About 50 people gathered along a rural country road in Ootischenia on Sunday to protest a development they don’t want in their neighbourhood.
The residents waved placards at passing cars, signed petitions, and listened to short speeches from organizers opposed to the project.
“I’m here today just to be responsible for our community and how it gets shaped for the future” said Leanne Osokin, who can see the proposed development site from her home. “We moved out here for the fact it is a quiet rural lifestyle, but close to town. We want to keep this a residential area, it’s not an industrial area.”
Osokin’s upset the developer wants to demolish a community hall on the a 4.2-hectare (10.5 acres) property at the corner of Columbia Road in Ootischenia and Highway 3, and have it rezoned from Institutional to Light Industrial. The proponent wants to build a commercial vehicle repair shop and parking lot.
The rezoning application is now before the RDCK board.
Osokin says it’s just not an appropriate development for a residential area.
“Mostly for me because I have school-aged kids, this is a bus route, kids walk along this road twice every day, and now you’re introducing more semi trucks and traffic, it doesn’t mix,” she said.
“We already see with the Fortis development down the road, an increase of truck traffic,” added Amanda Bennett. “It is going to cause issues at the intersection, and there are children on the road catching school busses every morning.”
Others pointed out that recent reports showed Ootischenia was one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in B.C. They said any development should be taking the residential character of the area into account.
They also raised concerns about possible pollution from the garage entering the aquifer, as well as light, noise and air pollution from the vehicles.
“I just want a little bit higher-level planning and coordination when it comes to intermixing residential and industrial.” said David Derosa, who’s lived in the area since he was a child, and is raising his own family here. “You have a community plan, and someone applies for a change in zoning, so there’s loopholes in it.”
Derosa thinks there are other places for such a development.
“The same thing happened in the Okanagan and they had these mixed-use conflicts. I recognize industry likes the area, the flat land, but the city has land it is sitting on,” he said. “Let us know, show us your cards and let’s talk about it.”
The protesters may get some support from the City of Castlegar. City staff said in a report to council in April that they oppose the development location, raising the issue of the project’s proximity to the local airport. They said the proponents should be contacting Nav Canada for a land use permit “to make sure the proposal does not compromise the West Kootenay Regional Airport Operations.”
But not everyone at the rally was opposed to the project. One man who didn’t want to be named said the protest was a case of NIMBY- Not In My Back yard.
“Where else do you go in Castlegar, where else do you do business?” he asked. “I don’t agree with this. This will suck for them, but I’m adjacent to a gravel pit, so I’m next to an industrial property. I see it every day.”
But everyone else at the rally opposed the development. Organizers called on the crowd to send emails, letters and make phone calls to the RDCK outlining their opposition to the rezoning. They havw until May 2 to submit their concerns, and the board will make its decision on May 16.
“We understand it will get developed, we have no problems with that,” said Osokin. “We just want it to be aligned with the community, the residential community.”