BY BILL PHILLIPS
BC Transit will have to park its maintenance facility somewhere else.
On Monday city council rescinded its first two readings of a bylaw that would have allowed the $23 million facility to be built on an eight-acre lot of land at the end of Foothills Boulevard and 18th Avenue.
The proposed location drew the ire of the community, many of whom felt it was the ‘right project, wrong location.’ Close to 300 people jammed Kin 1 in early May for a raucous information session, most of whom objected to the location.
Mayor Lyn Hall brought the motion to rescind forward to Monday’s council meeting at the request of councillors Susan Scott, Garth Frizzell, and Brian Skakun.
Frizzell credited city staff for acting quickly to find a location for the facility earlier this year adding “our partners were in a hurry.”
The partners included BC Transit, the federal and provincial governments. The location was announced just weeks before the provincial election campaign got underway.
The location approval, he added, was subject to the sometimes slow process of going through four readings with a public hearing sandwiched in there somewhere. Frizzell said that process, while slow, can be extremely valuable.
“No one around this table has the hubris to believe we have all the knowledge,” said Frizzell. “We’ve committed to reconnecting with the community … when listening and learning it became clear it wasn’t just an empty lot next to a substation. There’s more than economic value, there’s social value.”
Coun. Susan Scott, who attended the public information session in May, said city staff worked in good faith to bring the project to the city.
“I truly saw first and second reading as a way to get more information,” she said, adding the public input she received “demonstrates the passion people have for preserving certain spaces in this community and the desire for this project to, not go away, but be more appropriately located.”
Coun. Brian Skakun said he couldn’t keep up to the e-mails from people opposing the location.
“It came through loud and clear,” he said. “ … What was driving people was they really wanted to protect this green space.”
Coun. Frank Everitt pointed to the petition residents brought forward.
“We need to listen,” he’s said. “People have said there’s a better place to put that facility.”
He added it will likely cost some money to look for another location, but added that is the will of the community.
Coun. Jillian Merrick, who was against the location initially, said it was a difficult issue for her.
“It was hard,” she said. “I felt very much alone in the first part it. Even from the public, I was getting lots of calls and people were so angry at me, even though I voted against it. I was the first to vote ‘no’ and the last to know about this motion to rescind.”
Hall credited staff for being professional in “presenting the project” to the public.
“It’s a tough job they have,” he said. “They are the ones who put in the motion forward to council.”
While staff bring the motions forward, it’s council that has to decide what’s in the best interest for the community.
Council unanimously rescinded the first two readings of the bylaw and directed staff to meet with BC Transit regarding potential alternate locations to facilitate its proceeding with the development of a new transit operations and maintenance facility.
“There is no Plan B or C … all I can say is you would be putting federal and provincial money at risk,” said BC Transit’s Levi Timmermans at the May public information session. After a chorus of boos and jeers, though, he said he would continue to search for another site should the Foothills one be rejected. He added the funding would disappear if the project is not completed by March 2019.