The Nov. 7, 2013 meeting of the Burns Lake Downtown Revitalization Committee (DRC) saw proposed plans for phase two work surrounding the Shell brownfield site this is nearing completion of remediation testing.
The proposal is to build a pull-through R.V. parking area directly across from the Rexall Drugstore parking lot. A new entrance would be available, across from the Rexall. The existing lane way options would remain which connect Hwy. 16 to Third Ave. behind the Post Office.
Business owners on the committee expressed concern surrounding the proposed design, which includes portions of the lot to be landscaped rather than converted to parking spaces, as well as an approximately 15 metre long, treed median to serve as traffic flow control.
The addition of extra parking would seem to be a natural fit for downtown business owners, and it is a welcome concept. But some business owners are concerned that the loss of space to landscaping, and the traffic control median will unnecessarily complicate the plans.
Other concerns raised during the meeting surrounded how new access to a parking lot could affect traffic flow.
Jack Brown, speaking as a concerned citizen and not part of the DRC, noted that the proposed parking lot could become a through road if precautions weren’t taken.
One of his concerns, that access to the post office could be further cut of under phase two plans, was addressed by village staff who said that lane way access behind the post office would not be closed.
Staff also clarified that the design plans for the parking area are in the hands of village staff, and are no longer contracted out to a design company.
This was to address concerns by some DRC members that planning for phase two was being done by people without a sound grasp of how traffic and pedestrians get around Burns Lake, or of the particular needs of business owners.
Since some downtown sidewalk ‘bulbs’ were landscaped with chip and mulch fill, some business owners have noted the difficulties associated with keeping the sidewalk tidy after heavy rains or windy conditions.
Some DRC members asked village staff to consider removing chip and mulch from the plans for phase two development.
A litany of other concerns were raised during the meeting: new visitor information signs shouldn’t block existing business signs; parking shouldn’t be limited to accommodating R.V.s, but should include space for regular vehicles; that winter snow removal could be an issue withe proposed curbs and large median.
Finally, the issue of whether or not the site should be the next to be developed was raised, with some members believing that other options should be explored.
Staff responded that grant opportunities associated with the proposed development were stronger than with other options, and that other phase tow possibilities were more expensive.
Staff also noted that the addition of downtown parking would go towards making more downtown core parking available, something which was a sore point for Burns Lake business owners who lost a portion, or all, of their street side parking under phase one work.
Phase two is in very preliminary stages. Village of Burns Lake (VBL) staff do not know yet how the Shell property will converted to VBL property. It may be gifted, leased or sold for a very low price, but nothing has been finalized.
Remediation, although nearing completion, must receive an environmental certificate before anything can be done with the land. The preliminary plans will allow VBL staff to include phase two construction in upcoming budget deliberations.
Kelly Holliday, business owner and member of the DRC, opposed the resolution to bring the plans forward for budgetary consideration and approval by VBL council.