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Neighbours oppose development on Castlegar park site

Neighbors to Brandson Park in south Castlegar say they are aghast at the idea of a mixed-use development going up on the site.

“The development proposal on its own is great,” says Cheryl Gnyp, who represents a group of them. “However, where they’re proposing to put it is not great. Why a park? We are nowhere near buildout. It simply should not go there.”

The proposal calls for the city to sell two properties at 2404 6th Ave. and 2405 Columbia Ave. to a developer, who plans to build a multi-storey building with multi-family units, live-work units, and some small commercial units.

The existing playground on the park, which is former site of the Bob Brandson Memorial Pool, would be shifted south. The development would include its own green space which would connect to the revamped park, although there would be less green space overall.

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“We designed it in a way that we’re creating an integrated park-like environment so it flows from the park into our green space [and vice versa],” Daryl Martini of Nexus Development Group said.

However, Gnyp is not convinced.

“The whole neighbourhood uses this park,” she says. “Other kids use this park. This is reserved for future generations. Once you build on it and the green space is gone, it’s gone. You don’t remove houses to put a park. That never happens.”

Gnyp says the community should be having a broader conversation about whether existing parkland should be allowed to be repurposed for development.

While the city has long owned Brandson Park, last year it acquired the adjacent corner lot, identifying it as a potential housing site, and included it on a list of potential public and private building sites when the developer showed interest.

But Gnyp says the city should not have done so.

“The city should have said, when the developer came knocking, ‘There is zero chance you are going to get this [site]. However, we have this or this or this.’

“I agree we need housing. They [the city] referred to the housing strategy in their documentation to the public. Nowhere in the strategy did it recommend using park land. That’s asinine in 2022.”

Gnyp says many other sites in Castlegar exist that the development would enhance without displacing a park.

City manager Chris Barlow says because the land is not actually dedicated as a park on its title, the rules around its disposition are the same as any other city-owned piece of land.

However, he stressed that no decisions have been made, and it is unusual for the city to seek public feedback this early in the process.

“We haven’t done this in the past where we’ve gone to the community before a land deal is done or a development permit has been submitted,” he says.

“We’ve got that input early so there’s still opportunity for the community to have input to council through the process.”

He says there will also be further chances for public involvement on the redesign of the park if the development goes ahead.

Further, under the agreement, the money the city receives for the sale of the parkland would be put back into the city’s park reserve, and could be used to enhance existing parks or purchase additional ones.

“There’s a potential that the community could have a lot of input on what that new park space would look like and the city would have some funds in reserve to make that happen,” Barlow says.

He added that they expected when the development was announced last month that they would hear from the community about the park.

A summary of feedback from an online public meeting will be presented to council on Tuesday and can be found here.

The property needs to be rezoned in order for the development to proceed. A formal public hearing as part of that process is expected in March.

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