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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Proposed Dance Studio

Dear Editor,
 
I have been in the midst of negotiating the purchase of the Jehovah Witness Hall in Rossland.  Everything is in place except the re-zoning from Church status to C-2 Commercial status.  At this point city staff is strongly recommending to Council that in order for the Church Hall to be re-zoned to C-2, I will be required to give them 16 feet of this property (SROW – Statutory Right of Way) to put a pedestrian/biking trail through the property (east side – between the JW Hall and golden City Manor). 
 
At this point and upon thorough research on my part I am not supporting this Statutory Right of Way.  This Statutory Right of Way would prohibit any expansion should the school increase in enrollment.  The next scheduled city hall meeting is set for Monday, July 13th at 7:00pm at City Hall.  Please, please come support me in my efforts to carry the re-zoning through.  If the re-zoning fails there will be no studio.  It is important for parents and students to attend, and I understand it is summer holidays for many of you but it is vital that I have as many parents and students in attendance as possible.  I also suggest passing this information to anyone that  would support my endeavor in attaining this building.

The following gives further details as to the Statutory-Right-Of-Way and its implications:
 
Further to discussions with city staff and after careful consideration I have notified them that I am not in agreement nor do I support a SROW in order for me to obtain rezoning for the Jehovah Witness hall to a dance school. The City is requesting that I give up 16 feet of land, for a wide and moderate angled path which curves around the rock bluff to Third Avenue prohibiting parking in that area and prohibiting additions to the building in that area.  I cannot agree to being penalized for the simple reason that I asked for rezoning for a building. As City Staff has strongly suggested that when someone wants something from the city, the city has to get something in return.
 
I do not believe that the Official Community Plan (Section 15 – 16 – and 22) as noted on the official website supports obtaining a SROW in order to rezone. It is however, quote, “a policy under Policy #0641 for the City to obtain and hold easements on all properties on which City infrastructure is or may be located. This infrastructure is for the installation of water, sewer or drainage services throughout the City.
 
The City of Rossland otherwise has no right to enter onto private property for which the City does not hold an easement to install or maintain infrastructure unless permitted, in writing, by the owner of the property. “The Official Community Plan supports obtaining easements on already existing trails that run through or cross over private land where possible. It supports establishing pedestrian linkages beneath/over/ and across Highway 3B.This plan supports trail connectivity innew developments or subdivisions. The OCP supports creating bike paths along the edges of paved roads.
 
The OCP trails map supports a trail on City owned property (alleyway) located behind the Jehovah Witness location. The OCP wants to ensure that schools are designed in safe, accessible and convenient spaces for social, artistic and cultural expression and activity.  The OCP plan supports educational opportunities and alternative educational programs (i.e. RSS Dance Academy)
 
Alternate trail access as proposed by me to city staff would have the same end goal, which is to provide a pedestrian corridor between neighborhoods. The OCP supports off-road (possibly on boulevards) pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. The Kootenay Trail Society has stated on their website, “that the landowner’s rights are paramount.”  I would like to add to this by saying that everyone needs to be respectful of people’s property and ownership of that property.  The ownership of this property is being taken away from me before I have even bought it.  I am essentially buying this property to give some of it to the city.
 
Mr. Spooner has stated in his Active Transportation Plan that, “24 individual routes have been identified based on existing use.”  The planned trail on the Jehovah Witness property is not an existing trail.  All trails indicated on the Route Summary from the Active Transportation Plan (page 14) are predominately city owned while residents own the others.  None of the trails require access through commercial property except through route 20 (JW property).  Mr. Spooner has made it clear in his Active Transportation Plan that this document is intended as a resource for municipal staff.  It is not a legal document by any stretch of the imagination.  There are trails in this document that are prohibitive in cost, that infringe on other people’s rights and do not address commercial property in anyway shape or form.
 
In closing I am requesting that the city staff, Mayor Greg Granstrom and all Councilors ask themselves the following questions:
 

  1. Would I be willing to give up 16 feet of my property to the City?
  2. Are you okay with ‘upzoning’ with ‘conditions’ that could have severe implications for commercial property?
  3. Can this trail be moved elsewhere (original OCP map)?
  4. Are we open or closed for business or in favor of unnecessary land acquisition for trails, in particular trails with moderate priority?
  5. Would you buy land to give to the City?

 
As a new businesswoman I would like to explain what the re-zoning of this property would accomplish.:
 

  1. Re-zoning will seal the sale of this property to me, Renee Salsiccioli.
  2. Re-zoning will turn the church into Kootenay DanceWorks.
  3. Re-zoning will allow 150 elementary and highschool students to have a Professional dance studio.  Some of these students travel from Salmo, Fruitvale, Trail, Warfield and Nelson, which bring dollars into our community.
  4. Re-zoning supports the OCP in that Kootenay DanceWorks includes (for 2009-2010) 8 RSS Dance Academy students.   Three of those students are from outside the Rossland perimeter (i.e. Trail, Oasis, Fruitvale).  This is an alternative educational program supported by School District 20, RSS, and the OCP.
  5. Kootenay DanceWorks offers dance instruction in all genres, which enhances performing arts in Rossland.
  6. Re-zoning to commercial property will put a considerable amount of tax money into the City of Rossland tax account.
  7. Re-zoning will allow Rossland students a safe, fenced, accessible (in particular RSS Dance Academy students) convenient and large facility off the main highway, away from the core downtown, off of Columbia Avenue- the main highway (the Miner’s Hall).
  8. The re-zoning and purchase of this facility means I have one facility to teach at.  Presently I move to 3 different facilities in Rossland, 4 nights a week.
  9. Re-zoning to a professional dance studio encourages healthy living and wellness and supports the OCP from young to old.
  10. Re-zoning will allow for a new venue for the performing arts.
  11. Re-zoning provides economic growth to Rossland by bringing area residents into town.
  12. Re-zoning will give promotional value to the City of Rossland and its citizens.

 
These are the reasons why I cannot support a Statutory Right of Way:
 

  1. The City is proposing a Statutory Right of Way for 5 meters (16 feet) of this property in favor of re-zoning or ‘up-zoning’.  Why would the City penalize perspective business owners by asking them to forfeit land before they have purchased it?
  2. As any young business entrepreneur hopes, I believe my business will continue to grow.  Should that happen, the building might have to be enlarged.  That again would likely happen on the area of land requested for a Statutory Right of Way.  Parking then would be redirected to the other side.  The building is longer in length than width. Any potential additions need to be in length, as successful dance areas need the length for students to travel.
  3. Safety and liability for all my students is of the utmost importance, followed by the safety of the building.  A Statutory Right of Way would decrease that safety net where young children are involved.  Presently, RSS students have congregated on and around the existing pathway as their new “smoke pit” since RSS has become smoke free. With a new walkway, it is highly likely that it would become the new smoking area /hangout. This would be of great concern for myself and the parents of the students attending this school. I would suggest that it would also cause some anxiety for the senior population living nearby.
  4. The OCP suggests pedestrian linkages beneath/over/across Highways and it sets out to seek easements on private land parcels thatcurrently host trails.  The OCP also suggests off-road pathways for cyclists and pedestrians on boulevards, not on personal commercial property.
  5. The OCP also wants to identify and secure pedestrian travel between neighborhoods, amenities, and the town.  Therefore, why would the City of Rossland require a Statutory Right of Way on this piece of property when it does not fit the OCP criteria? I have indicated to city staff alternate solutions to look at to secure pedestrian travel between  neighborhoods.
  6. As well the official OCP trails map does not show a path or link through 2099-3rd Avenue.  Rather it is shown on the alleyway behind this property.  This makes more sense and would be less costly for the City.
  7. I believe a Statutory Right of Way will decrease the property value.
  8. I cannot understand why re-zoning has anything to do with a Statutory Right of Way.  They are two separate issues.  As well, nowhere in the OCP is re-zoning contingent on signing a Statutory Right of Way.
  9. If I was legally not adhering to the rules of re-zoning, then deny the application, but I should not be denied re-zoning because the City wants 16 feet of this property.
  10. According to the OCP, Statutory Right of Ways is requested in new development for biking and pedestrian trails.  I am a commercial property, not a new development.
  11. Snow removal will be another concern.  My plan is to move the snow from the paved parking lot to the area in question.  If a path were built in this area where would the snow go?
  12. Puts the sale ability of this Church property on the line.

Please remember that this building and this professional dance studio supports the OCP, it supports the community of Rossland, children, youth, seniors and development of our area schools.  Without this re-zoning this plan will fall through.
 
In closing: again, the next scheduled city hall meeting is set for Monday, July 13th at 7:00pm at City Hall.  Please, please come support me in my efforts to carry the re-zoning through.  If the re-zoning fails there will be no studio.  It is important for parents and students to attend, and I understand it is summer holidays for many of you but it is vital that I have as many parents and students in attendance as possible.  I also highly suggest passing this information to anyone that would support my endeavor in attaining this building.
 
Renee Salsiccioli, A.I.S.T.D.
Trail