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Are rural residents going to be protected?

Clearview residents are worried about rezoning
Map of Clearview Dr and the subject property church (RBDN Illustration/Lakes District News)

On Tuesday, July 25, at 7 p.m. Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) held its second in-person public hearing on Zoning Bylaw for the purpose of building a church at Clearview Drive. A group of several local residents who live on or near Clearview attended the meeting.

An application for the subject property which is located at unaddressed lot 12, Clearview Drive, approximately two kilometers south of the Village of Burns Lake from its initial small holdings zone to civic/institutional zone. Rezoning is required to facilitate the church with its maximum occupant capacity of 100 people.

During the meeting lots of questions were asked by the locals and Jason Llewellyn, Director of Planning at RDBN gave answers to some of the concerns.

Local residents were concerned if the new building, construction and rezoning would increase taxes for residents? RDBN has not made any assessment on taxation yet. Llewellyn said, “I am not aware that the proposed new building will increase the assessments on taxes in the area.”

There were also concerns whether this new church development will open doors for other development withing the area. Llewellyn said, each rezoning application is considered on its own merits.

Residents asked whether it is fair to the existing community who bought their houses thinking it would be a rural setting. To that Llewellyn said, “The RDBN’s decision making process will consider the impact of the proposed development on the rural setting. This will be balanced against the benefits of accommodating the applicant’s request.”

Road conditions of Clearview Drive is not in good shape and the church will have 100 seating capacity. Locals are worried about the increase in traffic which will make the road conditions even worse. RDBN still has not made any statement about improving the road conditions. Llewellyn stated, “No consideration has been given to the idea of the RDBN upgrading the road.”

Llewellyn also added that there is no proposal that the church would become a school.

A comment from one resident said, “Churches are meant to be urban not rural that’s why there is Official Community Plans (OCP) in order to urbanize these types of developments, rural should be left for acreage and hobby farms. It’s unfair to people who bought rural property.” Now the question comes, should the RDBN protect rural property by not allowing development?

Llewellyn stated, “Churches and other civic institutional uses are not necessarily urban,” The applicable OCP allows churches in rural areas subject to the rezoning process at which time the site-specific impacts are evaluated. This is the evaluation process we are going through now.”

Another local resident who lives on Clearview said, “Rural property allows residents to grow their own food, raise animals and this development needs protection. If this rezoning goes through how does the RDBN intend on protecting other rural properties? How does RDBN justify considering changing the zoning bylaw?

Llewellyn said, RDBN is required under legislation to consider all applications to amend the zoning bylaw. He also said, through implementation of the regions OCP’s and development regulations RDBN intends on protecting rural properties.

With the conclusion of the public hearing, RDBN has yet to make a final decision about rezoning the church and how rural residents will be protected.