BY BILL PHILLIPS
City and transit officials got thrown under the bus Tuesday.
A raucous crowd of about 300 people, at time shouting down speakers, jammed Kin 1 for an information session on a proposed new transit maintenance facility that BC Transit hopes to build just off Foothills Boulevard and 18th Avenue.
With the exception of one bus driver, BC Transit and city officials, it’s safe to say the vast majority of those present are opposed to the proposed location.
“We should not be taking over more greenbelt,” said Doug Fry, who questioned why property available for sale on Quinn Street wasn’t examined.
Levi Timmermans of BC Transit said they took several factors into consideration when choosing the site.
“We wanted to ensure that we picked a location that was efficient for our transit system,” Timmermans said.
He said they needed about five acres of property, adding the proposed site is about eight acres. He said the location is good for transit in that the amount of time buses spend going to and from the location will be minimized, opposed to one that is farther away from existing bus routes.
He said the site will also accommodate growth in the Prince George transit system as it goes from 35 buses to perhaps as many as 80.
This will provide a “sustainable” transit system for the next 40 years.
Listen to the questions
Attendees wanted to know what other sites were looked at and what happens if this location is rejected.
“There is no Plan B or C … all I can say is you would be putting federal and provincial money at risk,” said Timmermans who, after a chorus of boos and jeers, said he would continue to search for another site should this one be rejected.
Director of planning Ian Wells added that idea of the Thursday’s meeting was to gather input on the proposed site.
“It’s a land use decision,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for, to gather your input … We’re not here to justify picking between sites.”
Suzanne Williamson, who started a petition against locating the facility at Foothills and 18th, said city officials should pay attention to what the residents are saying.
“This is not a simply land use rezoning application and if you’re not getting that, perhaps you should open your ears,” she said.
Resident Jo Graber asked why the city hasn’t done a valuation of the property for uses other than industrial.
“There is no preparation, by the city, to give any kind of value to these properties, that are unique,” said Jo Graber. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Concern was also raised that the buses would increase traffic along
“The buses leave at 6:30 in the morning, they do not come back until 7 in the evening,” said Wells, adding the city will install a traffic light at 18th and Foothills.
Parking for the trail that goes to Ginter’s Field will be moved and upgraded, Wells said.
Many in the crowd supported the sentiment that this project is moving ahead simply because federal and provincial dollars are being provided for the facility. A federal green initiative will provide 50 per cent of the funding and the province is kicking in one-third of the cost.
Timmermans said the money will disappear if the project is not completed by March 2019.
City council has given first two readings to a rezoning for the property. A public hearing will be held later this year, likely in June.
Coun. Susan Scott was the only member of council present and, when the crowd wanted to know where council was she responded, “I’m here and I’m listening.”