The District of Kitimat has given the go-ahead to a proposed Go-Kart facility at 207 Loganberry Avenue.
At their May 4 meeting Council voted unanimously to approve an amendment to their Official Community Plan which will allow the developer to build the business by adding “Recreation, Commercial” to the permitted principal uses for the subject property, currently zoned C10 Agricultural Commercial.
“I think it’d be a great asset to the community,” said Mayor Phil Germuth as he spoke in support of the amendment. “We’ve been looking for something for years that’s going to bring people from other communities to Kitimat and I have no doubt this will do that.”
Developer and Kitimat resident Paul Silvestre was also present at the meeting and spoke in support of the project, saying his hope was it would act as an accessible facility year-round to the entirety of the District which would also bring in business revenue from communities outside Kitimat.
In response to a question from Council on a timeline for completion, Silvestre said he was looking at the earliest possible date to begin construction. “I’m hoping to be complete if everything goes well [in] 9 to 12 months,” he said. Currently the proponent is looking at having opening hours of 6-11 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. on weekends.
Before beginning their official meeting agenda Council also provided a chance for public comment on the amendment. No members of the community spoke out in support or opposition to the amendment, however one letter in opposition was mailed to Council.
Councillors pointed to this lack of vocal opposition from those in the immediate area (the one letter received in opposition was from a resident with property approximately 500 metres away from the proposed development) as a reason for their support, despite at least one councillor raising issues about the potential impacts of noise from the business.
“The fact that we have directly mailed a notice to all of the lots behind them and have not heard back and the fact that none of the other lots have been sold yet, that allows me to to be able to vote in favour of this,” said Coun. Lani Gibson. “I think that anybody who may have opposition needs to bear in mind that we’re tweaking the definition of commercial to add Commercial, Recreational, we’re not actually taking something that was residential and making it commercial, and that’s a really big distinction.”
Silvestre said he did not anticipate excessive sound would be an issue outside of the facility.
“Electric carts [create] virtually no noise at all,” explained Silvestre. “You hear a hum, much the same you would an electric vehicle on the road, if you even hear it at all.”
A number of councillors expressed they were hopeful that the business would provide some welcomed economic stimulus to the area.
“As suggested by a number of people in our community I think this certainly an exciting endeavour that will do nothing but be very positive for our community,” said Coun. Terry Marleau, who added he is excited for what the development could do for the immediate area. “I think that we can have an exciting recreational facility in our community, along with the potential for some others that the proponent has suggested in the future.”
In staff’s recommendations to council they noted current principal permitted uses for the C10 zone include agricultural (including a greenhouse, nursery or stable), local retail trade, detached residence for a business operator, retail of agricultural products/supplies and veterinarian offices.
However despite voting in favour of the amendment Gibson raised concerns about the robustness of the consultation process and how the planning fits into the District’s goals at a strategic planning level to revitalize specific commercial centres within the community.
“Ideally this type of facility really in my mind should be somewhere like Nechako Centre,” she said. “What we’re trying to do in revitalizing our commercial centres is create hubs of activity where you have a draw, you have an attraction that then spurs on other business, so something like this really should have a restaurant or a brew pub or a cafe next to it.”
Gibson added that while she felt this specific development was too good to pass up that she had reservations about setting a precedent for rezoning property versus encouraging development in areas the District is hoping to bolster economically.
“I am concerned that given the projections for our population in the long term that if we continue to see people being hesitant to redevelop existing areas and if we keep rezoning then we’re going to … continue to have areas that are not very vital, like the current state of Nechako Centre.”
She said her hope for the future is that the District finds ways to encourage developers to invest in these locations, perhaps by bringing them together with land owners in these specific areas.
“I’m voting in favour of this because I know the world isn’t perfect and this is such a great proposal that I’m not going to vote no to it, but I really think we’ve got to think strategically.”