smithers opened the door for medium density housing, which is limited in Smithers.

Although this is a step forward for the town to diversify its housing needs, it still has some residents frustrated with council’s direction on the matter.

“I was disappointed, because their stated intention all along was to increase the density in the downtown core,” said Ingo Oevermann.

“But that hasn’t happened.”

“So my initial response to that was ‘ah, we’re back on the same old track again.’”

Oevermann noted there are plenty of vacant lots closer to the downtown core that could fill the needs of development as well as increasing density.

Oevermann also pointed out that many of the existing buildings in the downtown core could have been built with apartments on top of commercial space, which is in line with the Town’s plan to intensify density around Main Street.

However, Mayor Taylor Bachrach said the rezoning and proposed development is consistent with Smithers’ Official Community Plan.

“Council felt that this proposed development is consistent with the direction that’s laid out in OCP, which was arrived at after much public consultation and dialogue,” said Bachrach.

“The plan does point towards increasing density near the downtown and this development was seen as being consistent with that.”

Mayor Bachrach continued to say many of the concerns raised by residents were valid.

Nonetheless, he felt the overall benefit to the community by diversifying Smithers’ housing market was much greater.

“Sometimes we have to make tough decisions and I think that was one of them,” he said.