According to sources who attended, it was yet another contentious public hearing at the Lake on last Tuesday, Feb. 16, regarding the proposed senior’s housing project. Between 70 and 80 members of the public were in attendance. The project would see a single, two-storey building with studio, one bedroom and two bedroom units for seniors on park land property by Christina Creek.
Many who are opposed to the project feel that it is being pushed through without proper consultation and in disregard for the Lake’s Official Community Plan. Christina Lake resident Johnathan Oldroyd was not at the meeting but he did submit a 35-page report to MLA Linda Larson as well as it the regional manager of BC Parks.
The report begins by stating that: “The following analysis and opinion represents the viewpoint of a significant portion, perhaps the majority, of the population of Christina Lake and I urge you to consider the content of this submission carefully.”
Oldroyd then described the property as being the former Sandner Sawmill property, which was sold to the Crown in 1989 for park purposes and which included all of the P1 (park and recreational zone) conservancy area from the highway along Christina Creek to the south.
“The legal description of the subject property is primarily a fragment of DL 750 and the remainder of DL 498,” he writes. Oldroyd states that the licence (No. 404062) was granted on June 1, 2008 for a term of 10 years. “This licence was granted in section 2.1 for ‘community park purposes’ and acknowledged ‘non-exclusive use and occupancy’ upon the condition contained in section 4.1(c)(i) that the RDKB ‘observe, abide by and comply with all applicable laws, bylaws, order…of any government authority having jurisdiction in any way affect the RDKB’s use or occupation of the land or the improvements.’”
Under Official Community Plan (OCP), Oldroyd states, “All of the land which is the subject of the licences is designated as environmentally sensitive waterfront as defined in the OCP being bylaw 1250 and dated Sept. 30, 2004. This category includes all parcels which are privately owned or both private and public lands which are leased from the Crown and which border of Christina Lake or a tributary creek.”
In his conclusion, Oldroyd says, “The RDKB acted in bad faith and avoided the sprit and intention of the OCP and its protection of sensitive waterfront lands when it avoided or omitted to apply for a development permit to build the Welcome Centre upon the rationalization that it was not a dwelling being built and that the sewer was greater than 100 metres away from the natural boundary of the lake…the RDKB has in its development of and preoccupation with the community centre site and consideration of the location of a seniors housing project, completely abdicated its desire in the OCP ‘to improve the functionality and appearance of commercial area’ and abandoned the business community and the development of a commercial village centre in the C1 zone.”
He continues by saying that the senior housing project is a “fundamental error” in planning as the mass and scale and density of the structure is out of all proportion for the street and future use of that street. “The structure will encroach upon the present access and parking to one of the most aesthetically pleasing and healthy environments in the park and one of the most desirable swimming areas on the property shoreline.”
Grace McGregor, Christina Lake/Area C director for the RDKB, told the Gazette Monday that she would be asking at the next RKDB board meeting for a deferral of any decision regarding the senior’s housing project.
“I will be requesting deferral of any decision on this until we have a chance to do a park management plan,” said McGregor. “We’re feeling that people haven’t read all the information and don’t have all the information. We think it’s important to have a plan in place and that will then involve more public conversation.”
McGregor said the input received at the hearing was both positive and negative towards the project. “At the end of the day, the senior’s housing committee wants the community to completely understand what they’ve done and what the information is and they would like to see a park management plan in place,” she said.
McGregor would not comment on what the timelines behind a park management plan would be or who would formulate it until it had gone to the RDKB board.
A former RDKB Area C director, Joe Tatangelo, said it would be a shame to lose that parkland so close to the creek. “It’s a nice park and people use it and all of sudden they want to put senior’s housing there with no information,” he said. “We have hardly any information on what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.”
Tatangelo said he is not opposed to senior’s housing but adds that when you rezone a piece of parkland you open it up for development. “If the senior’s housing group doesn’t have enough money, then what happens?” he said. “Then it’s rezoned for parkland for seniors housing. That means someone else could come in and take over. We don’t want it in the parkland, period. There are plenty of other properties at Christina Lake that could be used.”
Tatangelo said there are many different species of animals that use the parkland. “We want to protect it,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the place to put it. There are animals and birds that use it. That’s the only piece of parkland that people can get to that’s accessible to the lake. We don’t want to lose that accessibility.”
Tatangelo added that he and his predecessor Ron Walker worked hard to protect the park. “We started on the trails building the benches and now they’re trying to lose the park,” he said. “We worked like heck to keep that park pristine for the people to use, walk through and enjoy it and have access to the creek and the lake. Now we’re in danger of losing it.”
Kathy O’Malley, president of the Christina Lake Seniors Housing Society, told the Gazette that they appreciate the level of engagement in the process. “This is the fifth iteration of a plan for seniors housing at Christina Lake,” she said. “This plan is based on all the input of the community from the previous proposals. We have a commitment to listen and we have listened. That’s why the society has recommended that the RDKB undertake a park management plan as part of the scheduled OCP development.”
O’Malley said the society will continue to engage in community processes with the goal of having affordable housing at the lake.
McGregor’s deferral request is expected to be heard by the board at the next meeting of the RDKB Thursday in Trail.