Council chambers packed as Cooke development access debated

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
September 27th, 2013

It was standing room only at this week’s public hearing, which took place before the regular council meeting.  It was tough to get an accurate count of the people present because they were spread throughout the hallways of the council chambers, but there were around 30-40 members of the public in attendance.  While there was lots to talk about on the agenda, most people were there to voice their opinion on the proposed zoning amendment to Bylaw 2547 at the former Cooke Avenue school site.

Most of the stated concerns had to do with the increased density of people in the area, which would lead to higher volumes of traffic and greater safety concerns.  The proposed multiple access points and height of buildings were also contentious issues.  

The developer, Cezary Ksiazek, has proposed 7 access points for his development (4 on Cooke, 2 on Thompson, and 1 via a laneway off Cooke). The City’s planner [the recently laid-off Mike Maturo] proposed two access points, both off Cooke. After receiving Maturo’s input, the City decided to commission an independent study of the plan by ISL Engineering. The resulting report supported Mr. Maturo’s recommendations..

Everyone who wished to speak was given an opportunity.

“Whatever housing we do end up with must only be accessible from two points on Cooke Avenue, for the safety of our community as proposed by our very own city planning staff,” said Ormond Jobin. “Every other multi-home development in Rossland has this type of single access. Why is this not being addressed in the bylaw?  Even the independent study from ISL agreed with this, from a safety standpoint.  Why did we hire ISL for the study, and use our tax dollars, when we had a highly qualified city planner? Who hired ISL?”

Mr. Jobin’s questions went unanswered, as Mayor Greg Granstrom stated that a public hearing does not involve a question and answer period.

However, when contacted by the Telegraph later in the week and asked why ISL was hired to perform an independent engineering study of the proposal after the City’s planner had already done the work and recommended only two access points, Granstrom replied, “ISL is an engineering firm, and we wanted an engineering study done.”

Asked for her views, CAO Cecile Arnott replied via email: “The City hired ISL to conduct an independent study on the driveways.  The results are included in the August 25th Council agenda package, I believe.” The agenda package in question, from August 20, is attached to this article. The study results are on pages 24-26.

Resident Tyler Merringer echoed concerns about the density, traffic, and added, “It seems crazy to me that an independent engineering study which recommended something is just ignored. That seems extremely negligent.”

Others came forward and voiced their concerns about the height of the proposed development, and the safety of children playing in and around the streets, as the block has a number of young families on it, and the speed of traffic on Thompson Avenue has been an issue for some time.

No one came forward to speak in favour of the proposed development plan except Ksiazek.  He produced a letter from the Chamber of Commerce that stated their support for the development, and which claimed that the development follows the Official Community Plan (OCP).

“Before this, was Cooke School,” said Ksiazek.  “Cooke School was very high, and blocked people’s view.  No one complained then.  This building will be much lower than Cooke School.  The City planning department has issues with the increase in traffic, but the Cooke School is closed now, so traffic is much less.  We cannot afford to close another school. We need to do something, so we bring young families here.”

When all was said and done, the City directed staff to follow up on the comments made during the public hearing. A report will be prepared for council by October 15th.

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