MOST PUBLIC HEARINGS for proposed land use rezonings at the City of Kamloops proceed with little notice or concern of the public. It takes a matter of controversy and concern to bring out more than a half dozen people.
In the end, City Council approved both rezonings, but not before 3 ½ hours of public input, including vocal opposition to both proposals.
One of the rezonings was to change the zoning of an existing commercial building at the corner of 1st Avenue and West St Paul Street to allow a veterinary clinic or medical offices. The building, which had originally been a house, has been used for professional offices such as engineers and surveyors since the 1970’s.
If I recall correctly, when this building was converted from a house to offices in the 1970s, there was opposition then, too.
The second rezoning, at the top of 9th Avenue, at the intersection with McMurdo, was to change the existing zoning from multi-family residential for up to 30 units, to multi-family residential of up to 10 units, plus a child care for about 110 infants, toddlers, and after-school care.
The parcel is currently bare land. It is wedged between a City water reservoir to the north, the Highway 1 bypass and adjacent berm to the south, 9th Avenue to the east, and the backyards of houses to the west.
I can think of worse things to build in a neighborhood than maintaining a heritage building, but changing an office currently used by engineers, lawyers and accountants to having cats and dogs, and their owners show up.
Or building a child care centre. Kamloops is desperately short of child care spaces, with some centres having waitlists of 200 children or more.
But for both proposals, there was opposition.
In the case of the proposed veterinary clinic/medical offices, about six neighbors who spoke at rezoning opposed the change.
They cited additional traffic on 1st Avenue, more traffic along the back alley, problems of people driving too quickly on 1st Avenue, and resulting reduced pedestrian safety. There were concerns about poor maintenance of the alley adjacent to staff parking, inadequate snow clearing. And there was concern that dogs coming to the clinic might bark excessively or be left outside.
At least one person argued that the steepness of 1st Avenue caused too many problems, such as difficulty driving up it in the snow, people driving too fast.
Although there were six or more speaking in support of the child care centre, there were also about six to 10 people from the Sagebrush neighborhood speaking in opposition.
What was interesting was that the arguments given in opposition to the child care centre were how similar they were to those against the vet clinic.
Both sites are on steep hills, and concerns were raised for both about clients driving on the steep streets when they were snowy. For both rezonings, concerns about snow clearing were raised. There were concerns about inadequate parking, and increased traffic to the neighborhood.
Parking and traffic, along with road maintenance and pedestrian safety, are the perennial concerns at many rezonings.
But they are symptomatic of bigger concerns. Our city is designed to accommodate vehicles. All too often, Kamloops has been designed for vehicles instead of people.
As much as I appreciate the opposition’s concerns for these two rezonings, they are ignoring that every time we build more services at the edge of town, more people have to drive.
Having a vet clinic in the centre of town allows people who live in the downtown, especially the West End where it is located, allows people needing a vet not have to drive. Building a child care centre in the Sagebrush neighborhood allows families in that neighborhood to have care for their children close to where they live, reducing car trips.
Road maintenance, snow removal and pedestrian safety are concerns. But they were concerns before these rezonings. The City can and should do more on all these issues.
Changes to neighborhoods can be stressful.
The people who spoke out in opposition to the veterinary clinic and child care centre may not feel that their voices matter.
But along with these individual land-use changes, I hope that City council heard the message: Kamloops’ neighborhoods need to be for people, not vehicles.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.