Concerned but not opposed.
This seemed to be the majority of the sentiment of the 21 community members who attended a public hearing regarding changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) which would change some zoning within a 33-acre piece of property in town. The property is located between Heathmont and Elm Streets and would be bordered on the east side by Douglas.
“I think that pretty well everyone had their say,” said Cathy Allen, an Elm Street resident, after the meeting.
Council later voted in favour of passing the third reading of the changes to the OCP and the rezoning, with Councillor Brenda Gouglas saying her concerns were addressed regarding the size and use of a proposed parking lot.
Mayor Sandra Harwood pointed out the approval was a preliminary step, and safeguards could still be put in place in the subdivision plan and development permit stages of the process.
“I have a real confidence that it will end up well,” said Harwood. “Taking into consideration the concerns.”
The final adoption of the changes could take place at the next council meeting on September 7.
The property would be restructured slightly to fit with a development plan proposed by R. Radloff & Associates Inc., an engineering, planning and consulting firm hired by Thompson Creek Metals Company Inc..
The planned rezoning is a condition of sale of the property to Thompson Creek from the District and is part of an overall housing plan, according to Wes Carson, manager of operations development at Mt. Milligan. The potential development would simply provide additional housing options for mine employees who decided to settle in Fort St. James, alongside the available homes for sale.
“We’re taking basically a balanced approach,” said Carson. A similar plan is also being made for Mackenzie.
Radloff has proposed some changes to a previous development plan for the property, which would eliminate the lots allocated for mobile homes, changing them instead to single family dwellings, would restructure the green spaces to create some buffers between homes on Elm and the new residences, and would allow for the creation of a parking lot on Douglas where mine employees could meet the bus to get to and from the mine. Some lots allocated previously for duplexes would also be changed to single family dwellings.
Luke Mari, a planner for Radloff, was at the meeting to clarify the changes. According to Mari, the restructuring of the green space was partly in order to facilitate walking trails for employees going between their residences and the bus stop parking lot as well as for some buffering around residences but would also still maintain one larger central green space.
Some residents still expressed concern over the increases in traffic to the area. The option of putting an extension of Douglas up to Highway 27 was suggested. Mayor Sandra Harwood agreed and said this is something future councils should look at to allow for better traffic flow out of residential areas.
For her part, Allen said she felt Thompson Creek was doing a good job of trying to be accommodating to the community with all of the potential changes the mine will bring and Mari said he was glad to see so many residents in the community engaged with the process.
Depending on all of the necessary approvals, including development permits, some homes in the subdivision could be expected to be built by or before 2013, when full operation of the mine is scheduled to start.