The Fort St. James District council meeting took an interesting turn on Wednesday night when council voted to defeat a motion for a proposed rezoning application.
The motion concerned a condition of sale rezoning application which would have allowed the Sikh temple on Ash Street East to be changed from “Institutional” to “Commercial Core.”
The change would have allowed for the Nezul Be Hunuyeh Child and Family Services to purchase the property and operate their family services business at this location.
While Kevin Crook, chief administrative officer for the district says he has not seen council defeat this kind of application before, he believes it reflects council’s desire to improve the approach to zoning within the district.
“I think in the end the concern was more about the consistency of our zoning throughout town,” said Crook.
While in the past, there has been frustrations with mixed zoning when commercial operations exist within residential neighbourhoods, council would like to see this change in the future.
While Crook said the concerns weren’t necessarily specifically aimed at Nezul Be Hunuyeh Child and Family Services, commercial zoning of the property could open the location up to more varied uses down the line.
Crook was not sure about the options open to the applicants, but said there may be a possibility for the application to be resubmitted with a more limiting site-specific zoning, which would prevent change of ownership from being a concern.
At the public hearing before the council meeting, residents and a landowner on Ash Street East expressed their concerns for the rezoning, citing the potential for overnight and weekend operation with this rezoning as one of the issues of concern.
Nezul Be Hunuyeh Child and Family Services did not reply to inquiries regarding their further plans with the property.
Riley Willick owns a lot across the street from the Sikh Temple and would one day like to build on it. Willick spoke at the public hearing, expressing his fears surrounding potential future uses of the property under commercial zoning.
After finding out the application was defeated by council, he said he was relieved to hear it will remain a residential area.
“That’s eventually where I’d like to live, so it’s nice to keep commercial aspects out of it,” said Willick. He said he wouldn’t have minded if the building became offices, however, it hadn’t been made clear in the rezoning application what the intended use was.
The building has a commercial kitchen, showers, rec room and sleeping quarters, so the concern had been that it might be used as a halfway house or shelter of some kind, which might have introduced a transient element to the neighbourhood.
The vote against the motion was one for and three against, with Councillor Playfair absent. Only Councillor Dave Birdi voted in favour of a final reading of the rezoning application.