It was a packed house at the City of Kimberley Council Meeting on Monday, with many community members there to observe Council and voice their opinions on the outcome of the Marysville bench lands vote.
Council voted on a recommendation to zone the Marysville Benchlands as industrial, as part of the first draft of the Official Community Plan (OCP). The vote was five to two in favour of passing the motion, with councillors Bev Middlebrook and Albert Hoglund voting against.
The OCP is forcasted for some time in the early new year, with the first reading expected to take place in by the end of November. There will be at least one, if not more, public sessions around the OCP, where community members and organizations can learn more about the official community plan, voice their opinions and speak with the Manager of City Planning Services, Troy Pollock.
“The purpose of the motion I put forward here tonight is to clarify or validate the direction that staff has been given to date to the Draft – OCP,” said Mayor Don McCormick.
Kimberley’s Manager of City Planning Services, Troy Pollock says that the last OCP (adopted in 2005) had 23 different land use categories.
“We have simplified things [in the new OCP] to that staff can rely less on it. It will [also] help us when we’re speaking with developers and residents about what’s happening in the neighbourhood,” said Pollock.
He also says City staff have decreased the overall residential development, allowing for increased land area designed for more jobs, businesses and expansion.
“There is a very small amount of industrial development area and tax based development land available for the future,” explained Pollock.
McCormick then asked what options the City has for industrial space.
Pollock responded by saying that the City owns the bench lands, and for industrial land opportunities, that’s it. He said that the north and the east side of Jim Ogilvie Way is all Teck owned property, and the west side is not suitable for development due to gas lines and other factors.
Pollock says that with time, said Teck property and perhaps other privately owned land, could be developed as well. However, it has taken the City ten years to acquire the property that is the Marysville bench lands.
As for the trail network that runs through the bench lands, Pollock says his plan has allowed for those trails to remain the same.
Councillor Sandra Roberts says that the City’s number one insurance is clean industry, along with ensuring that any development goes through the appropriate business and development qualifications. She also says that during her time in council, they have been struggling to get some land released that can actually be used.
“Everybody says ‘well it’s Teck land and maybe we’ll get some, someday’. Well that’s been since 2001. That’s almost 20 years; we’ve been sitting on hold for 20 years, waiting for an opportunity to develop something, anything,” said Roberts. “We need to bring some jobs to Kimberley. We have to have this diversification and we have to find a way to do it.”
Councillor Bev Middlebrook suggested that there is some confusion, stating that the land was being sold before the process went though.
McCormick says that he is unaware of any proposal, by anybody, that has been put forward. He says an example of the type of industry that could potentially call the bench lands home is Sullivan Machine Works, a ‘clean tech’ company who could bring in new jobs and diversify the tax base.
“Even if it went entirely unfeathered through the OCP process, we’re looking at at least two years before we’re going to get to the point where we can actually put something on that land,” said McCormick. “In the time that we’re doing that, between the OCP, the zoning, the development permitting and all of the other prescriptive things that Troy referred to, we have an opportunity to get it right. Right in the best interest of everybody including the residents of Marysville.”
Councillor Albert Hoglund stated why he wouldn’t be voting for the motion.
“I don’t think we need all this process,” Hoglund said. “I think Troy’s got his process going. I think this can be brought up when the first meeting comes. I think if we pass this motion tonight a lot of these people in this room are going to leave thinking that our minds are made up, they’ve already voted. I don’t think that has to happen tonight, Troy can go on with this process bring it back with the first read. There will be more public meetings where people can put their say in. I think now is not the appropriate time for the resolution of this motion, so I’ll be voting against it.
“One of the things that I’m concerned about with this, is it goes through this process and is still out of our control. It’s still very difficult to move through,” said Councillor Darryl Oakley, stating that the contaminated soil and lengthy time line of the process could pose an issue for potential buyers.
Oakley says, however, that the OCP process is important and that this motion should be continued through that.
“It’s a great process for people to speak up and express their concerns, and I do appreciate everybody here that has spoken about this issue, sent emails and made phone calls. It’s free speech at its best and it’s good. We [Council] have to make decisions and we need lots of feedback to make those decisions,” said Oakley.
Oakley also says he finds it a ‘nightmare’ to be surrounded by brown fields. He pointed out that Kimberley is the highest taxed municipality in the region.
“I’m not proud of that,” he said.
“The number one decision, when people are looking at coming to an area, is what land is available,” said McCormick. “We are really disadvantaged when it comes to the options that we have for land availability.”
McCormick referred to the fact that Kimberley is part of a Cranbrook Kimberley Development Initiative. The Mayor says that there are nine businesses in Kimberley that have put forth $5000 each and 50 businesses in total. Funds are matched by the Columbia Basin Trust, who have provided a half-million dollar marketing chest to attract industry in Cranbrook and Kimberley.
Furthermore, McCormick says that the OCP is a legislative process that is there to ensure decisions made are in the best interest of the entire community.
“As Councillors and elected officials sitting around this table, that’s our job. We are the elected officials for the entire community of Kimberley and no matter what the issue is, there are going to be some [people] who are going to disagree with it,” McCormick said.
Middlebrook asked Pollock about the costs associated with putting services in at the bench lands, and where that money would come from.
Pollock responded by saying that the planning department doesn’t necessarily have a final cost, as part of it would depend on what level of development is anticipated. Pollock pointed out that it is too early to say a number, but that there are some cost saving benefits around that particular location including an existing road and water lines.
McCormick says, with regards to associated servicing costs, that whatever company or business purchases the land has the option to buy it serviced or unserviced, therefore the price tag would reflect that.
Councillor Nigel Kitto then referred back to the process, “I think the most important thing tonight is making people aware that there is a process that’s going forward. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity for people to have their input and their say. We are getting their emails, their letters, and we’re taking them on board. We are hearing what you’ve got to say.
“Tonight is not the time to be arguing the pros and cons of this development. The whole purpose and intent of this motion was to notify [the public] that there is a process going forward here. A process that has been mandated by the province, by people long before us, and we really should be respecting that process.”
After much contentious discussion, McCormick asked for any final comments.
Middlebrook responded by saying that everyone she has spoken to is in agreement that industry is needed in Kimberley.
“I have to speak for the Marysville people who have spoken to me and this land is extremely important to them,” Middlebrook said. “They’ve walked on it for over 50 years, whether it’s zoned recreation or not. When people use something for 50 years it should stand for something. The trails are in the Kimberley trail system. People are afraid that their beloved bench lands, that have beautiful nature and unreal views, might be destroyed.
“If it’s destroyed and businesses don’t work then you can never put it back, it’s gone for good. The other concerns are their homes. It’s very quiet in Marysville, it’s very peaceful and they’re concerned that will be gone. There’s concern about property value…”
McCormick reiterated that Council is there to take everybody’s concerns into account.
Councillor Albert Hoglund ended the discussion and said, “I’ve sat around this table for 29 years. I was born in this town. I was here when you had the City of Kimberley, the Village of Chapman Camp and the Village of Marysville. Everybody had their own identity. Right now, we’re Kimberley. To sit here and argue, ‘well Kimberey’s got all of this, but Marysville doesn’t’. We all live in Kimberley and where your neighbourhood is, is where you’re from…”