By Andru McCracken

Robson Valley Legacies is one step closer to having the required zoning to build a seniors housing project thanks to a public hearing that heard from more than 65 residents, all of whom supported the project.

Following the public hearing, McBride Council gave the rezoning bylaw its third reading.

Before the bylaw is finally adopted, two covenants need to be registered against the property, one concerning sidewalks and another concerning building height.

In their deliberations, McBride council decided to ease a potentially costly requirement for the construction of sidewalks. At one point they had requested 4 meter wide sidewalks bounded by chain link fence.

Mayor Eugene Runtz said council will ultimately leave the design of sidewalks on the property up to the developer Doug Monroe.

“He has all the flexibility in the world. It’s his property, we’ll let him do what he wants to do,” he said.

Council decided to allow for only a single building higher than 10.5m but lower than 12m in height.

Runtz said that allowing one building over 10.5 m is about fire protection.

“The trouble with a 12m building is that as soon as we get five of them we need a ladder truck,” he said.

Runtz said a ladder truck costs about $1.5 million dollars and wouldn’t fit in the existing fire station.

Monroe isn’t happy with the process or the amount of time it has taken so far.

“We have been bombarded with a constant stream of demands,” said Monroe. “The whole way through we have been defending our application, bringing justification to why all these stipulations don’t apply to our proposal.”

However, things do appear to be on track now.

“From my perspective it’s not ideal but it allows us to do what we need to do,” said Monroe.

A lengthy process
The mayor took some of the heat for the length of the process.

“If I had understood things from the very beginning, it might have been able to move faster. The fact was I didn’t,” said Runtz.

Runtz said that when the rezoning process was underway, he was unable to have informal contact with Monroe to help things speed along.

Like other residents, the mayor is in support of the project.

“It’s a miracle that he would come forward and want to do this,” said Runtz.

What next?
When asked how quickly things could proceed, Monroe said he still needs the final bylaw adoption to move forward.

“To be perfectly honest, we’re still working through preliminary designs,” he said.

“We can’t take any logical steps – we can’t have serious conversations to pursue licensing, financing or marketing without zoning.”

Monroe said the COVID epidemic will inhibit their ability to borrow funds, but they have enough resources to get started.

Monroe said that they are exploring potential government incentives.

“If there are any programs out there, we have been actively seeking them out to see if we qualify for them. I am optimistic more doors will open,” he said.