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Proposal for North Shore manufacturing project brings concerns from residents, Indian Band

August 23, 2021   The Canadian Press

A proposal to rezone a former North Shore school property for industrial use as a new manufacturing company has met some resistance by the neighbourhood and the resident First Nation.

Valid Manufacturing is seeking to change the Official Community Plan designation from institutional to industrial at the old School District No. 8 office site on Johnstone Road, and the zoning designation from institutional to a proposed new M7-industrial high tech zone, in order to enable office space for their engineering team and parts, and assembly related to electronics.

The operation would employ around 40 people, including some of the people displaced two years ago by the closure of the Pacific Insight facility west of the city.

The proposal passed first and second reading recently at the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors level _ paving the way for a public hearing on Sept. 15 – but it does not currently have the approval of the First Nation holding aboriginal title and rights to the land.

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The referrals coordinator with the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) said the proposed activity is located within Syilx (Okanagan) Nation Territory and PIB area of interest, meaning the proposed project is subject to PIB unextinguished aboriginal title and rights.

Upon preliminary review of the project the PIB referrals coordinator indicated the proposed project was located within an area of cultural significance and “has the potential to impact PIB tmxwulaxw (lands), siw?kw (water, the lifeblood of the land) and syilx cultural heritage,” it was noted in the RDCK staff notes on the proposal.

The proposed activity could impact syilx cultural heritage, which would require a cultural heritage resource assessment (CHRA) by PIB cultural heritage technicians to determine the nature and extent of any potential impacts, the coordinator noted.

The assessment would involve in-field pedestrian surveys _ using either systematic or judgmental site sampling techniques to assess the archaeological, cultural and environmental resource potential of the study area _ and identification of the changes needed for the project.

The coordinator said without a CHRA, there was not enough information on potential impacts to syilx cultural heritage.

“Therefore, if our requirements are not fulfilled, we will have no other option but to reject the proposed project,” a letter from the band read.

The opposition to the application by PIB is the responsibility of the applicant to deal with, said RDCK chief administrative officer, Stuart Horn.

“Should there be further information or criteria that needs to be met, the applicant will have to work with PIB to address any concerns,” he said.

Concerns of North Shore community members surrounding the subject property arose during an RDCK referral period with responses from 34 households, and a letter of community opposition signed by 139 people – 31 of which had already provided referral responses.

Residents cited a change to the rural character of the area and an increase in traffic as the major problems.

An RDCK staff report said the proposed zoning change would not intensify the site in regards to traffic any more than it has experienced as a school or a school board office.

“All operations would be contained within the existing building and the number of vehicle trips per day would be very similar,” the report read.

Creating a new zone that permits only manufacturing of parts and assembly related to electronics is considered the best way to accommodate the needs of the proponent, the RDCK staff report stated, while not granting unwanted uses that were of particular concern to the residents of the area.

Green considerations

With the property used as a greenspace where people can gather and recreate, the move from public to private property was a concern to neighbourhood residents.

Public access would be restricted to the property no matter the zoning.

“In recognition of the loss that the community has experienced, the proponent may wish to donate a part of the property for community use,” an RDCK staff report explained.

This would require a land donation or access easement and the interest of a non-profit society that is willing to take on stewardship of the land.

As well, keeping a pedestrian walkway that runs through the property was deemed “important for connectivity and walkability.”

Road concerns

The narrow nature of the road leading to the operation site was a concern, as was the lack of a shoulder on the side of the road.

“The community feels that there is no further capacity for traffic, particularly truck traffic,” the RDCK report stated. “Several residents complained that the Pulpit Rock parking facility already creates too much traffic and that the road is in poor condition.”

A Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure response to the concern underscored the need for a commercial access permit by Valid should the use change.

Future use of the property

The many uses enabled under the M1 zone in a rural residential setting were deemed unwelcome by the residents of the neighbourhood.

A public meeting hosted by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce (May 20) aired that issue, which prompted Valid Manufacturing to revise its application. Instead, Valid wished to create a zone (M7) that allowed only manufacturing of parts and assembly related to electronics and offices as a permitted use.

The M7 zone would limit future use, an RDCK staff report noted, which was a desirable situation.

“While the long term proposal may have merit, it is still unknown how this degree of intensity could fit in an area that is restricted to on-site septic servicing and the capacity of the North Shore Water Utility,” the report read.

Country living

Several residents expressed a concern that the proposal could change the quiet rural residential feel of the North Shore community, but an RDCK staff report found the proposal to have the same impact as the former school and school board office.

“At this time the applicant has not proposed any changes to the property other than interior renovations and minor aesthetic improvements to the building,” the report stated.

A future building permit application would trigger a development permit, allowing the RDCK to set requirements for screening and landscaping, including operational guidelines, hours of operation, noise restrictions, sign requirements and siting of proposed operations to mitigate the effect on local properties.
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By Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, THE NELSON DAILY