Castlegar city council passed the first two readings of a bylaw to rezone the Brandson Park site for a mixed-use development Tuesday, but the mayor cautions that it should not be taken as tacit support for the proposal.
“People shouldn’t assume that because we did two readings that we’re pushing it through regardless,” Kirk Duff said in an interview. “The process always happens in the exact same way whether people are in favour or not.”
The proposal for a multi-storey commercial/residential development on city-owned land has met with pushback from neighbours who say they do not want any green space sacrificed. Although a park would be retained on the site, it would be smaller than the existing one.
A public hearing is tentatively set for March 14, after which council will decide whether to approve the rezoning and sell the property to the developer. Duff said he wants to hear opinions from all residents, either for or against. So far, he said, they have heard from “seven or eight” people, most of whom live nearby.
“We have to decide what’s best for the whole community and we take very seriously the role we play here,” he says.
“We’re trying to weigh the priorities of our desperate need for housing with protecting the interests of the residents in the immediate area. It’s a heightened debate because of the fact that we are talking about using some parkland in this development.”
However, one councillor voted against proceeding any further. Bergen Price said he has received many comments, questions, and phone calls, and has concluded that the development should not be built on the park site.
“This should be more of a downtown project not a Kinnaird project,” he said during the discussion Tuesday. “I feel it’s an eyesore to the area. I definitely don’t agree with the build. I think there could be better options down the road.”
The vote to proceed to the public hearing passed 5-1, with councillor Maria McFaddin absent.
Council also heard that a traffic impact study is expected to be completed prior to the hearing.
Duff said if the rezoning is defeated at third reading, it will be up to the developer to decide whether to look for a different location in Castlegar or drop the idea altogether.