Cook site rezoning--the saga continues!

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
October 18th, 2013

Another chapter was written in the ongoing saga of the proposed zoning amendment to the former Cook Avenue School site this week.  During Tuesday’s regular meeting of council, there was a request for decision concerning the public hearing that was held on September 23rd.  City Staff recommended that Council direct Staff to make changes to Bylaw 2547, in order to address all or some of the neighbourhood’s concerns.

During the public input period, four community members spoke out against the development, reiterating concerns about the density, neighbourhood fit, and timeframe for completion.

Tyler Merringer said, “The public hearing was a bit too brief.  I know it was said that it wasn’t a question and answer period, but I feel there should be.  Before any decision gets made on this rezoning, the public deserves another hearing where we are allowed to ask questions and we can get a clearer picture of exactly what stage this process is in.”

Mayor Greg Granstrom replied, “This is coming up again on the agenda.  If there are changes to the bylaw, or if there is a new bylaw, there will be another public hearing.”

When it became time for council discussion, Councillor Kathy Moore felt that some of the concerns brought up by the public could be resolved with the proponent (Cezary Ksiazek).

“I’m in favour of developing this property, but I want it to be done in a really good way, and to do that we need to get some of these issues addressed from the start,” Moore said.  “I don’t want to approve anything without more discussion with the proponent.  We’ve heard a lot of feedback, that we need to diversify our housing stock, and I think that’s important.  We need to balance our need for diverse stock with the desires of the neighbourhood, and with making a proposal that works for the proponent.”

Councillor Jill Spearn concurred with some of the statements made by Councillor Moore.  “We are trying to diversify our housing stock, which is outlined in the OCP,” Spearn said.  “This project addresses that.  I also feel that we need more details.  For council to say to staff, we want this this and this, is not really reasonable until we’ve all had time for input, which includes the developer.  I’m looking forward to that next step.”

Spearn also addressed the concerns about density and increased traffic.  “I use Thompson Avenue two or three times a day,” she said. Yes, people drive fast on it, but Thompson is not a congested thoroughfare. There was never an issue with traffic when Cooke Avenue School was there.  I don’t really agree with the traffic congestion that is being suggested; I don’t believe that is a fact.  Even if there were 28 units there, people are coming and going at different times throughout the day.”

Spearn went on to say, “I appreciate the concerns from the neighbourhood, and we’re not ignoring you, believe me.  You’ve spoken loudly and clearly, and as a council, we take into account what you’re saying.  But the fact of the matter is the developer owns the land.  He has the right through the OCP and all the other rules we have in Rossland, to develop that land.  How he develops it, we can manage and barter back and forth with him, but the development as I see it, should occur and probably will occur, and hopefully in a fashion that is appropriate for the developer, the neighbourhood, and the community as a whole.”

It became clear that more discussion was necessary before council could direct Staff to make changes to the bylaw, and a regular meeting of council, where the proponent was not present,  was not the arena for it.

The original recommendation was discarded, and a motion to set up a Committee Of The Whole meeting, where council and the developer could have a working session, was passed.  After this Committee Of The Whole meeting, council will direct staff to make changes to the bylaw.  If or when that happens, another public hearing will be announced.  A date for the Committee Of The Whole meeting was not set at the time, but it was made clear that the public will be informed as to when it will be.

This article has been amended to correct the spelling of “Cook Avenue School”. While Cooke Avenue has an ‘e’, the school’s name did not. No idea why!–ed.

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