Merritt's Forksdale development carried at Council

·5 min read

At the regular council meeting of Jan. 26, Mayor and Council gave Third Reading to an OCP and Zoning Bylaw Amendment, which will allow a development on Forksdale Ave. to take the next step in the development process.

Council gave First and Second Reading to the OCP Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw at the council meeting of Dec. 15, 2020, with the amendment that the proposed High Density Residential (R8) be replaced with Medium Density Residential (R7).

Prior to the start of the Jan. 26 council meeting a Public Hearing was held in which many letters were submitted in opposition to the development. One resident raised concerns about the suitability of the land itself for a large construction project, citing slippage and geotechnical issues.

“I strongly urge you to identify the area in question as a geotechnical area, and require submissions of geotechnical reports prior to any further development in the North Entry area for the following reasons,” reads the submitted letter.

“1. The ground in question is mostly clay composition (source: D. McArthur, North Entry OCP meeting Nov. 19, 2020),

2. There already have been problems with land slippage towards the river on at least one Spring Bank property,

3. Several homes in our strata have had foundation cracks and significant settling issues,

4. Like Parker Drive, there is a higher than usual amount of underground water flow towards the Nicola River, including observable water movement in the underground water cistern/pipes at River Ranch Rd. and Spring Bank Avenue, even during the driest/hottest of seasons,

5. There are very few storm sewers for ground water runoff throughout the developed portions of the neighbourhood, with water from rainstorms and snow melting having little egress except to create small mud flows on the sidewalk on Spring Bank Avenue (north side) and water flows over the banks to the Nicola River south of Spring Bank Avenue.”

This issue was also raised by Councillor Travis Fehr at the council meeting.

“Just to reiterate, the importance that I think a geotechnical survey represents in this area, and I know that we can’t require one of the developer, but I want to bring it up again so that the developer is aware of this discussion and how import this is in this area,” said Fehr.

“That at least is something we can do, perhaps there’s something more, I don’t know.”

Planning and Development Services Manager Don MacArthur did outline additional steps that could be taken to ensure that the development was geotechnically-sound, explaining that staff would certainly request and strongly suggest a geotechnical analysis. If they determine that such a report would be in the public’s best interest, staff may require one at subdivision stage and not approve a subdivision permit until it had been completed.

“Being that it’s a multi-family development, most multi-family developers would do it as per their normal course of construction,” said MacArthur.

“Further to that if the development does not happen in the next while, the new OCP may, depending on what council decides, may identify this as a geotechnical development permit area.”

The City’s new OCP is set to be discussed at a Committee of the Whole meeting in March and ideally adopted in the fall of this year.

Most of the opponents of the development were not so much concerned with the developing of the area itself as they were with the density of the proposed development, and the fact that it would change the ‘character’ of the neighbourhood. Some worried about increased traffic in the area, and more new students than Bench Elementary could handle.

Councillor Kurt Christopherson spoke to the difficulties that Mayor and Council faced trying to determine and approve developments that would be appropriate for Merritt.

“I know it’s tempting to want to keep things the same, that’s our comfort level, but we’re in a difficult position,” said Christopherson.

“We have way too much reliance on residential taxation, people complain about high taxes constantly, they complain about a lack of an industrial base, unemployment, taxation repercussions, we have concerns about water availability and restrictions and yet we resist higher density developments, which are more water conservative than simply having low density big yards lots of watering. We lack housing options, for all sorts of people in town that need different options, aging people. We resist growth and yet we want to make sure that our hospital serves us well and expands, we moan and groan about our city centre and all the businesses that are out of business and vacant stores, and the leakage. We complain about our aging water supply system and concerns about our sewer system and our roads and our snow removal ad our public amenities that need upkeep,” continued Christopherson. “Basically, what I’m trying to say is we need to change, we need to grow, we need to take chances or Merritt is going to die. We need to have growth, and that means coming with change and instead of complaining about doing nothing about taxes and all the rest, we need to look at some options and I think that’s what we’re doing tonight. So, it’s taking a step forward, but it’s not without its difficulties.”

Councillor Mike Bhangu was opposed to the development.

“I was elected to represent Merrittonians, that’s my job, and in this case, there seems to be overwhelming opposition form the neighbourhood and for that reason I cannot see this moving forward,” he said.

The Third Reading of the OCP Amendment Bylaw and Third Reading of the Zoning Amendment Bylaw were carried four – three with councillors Melvina White, Mike Bhangu and Adam Etchart opposed.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald