THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Derek Venter, the architect for the housing development project, presents project layouts to the public.

Will a First Nation’s housing project turn into ‘slums’? One resident thinks so

Concerns were raised about wildlife, traffic and ‘slums’ during public hearing on housing project.

Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation plans to build an apartment complex at 8905 Park Drive, but some residents think it will turn into slums, others think it will impact the nearby wildlife too much, and some even think it will cause traffic congestion.

The District of Port Hardy held two public hearings last Nov. 7, one at 1 p.m. and one at 6 p.m., with more than a dozen locals voicing concerns about a low-income rental housing project.

Traffic congestion from low-income housing tenants?

“The traffic passes through a school zone. I don’t think the pavement going through can handle it,” one Port Hardy resident commented. “I think if the development goes through, the access should be off Rupert Street. I’m concerned about adding commercial and medical facilities when we have empty store fronts in town,” another resident added.

A representative on behalf of School District 85 was also present at the meeting, having stated that “We (SD85) have concerns about a possible addition of a new intersection, entering Sea View, very close to Eagle View Elementary. During peak times, this area can be very congested. Because of limited space in front of the school and because of student safety we don’t allow vehicles to drive through when buses are loading or unloading, leaving the cul-de-sac as the only option for parents dropping off students. Please consider the traffic congestion.”

During one of the segments of the public hearing, residents continually voiced their concerns over the possible traffic coming from the low-income, affordable housing. “I’m thinking of the emergency services,” one resident noted, “a dead-end road is not a good idea. If there’s a fire in one of these units, a truck will block the only access in and out.”

After comments from residents, Derek Venter, architect for the project, said layouts are not permanent and the public hearing will mean an adjustment in the access roads in following plans. “I’m completely agreeing with you guys. We can work with the municipality to see if we can get to Park Drive or through Rupert.” He also mentioned that he was “not married to this as an access point by any means.”

Concerns over eagle and heron wildlife near proposed development

One local commented that she was “underwhelmed by the amount of information” she was getting from the district. She also added that she was worried about wildlife, such as nearby eagle nests and heron nests in that zone. She pointed out the Wildlife Act in BC. The development project according to the law must not affect the nests, which means leaving some kind of a buffer zone.

Venter commented that they have full intentions to avoid disturbing nearby wildlife, showing layouts and plans for a buffer zone or what is called a green belt. “We had environmental studies done, and they told us ‘this is where we can put buildings this is not where you can put buildings,’” as he pointed to the layout plans. He noted the development must be built as far as 56-58 metres away from protected wildlife. “The animals are very well protected. I hope that should help with that concern,” he said.

One resident believes the $35 million housing development project may turn into ‘slums’ later

Another resident also commented: “access should not be off Sea View, it should be off Park Drive. Also, looking at this, I’m concerned about the size of the units in regards to the amount of rooms. To me it looks like low income housing. It doesn’t look like something I’d certainly want to live in. I’m wondering what type of people it’s attracting. I’d understand if it were all senior housing. There’s too many rooms per square footage. It seems like a poor location. I think it’s a poor plan.”

“I think these are very small units,” a different resident agreed, “a four bed room unit, very little square footage. I’m concerned what kind of dwellings these are going to be.”

“Another thing about multifamily units in this town, I’m concerned it will turn into a slum area down the road. I certainly don’t want that near my neighbourhood and I think most people in town here don’t want additional ones. We’ve already seen that in the community here with a lot of the multifamily units. I would actually prefer a development that was more upscale, attracting wealthier people who want to be part of the community and have the money to enjoy paying a bit more,” concluded one resident.

Lourens Le Roux from the Pathfinder Development Corporation noted that the development project would cost as much as $35 million if it were to go ahead.

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