Approximately 20 letters from local residents and business owners arrived at the Village of Burns Lake expressing concerns with the proposed phase one downtown revitalization plans.
The letters were included on council’s agenda for last weeks meeting, but were not discussed by mayor and council.
Mayor Luke Strimbold acknowledged receipt of the letters and said that Coun. Frank Varga, who was absent from the meeting had requested that council wait until the next meeting when he would be in attendance to address the letters.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of July 11, 2012, a number of local business owners along Hwy. 16 say they are being left in the cold when it comes to any planning or decision making for phase one of the project.
Business owners have subsequently requested changes to the plans saying that proposed curb bulbs at the intersection of Third Ave. and Hwy. 16 will decrease customer parking and cause difficulties with deliveries to the businesses in the area.
There has also been concerns raised by business owners about the parking issues that will be created by curb bulbs proposed for the downtown core and they have said they feel adding curb bulbs to an already narrow road will create safety issues, difficulties for customers, problems with snow plowing and the proposed trees that may be planted as per the current landscaping plans, would block their businesses from the view of passing traffic.
Despite the complaints flooding in, council have so far chosen to forge ahead with their plans in order to tie in with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure repaving of Hwy. 16 this summer.
Councillor Varga slammed Lakes District News through a Facebook comment left on the Lakes District News website.
He said, “Wow. How disappointing that journalism has no professional responsibility to know all the facts before coming to generalized conclusions … the public has had many opportunities to provide feedback and comments to the plans. We are in the last leg of implementation thanks to provincial funding, Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund Society funding and the village … this is not the time to make changes to a plan that is ready for finalization, tender and construction. There has been many opportunities to provide input and let’s be honest, there will always be someone who will disagree with components of a project or a plan. I am a strong supporter of local business and I truly believe that local business owners along the proposed downtown plan [route] have had the opportunity provide input.”
Local residents and business owners wrote in their letters to council that they have ‘serious concerns’ about the phase one plans and have stated that they are not in agreement with the project.
John Gyger and Otto Kemper, drivers for Bulkley Valley Wholesale in Smithers say that the changes to the Hwy. 16 and Third Avenue intersection will be a huge mistake.
“You will be taking much needed parking away from the business owners along Hwy. 16 from the College of New Caledonia to the Royal Bank, if you proceed with this project.”
Gyger and Kemper said, “We make deliveries to Redfern’s Coffee House, Rexall and the Beacon Theatre two days per week. It will be far too difficult and time consuming to make the deliveries if you go ahead with the project. As delivery drivers we will be parking right on Hwy. 16 for 15 minutes to half an hour two days per week. We will put hazard lights on and will have the tailgate down … it’s already hard enough getting through Burns Lake, this will only make matters worse.”
Chris Bjarnason, owner of C.J. Enterprises said, “I don’t think much thought was put into the access for delivery drivers to local businesses … I am opposed to the reduction of parking and the narrowing of the road near the Beacon Theatre. Yes, we could park further up or down the street to deliver freight to our customers. I know you are all aware of our long, cold winters. Imagine having to park down the road, load their freight onto a two wheeler and wheel it in a snow storm on a sidewalk that probably hasn’t been plowed in days. If it comes to that, we will park on the road and hold up traffic for as long as it takes us to do the delivery.”
Local Cathy Klassen said she feels better communication between the village and the local businesses would have been a better way to deal with the phase one issues and property owner Wilf Dueck said he too is concerned.
“When businesses like Process 4 circle arts Gallery and Redfern’s Coffee House lose their store front parking, it will have major effect on their business,” he said.
Mayor and council are scheduled to hold their next regular meeting on Aug. 14, 2012.