Public hearing on rezoning proves divisive

The proposal to rezone an empty lot on First Ave. is sensitive for some Burns Lake residents, as was seen with the large turnout at the public hearing on July 23 in the village council building.

More than 20 people filled the public gallery and a dozen of them expressed their opinions – some very strongly – at the podium on the bid to rezone 253 First Ave. from Residential Duplex Zone (R2) to Residential High Density Zone (R6).

The rezoning, which is part of a possible bylaw amendment comes as developer Satinder Pal (Babbi) Singh, who also owns the Grapevine Pub seeks to build a four-story, 20-unit apartment building at the First Ave. site.

Singh was first to speak at the meeting, and said the new apartment would meet some of the housing needs in Burns Lake, including for newcomers and help stimulate local business.

Following Singh and speaking in favour of the housing development, Greg Brown said it’s time to build new apartments in the village as none have been constructed in 40 years.

Jack Brown also supported the idea, and explained that more apartments would build up the tax base in Burns Lake.

Sahib Chhatwal, part-owner of The Office pub said that he hears of the need for housing in Burns Lake from his staff, who have told him they struggle to find suitable places to live.

He experienced the same difficulty with his own family in Burns Lake.

“Right now we’re four – jam-packed in one apartment, with one bathroom. There’s no feasible location for us to move to. The hospital doesn’t have enough staff to actually function at its fullest capability and part of that is that there isn’t adequate space to live here. I’m sure there are families that want to live here. We’re in a very strategic position to grow. I think that’s very exciting for Burns Lake. If there was an existing R6 zone we would build there. For the professionals and the families and the elderly. There are so many stakeholders who can benefit from this rezoning,” he said.

However, most speakers at the hearing were against the rezoning and the location of the proposed apartment.

READ MORE: Rethink the proposed rezoning

READ MORE: Re-zoning bid misses the mark

Beate Marquardt, and others criticized the construction of a 14-metre high building that would block out the sun and affect the viewscape.

Marquardt, one of the founders of the Burns Lake Community Garden said the apartment would deprive the garden of sun and wanted to see the development plans before they’re approved.

Rose Edgeworth agreed with the idea that more housing is needed, but said that Burns Lake needs more houses for families.

“Burns Lake isn’t the place where people raise families and put down roots in an apartment building,” she said. “Anyone living in an apartment is there just long enough to get out and find something else. What we need is multi-family housing, a duplex, some townhouses. Something where people can actually raise families.”

Following several speakers opposed to the plan, Greg Brown spoke a second time and said responsibility for the project’s location is up to the village council, a comment that drew applause from the gallery.

“If you guys decide not to rezone to R6, I think it’s up to you to step up and go over the official community plan and our bylaws to find some property in Burns Lake where R6 zoning can take place because the two existing ones either aren’t for sale or can’t be developed. It would be up to guys to step up and find something where this development could take place.”

No resolution was reached by the end of the meeting, which lasted more than one hour and 20 minutes.

Mayor Dolores Funk said that village staff should work with the developer to consider a street-level development for the project. Council also said that a detailed site plan should be prepared for when the public hearing is reconvened on Aug. 27.

If as much opposition to the rezoning plan is expressed at next hearing as was heard at the July 23 hearing, the council would still consider if the proposed bylaw would proceed, as Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer told Lakes District News.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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