A luncheon meeting, attended by approximately 35 business people was held at the Community Centre on October 2nd. The purpose of the meeting was to address the questions raised at the previous meeting.
Councillors Holmlund, Kirby, Sipe, White, Mayor Caisley, Administrator Lonny Miller and EDO Ray Proulx hosted the meeting.
Ray Proulx, EDO and Lonny Miller, CAO provided an update on strategic planning progress and the expected outcomes by year end. Mayor Caisley introduced Brenda Banham, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and Shelly Kliewer, the newly appointed Executive Director for the Chamber.
A review of the questions presented at the June 21st public meeting followed.
1.Business owners want to know what the future holds as there are nowhere to lease and the perception is that nothing is happening?
The Official Community Plan, which was adopted last year, gives us a clearer direction and understanding of what the future may be: Strong policies reinforcing the Town Centre can serve to foster local economic development. As the focal point to the community, a healthy, vibrant Town Centre boosts morale and stimulates investment. Policies of the plan, which continue to direct commercial, institutional and indoor recreational uses to the Town Centre, will strengthen this area.
Medium Density developments have been encouraged near the Town Centre as this can create a more vibrant atmosphere, strengthen existing businesses and encourage new commercial growth.
An additional means of supporting the Town Centre is to permit dwelling units above the ground floor of existing commercial businesses. In this way, the orientation of the street remains commercial but the Town Centre is then injected with people. This in turn enhances the Town Centre by promoting new development through intensification as well as promoting accessibility for seniors and encouraging more pedestrian trips. The intention is to create a village atmosphere that will benefit local shop owners, promote safety, and be an attractive environment in which to live, work and play.
2. Do you want development?
Mayor and council very much want development. The first priority of this council is to encourage more development through proper planning. In July it adopted the Strategic Planning Framework under which council can consider substantial growth and development activity while protecting the municipality?s interests.
3. Did the planners hired (Urban Systems) play a part in the concern addressed by Peter Thompson?
In reference to the design guidelines being proposed for the downtown core, no, Urban Systems had nothing to do with their development. Jay Lazzarin – Landscape Architect was the firm responsible for working with the District to create a set of design guidelines for the downtown area, primarily to help guide of our community and help raise the overall visual aesthetic of our commercial core.
Urban Systems has been hired to help the District complete the planning work required to facilitate and stimulate more development in the community.
4. Where are we at with the footprint of the future development?
In terms of both future residential and commercial expansion, the footprint has been articulated through the Official Community Plan that was adopted in 2005. Most of the land designated for future development is classified as raw land, or in other words, not serviced and undeveloped in any capacity. These lands, despite being held in trust by the municipality, are valuable, publicly owned assets that must be managed wisely. As a result, the District is working with Urban Systems to develop a Land Disposition Strategy that will:
Create a plan of action for selling District-owned land to developers for new construction
Creating a plan of action will help spur growth, but at the same time ensure that the decisions made will strengthen the municipality financially and economically
Create a consistent, fair process for dealing with proposals for undeveloped land.
The Land Disposition Strategy will be completed by December 2006, thereby allowing the District to begin negotiations for new developments as early as 2007.
5. When will land be available for building?
Ten new service commercial lots and five new heavy industrial lots will be available for sale by early September of this year.
To reiterate an answer from the previous questions, we will be equipped to negotiate with investors for the development of raw land by January 2007.
6. What are the standards? Are they over and above standards in other
In reference to the Urban Design Guidelines, the design standards are articulated in a comprehensive document that is available on the District website and upon request. We will be creating a more succinct, easily understood users guide that will be distributed to people interested in constructing future developments.
Please note that these standards are not required for developments that have already been approved.
Relatively speaking, the standards adopted by the District are over and above standards in some communities, and far below/less restrictive than others.
For those communities that we surpass in terms of standards, may be considered less livable, less attractive and therefore, have a limited lifespan. Our downtown redesign efforts are rooted in reinforcing our community?s permanence, showing the world that we are more than just a one-horse, one-industry town.
7. Why is the Town competing with business?
Council does not desire to compete with business. The District will not provide services if the private sector can or will accommodate. However, the District has assets and abilities that were paid for by the taxpayers, which can be used to promote community growth. If land or specific services are not made available by private industry then the District will step forward to insure that industry is accommodated and/or encouraged at fair market value, to stay in Town as opposed to locating in other communities or even wilderness camps.
8.Why does it have to take 48 hours to get an inspection?
Building inspections in the past have not required full-time employees or services. We presently contract with a professional from Prince George on an on call basis for larger projects. The Public Works Operations Manager inspects smaller projects and in both cases we require proper notice. Inspections do not always take 48 hours notice and the majority of them are completed the same day.
The District is presently reviewing the Building Inspection function and is considering hiring a full-time building inspector in 2007 if the full-time service is justified and the need proven.
9. Is it on the District?s docket to hire a professional structural engineer?
The District has access to structural engineers via contract (Urban Systems and McElhaney Engineering). In the past we have not had sufficient work for a full time engineer and have received professional service from both of the noted firms.
It would not be in the District?s best interest to hire a full-time engineer to compete with the very qualified and numerous engineering firms in the north east.
10. What was the mandate for hiring Urban Systems, their level of participation and their mandate The District has not completed much planning work in the last 20 years. Realizing the growth that we are faced with, we must ensure that the town is well prepared to accommodate and facilitate the change, while making sure that the affordability and liveability of the town is not compromised.
Therefore, Urban Systems was hired to help us complete 20 years of planning within a 9-month time span. Their role in the participation is to combine Council?s direction with technical expertise in order to complete the initiatives of the Comprehensive Community Planning Project.
11. Could the District lobby the BC Government to get approval to move thirty-foot wide houses into the community?
This is an issue that needs to be considered and investigated further. Council can seek support of other municipalities through the North Centre Municipal Association and then on to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
The benefit of allowing larger modular homes to be transported on our BC Highways would also be beneficial to most if not all municipalities in the Province.
12. When will the questions asked today be answered?
Council initially pledged to respond within three weeks via another Town Hall meeting. However, due to the forest fires causing an evacuation, senior staff vacations, and only one regular and one committee of a whole meeting for July council?s response has had to be postponed.
13. Why doesn?t the District sell the developed light commercial lots subject to pricing?
The sale of municipal lands is governed by provincial legislation (Divisions 2&3) of the Community Charter. It is this legislation that prohibits municipalities from selling their property below market value, that is, the highest value that the existing market will pay for the property. As a result, a sale cannot be made before a price is established.
In the case of the District?s land sale policy, which was adopted in March 2006, all District-owned property available for sale will be sold through a bidding procedure, once a minimum price is set through a resolution of Council. We will be establishing a minimum price based on a comparison of development costs and the results of a professional appraisal that are expected to be ready by the end of August. From there a suggested minimum price will be brought to Council for review and approval. Once this process is complete the bid process for the lots can begin.
14. Is the town still undertaking the sidewalk replacement program?
The 2006 Capital Budget allocated $150,000 for the Downtown Sidewalk Replacement project. However, due to other project initiatives and scheduling problems the funds will be set aside and the project completed in 2007.
15. Are Urban Systems giving plans for what the buildings should look like, and cost effective suggestions to help the developers build within their means?
Once again, if this is in reference to the Urban Design Guidelines for the downtown core, no, Urban Systems has nothing to with their development. As far as providing examples to prospective builders is concerned, pictures and written descriptions will be placed in the user?s guide to the design guidelines that we are aiming to complete by September.
As a municipality, we are empowered by legislation to implement revitalization programs for defined areas of our community. The legislation allows us to provide tax relief, via a Revitalization Bylaw, on properties that participate in revitalization initiatives at a minimum level. This applies to new construction and improvements on existing properties.
We have finished our preliminary research for the development of a revitalization bylaw and hope to have it in place by September as well.
16. How much planning needs to go into the four building lots that currently exist in the downtown area?
Simply put, none of them specifically need to be planned. Lots 1,3 and K were sold to a local developer based on a particular proposal that was accepted by Council in January 2006. We are waiting for three new buildings to be placed on these lots, which in turn will create (according to the original proposal) over 18 000 square feet of new commercial space.
The last developed lot, known as Lot Q, will be placed back on the market once our new Development Procedures Manual is in place (August) and when our Zoning Bylaw revisions are complete (December). This decision was made due to the fact that it would not make any sense to sell the largest remaining lot in the centre of the downtown while the playing field was being adjusted.