Park Saved But Not by Section 30
Gallery fills prior to Council meeting start-photo 250News
Prince George BC- There is no plan to sell any portion of North College Park, there is no application to have a piece of that park severed and rezoned, but North College Park area residents launched a pre-emptive strike at last evening’s the Council Meeting.With a few exceptions, every seat in the gallery was taken by members of the North College Park Support Group.
In their presentation to Council, the group called for North College Park to be given special protection by being declared a “dedicated park”.
They outlined their shock when a developer did some test holes for geo technical research in the park in May of 2015. Manager of Development and Planning, Ian Wells has been consistent in saying then, and now, that the work was the result of a “miscommunication” between the City and the developer.
Since then, the City has said, on more than one occasion, that there is no plan to sell any portion of the park, there is no rezoning application, there is no development permit.
Yet, the developer held an open house late last fall, outlining the details of what he hoped to build .
The Support group says there has been no remediation of the park, which saw trees downed, earth upturned, and patches cleared. Wells says the site was reviewed and it was determined the best solution would be to let the area grow in naturally.
The Support group called on Council to impose Section 30 under the Community Charter, which allows a municipality to dedicate a piece of property through bylaw. It would take 2/3 of council to support such a move.
Council Garth Frizzell met with the group recently and said he hadn’t known about Section 30 before. He was not prepared to make such a request of Administration saying he needed to have more information.
In order to make the move, a survey of the property would likely need to be done, a bylaw drawn up, and a presentation to Council made at which 2/3 would have to vote in favour for it to be approved. No one from the City or Council could recall that process ever having been used in the past in Prince George.
Manager of Planning and Development Ian Wells says the City has already been directed that there will be no disbursement of any lands within North College Park saying there are geo technical concerns as well as riparian habitat concerns.
” I don’t think there is much more that can be said about the development” said Councillor Jillian Merrick she says her understanding of Section 30 is that it is a long term tool to protect something in perpetuity, and not a “club to react to a bad development decision.”
Councillors said they could not support making a move to Section 30 but all expressed appreciation for the efforts by the Support Group “In short, you’ve been heard” said Councillor Garth Frizzell “Your message has gotten through”.
To ensure that everyone in attendance understood Council’s reaction to the request, Council voted against asking Administration to create a bylaw under section 30 that would make North College Park a “dedicated Park”.
Ian Wells says Parks staff will be asked to look at the site once the snow has melted to see if there is remedial action that needs to be done from a safety perspective.