Cezary vs. Council: Councillor Nightingale responds

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
September 13th, 2021

At the September 7, 2021, Rossland City Council meeting,  local developer Cezary Ksiasek spoke as a delegation, about his proposal for “seniors’ housing” which Council had declined for reasons including that the structure proposed covered too much of the parcel, exceeded the height allowance, did not have the required guest parking on the parcel, and did not have the snow storage needed on the parcel, but on City property, and was not a good fit for the neighbourhood.

Mayor Moore asked Mr. Ksiasek to provide council with nis written notes so that Council could provide him with considered responses to his various statements and arguments.

Mr. Ksiasek posted his notes on a public Facebook forum.  Councillor Janice Nightingale has responded and provided the Rossland Telegraph with the document including Mr. Ksiasek’s text and her answers.

Below, Mr. Ksiasek’s unedited text is in plain font, and Councillor Nightingale’s responses are in bold italics, to differentiate them.

CK:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address Council’s concerns surrounding Senior Housing proposal. Sorry for my English , my heavy accent and for wrong pronunciation .

Now I would like to answer each concern of the council to the best of my ability.

JN:   The mayor asked the developer to submit his remarks in writing to the city so we could address his concerns. As a delegation presentation, any content presented to council is required to be provided by the day of the release of the agenda, so that council and the public can formulate questions and responses.  The developer did not follow those guidelines.

CK:  First, my response to the City Council meeting on 21 of June.

Council Spooner said:

“There are different lands to build seniors housing “

JN:  This is a wildly inaccurate rendition of what was actually said in the meeting.  Spooner started by saying, “It’s one of the few large developable lots where we could actually diversify our housing stock in town.”  To hear what else Councillors said, go to the 54 min mark of the recorded council meeting (at this link) and hear Council members identify the problems with the proposal, and then discuss ways for the developer to get a multi-family proposal that will work on the site, in that neighbourhood.

CK:  My response:

Could you please be more specific where this land is? I only know one: the former Cook Avenue school location.

JN:  The Cooke Ave lands would be a “nice” place to build seniors housing (or any other housing) but it’s not the only place.  Council does not have an inventory of privately held land, but the City of Rossland does own the property across from the Rossland Midtown Project.  It is in an area transitioning from Light industrial use to Mixed use Residential, has appropriate infrastructure, sidewalks and is one block from a bus route.

CK:  Council Lewis said:

“ many , many different opportunity to build seniors housing”

If council Lewis knows about so many opportunities to build seniors housing, Council should address the current needs of this community and take the opportunity to build seniors housing.

JN:   This misrepresents Councillor Lewis’s remarks in the meeting. He said, inter alia, “I think there are many, many interesting opportunities … to build something that’s profitable for the developer and interesting for the community …”  Please see the link, above, for the recording.

CK:   Council Janice,

“parking on city property “

I think that council is confusing senior housing project with their Emcon development 37 units apartment plus new city hall. A project that does not have underground parking, and all the residents’ cars (approximately 60 cars), plus 18 City Hall staff vehicles, plus 5 visitors will park on city property.

JN:  Councillor Nightingale and the rest of council are not confused at all.  All the parking for the Rossland Midtown Project (46 spaces) will be contained within the parcel of land the building is on.  Parking for City Hall guests (8 spaces) will be provided by angled street parking, as it was for the old city hall, with more parking spots available at the new Third Avenue location than there were at the previous city hall site.

The parking designated for guests on the Cooke Ave site proposal is located on property the developer does not own, contrary to requirements.

CK:   Council Bowman,

“the building is too big”

Council quotation from Rossland News “ Rossland council supports 97 units. This is an example of a professional development. We need this at Red and our communities as well”

So 40 units is to big but 97 units is OK.

JN:   The recent approval of a development permit for the MicroFlats at Red occurred because the building plan met all land use and zoning requirements and regulations.  This zoning has been in place for many years.  

This developer has experienced this in the past with his other proposed projects, such as his 16-unit project at Iron Colt that Council approved — if a proposal fits into the existing zoning and plans, and form and character guidelines, it is approved.

CK:   One local senior asked me to find out if it is true that Councillor Bowman manages properties in Rossland that are owned by Jeff Busby – Director of Brendes Investment. Mr. Busby and his company are the major partners on the Red Mtn. and maybe Microflats 97 unit development. If this is true, maybe this is a conflict of interest?

JN:  Councillor Bowman responds that the insinuation of a conflict of interest is unfounded.  Councillor Nightingale notes that, to the best of my knowledge, Councillor Bowman has been very diligent about protecting the decisions of council by stepping away when an appearance of conflict might arise.

CK:   Council Andy Morel,

“ Not enough seniors for 40 units”

I recommend council inquire at Esling Park Lodge about how many people are on the waiting list and why they are not adding any further applicants to this list.

What I know from my presentations and my many meetings with Rossland seniors is that 40 units are not enough.

JN:  Again, this is not what Councillor Morel said.  Inter alia, he said, “I struggle with the idea of marketability … I think that the fifty-five-plus audience I see that would be interested in this project, is not likely local … the majority of the folk who would be interested would be newcomers to the community.”

Council is very familiar with the situation at Esling Park, and with senior specific housing in Rossland in general, and the number of seniors in town, as council provided an accurate number to the developer, but this is an “apples to roller skates” comparison.  Esling Park is a seniors rental building; this proposal from the developer will be an at market, private, for profit, stratified resident owned building.  

Council would like to approve a plan that meets the City’s guidelines and regulations.

CK:  Next Councillor concern is there “will be big traffic”

Perhaps you are confusing the proposed senior housing development with the 37 unit plus new city hall which does not have a traffic study and never had. I have no idea how this project was approved without a traffic study.

The senior housing development has a proper traffic study as per Rossland’s bylaws and according to engineering traffic is not a problem. Looks like this rule does not apply to every development, and in my opinion this is a double standard.

JN:  Again, council is not confused, and there is no double standard.  The Rossland Midtown Project was subject to exactly the same standard of parking and traffic study as provided in the info package by this developer.  Perhaps the developer is confused or has forgotten? To see the Midtown Project traffic and parking report, go to rossland.ca and click on the Midtown project button on the left side of the screen.

CK:   Councillor Terry Miller

“Too big and traffic problems”

For councillor Miller a five storey, 97 unit building with two stories of parking underneath, including office space plus restaurant on Sky Hill is not too big, but 40 units for local seniors is too big.

JN:  The developer is proposing to put a building with 40 units on a parcel currently zoned for 12 units.  It is 3.5M (11.5 ft) higher than the city’s most aggressive zoning in the old town area would allow (regardless of the number of stories), and has 2x the floor area.  The proposal also has more lot coverage, 54%, than currently allowed. 

The MicroFlats at Red proposal fell within the scope of all land use and zoning regulation for the area it is in. Development at the Red base area is zoned for higher densities and height in the area adjacent to the lifts, and has been for many years.

CK:   Mayor Kathy Moore

“Too many units and too big”

A Quotation of the Mayor about the 97 units on the Ski Hill “It is an interesting and exciting project”

JN:   Different zoning, as previously mentioned, and again, the ski hill proposal met all zoning and land use requirements and regulations.  More apples to roller skates. The only decision for council about the Micro Units project at Red was did it or did it not meet the design guidelines.

CK:   Rossland Seniors asked me to answer the mayor’s response to a local senior’s letter.

1- “ Senior housing is in a neighbourhood of single family residences “

What about the 37 units plus City Hall? Are these surrounded by high rise buildings?

JN:   The Rossland Midtown Project is being built on land formerly zoned for Light Industrial Use, not single family residential.  In addition, it is bordered by a skate park, and is near the arena and a multi-storied school, both higher than 10M.

CK:   2-  “It exceeded the height restrictions “

The 37 units plus city hall building is 4 stories. Senior’s housing has underground parking and is also four stories. Maybe the city is using a different tape measure for these 2 buildings?

JN:   The developer appears to be confused by the difference between “building height” and “number of floors”.  Regardless of the configuration, this proposal by the developer exceeds the city’s most aggressive old town multi-family zoning by 3.5M (11.5 ft).

CK:   3- “Parking for Guests”

a.       Where is the problem?

JN:   The proposal had no guest parking on the building parcel, as per land use and zoning requirements. The project as presented has guest parking and snow storage both sited on property the developer does not own.

CK:    b.   Where is the guest parking for 37 units on Emcon lot?

JN:   Guest parking for the residential units is in the parking lot of the Midtown project, on the parcel of land the project is being built on.

CK:   4- “ Seniors housing would have a huge impact on the existing neighbourhood and council must consider all residents in town “

What about consideration of the 350 resident who asked for a referendum regarding building new city Hall ? Or Rossland seniors?

JN:   It isn’t that “seniors’ housing” would have a huge impact on the neighborhood — this development as proposed would have a huge impact, regardless of who it housed. The additional 12 units proposed to be built on the parcel beside it would mean there would no green space for any of the potential new residents to enjoy, or for the enjoyment of the existing residents of the neighbourhood.

CK:   5- “ snow storage problem “

Senior’s building has a frontage of 300 feet and is 26 feet deep plus undeveloped Cliff street that is 26 feet by 120 feet.

JN:   The developer would like to store snow from his property on a City road allowance that he does not own. 

CK:   Where is the snow storage for the 37 units and City Hall. I think that snow will be hauled away by trucks and who is going to pay for this? Tax Payers.

JN:   False — incorrect speculation.  There is allocated snow storage space on the Midtown parcel.  If the amount of snow exceeds the storage capacity, it will be removed and the cost will be paid by the operators of the building as part of their snow clearing and operational costs, and included in the residents’ rent.

CK:    I suppose it will be cheaper than hauling all the contaminated soil to Ootischenia.

When Jackie Drysdale, a distinguished Rossland Citizen, made her presentation to Rossland City Council on August 9th in support of the Senior Housing Development, Council made two comments

1.      Councillor Spooner – “For Tango you need two”. I agree 100%, but if I go to dance tango I would like to achieve success NOT total failure .

JN:  Council would love to “tango” to find a win-win situation for the community.  Unfortunately, the developer refused to change his original proposal at all despite extensive input from the planning department before the proposal was brought to council.

CK:   I do not think that:   1- The idea of changing the city reservoir into a swimming area using taxpayers money would be a success,

JN:   And Council voted that idea down, too. Glad you agree.

CK:   2- Being against the 350 people who signed a petition requesting a referendum on the building of a new city hall on contaminated soil is not democratic success.

3- Undertaking construction of 37 units and a new City Hall on contaminated lands when we now have to pay for the most expensive excavation in Rossland’s History is not an example of a success.

JN:   The cost of that excavation is included in the contingency allowance on the tender.

CK:   4- Supporting to hire of a lawyer with taxpayers money to stop a project being undertaken by a Rossland citizen, when this project is inline with the City of Rossland’s Development Permit requirements. Rumour is that because the Rock Cut development is competition to the Caldera project being undertaken by the Ski Hill that this is the reason it was stopped.

JN:   This rumour and speculation on Council’s intent and motivation is both incorrect and irrelevant to the topic of his proposal.

CK:   Can you please verify this?

JN:  Rossland is full of rumours, speculation and personal opinions such as expressed by this developer.  Council makes decisions based on the best facts available to them, not rumours and speculation.

CK:   2. The Next Concern raised was that “I” as a developer am greedy and that by building more units “I” want to make more money. I have this land, and I want to do something good for Rossland, does this make me greedy?

I was 9 ½ years old when my father passed, 12 when my mother passed, and my sister passed away before this. This tragedy did not stop me from finishing university with a Masters Degree. After this I emigrated to America with $50 in my pocket. Regan was president at this time and he was NOT in favour of giving out free lunches and affordable housing. I worked hard, finished College in London Ontario and now thanks to God I am successful. I have enough . I am comfortable. I do not have to be greedy and I can easily sell this land. Rossland land is very expensive, I hear that my neighbor in Iron Colt recently sold 2 singe family lots for ½ million dollars!

JN:   You have an inspirational story.  However, council’s decisions are based on the projects put before us.

CK:   Council also mentioned concerns surrounding utilities. We all know that utilities in Rossland are old. For example, fire hydrants on Thompson Ave do not have enough capacity to extinguish a any fire, even in a single home.

JN:  That is false.

It is incorrect and irresponsible to try to scare residents by suggesting that single family homes are at risk on Thompson, or any other part of town, when they are not.

The report contained in the developer’s documentation provided to council addressed the ability for the water system to provide firefighting capabilities for the proposed 40-unit project, plus an additional 12 units on the adjoining parcel, only.    

Is the developer aware that the city has installed pressure reducers throughout the water system to extend the life of the infrastructure, and so residential fixtures don’t blow off?

CK:   Maybe City Council should start a discussion about how to fix this. By fixing this problem would benefit all the residents on Thompson Ave and the surrounding area, but also the proposed senior housing.

JN:  When a developer’s project requires upgrade to City infrastructure, the developer must pay for those upgrades. The current service to the area is fully adequate for the present number of residences.

The proposal council received from this developer contained an estimate of off-site utility upgrades of approximately $400,000. It would seem that the developer believes that “the city” should pay for those upgrades – which would be his responsibility to pay for. The city is not a faceless entity; if the developer did not fulfill his obligation to pay for the upgrades, this cost would be borne by the taxpayers.  That would constitute a subsidy for a private, for profit, market value development. 

CK:   Seniors have paid taxes in Rossland for over 50 years and should see some returns on these taxes. Seniors taxes instead are going to build a new City Hall and 37 units that they themselves cannot rent. And on top of this the land their taxes purchased was also given away for free.

JN:   The housing portion of the Midtown project lands is NOT being paid for by Rossland taxpayers.  This has been clarified to the public, and in discussion with this developer, many times.

Also, seniors who meet the criteria established by the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society willbe eligible to live in the Midtown project.

Seniors have not only paid taxes, but have also enjoyed the services provided by the City for many years. 

CK:   To build any building can by done two way. Right way or wrong way.

Right way is Castlegar proposal for 6 story to keep construction down. Article can be seen on Rossland ratepayers association facebook page.

JN:  Castlegar isn’t Rossland, and this is just the developer’s opinion.

CK:  Wrong way my opinion is 37 units apartment plus new city hall.

JN:   Everyone can have their opinion.

CK:   Perhaps Rossland seniors should take this case to court and let a Judge decide if we have a double standard and a conflict of interest in Rossland’s Council.

JN:   Council is confident that we have no double standard, and no conflict of interest.  I would note the developer isn’t suggesting he will pay for a lawsuit, either. 

A few other thoughts:

·       Zoning and land use regulations are in place to protect all property owners and should not be adjusted without significant thought, effort, and public input based on undefined “affordability” and “accessibility” standards.  Should we make decisions that make affordability and accessibility available for some residents while decreasing it for others?  Developers often site “affordability” and “diversity of housing stock” as catch phrases to promote their developments.  But “affordable” to whom? 

·       Current OCP input indicates the community is against unfettered, mindless development that changes the character and overall livability of Rossland.  Allowing a developer to define how new growth is added is a recipe for exactly what the community is saying they don’t want. 

·       This developer has used social and other media – rife with inaccuracies – to try to convince people that he is being treated unfairly  by council’s decision while also promoting the idea of the project.  He is not addressing the actual realities being proposed, or how they would affect the whole neighbourhood.  He is suggesting that Council denied his proposal out of a lack of respect for seniors, instead of care and consideration for the whole community. 

·       This developer appears to be trying to generate additional sympathy by comparing the unsuccessful proposal to developments in different zoning areas, or even different communities, that are not even remotely related.

·       Council could entertain a special zoning for seniors housing if this or any other developer could present  something closer to the maximum size and coverage allowed now, that was not disruptive to the existing, established neighbourhood, and addressed the additional costs of any off-site infrastructure upgrades required, so the project did not become a financial burden to the whole community.

Other News Stories