Stymied in its efforts to promote an affordable housing project on city-owned property, Parksville council voted to sweeten the pot during its regular meeting on Feb. 19.
Council unanimously approved a motion, brought by Coun. Kirk Oates during new business period, to direct staff to create a zoning bylaw amendment for a group of city-owned lots on Jensen Avenue, located between city hall and the Parksville Volunteer Fire Department station on the corner of the Alberni Highway.
“I think it’s important that if there are any barriers to people wanting to build on that land — and current zoning might be one — that this barrier be removed,” said Oates.
The city, following a motion made by Coun. Kim Burden last fall, issued a request for proposals (RFP) for consulting services on a public consultation to get input on residents’ preferred use of the contiguous city lots on Jensen.
The city set a budget of $50,000 for the consultation, but a report at council’s Feb. 5 meeting by Keeva Kehler, director of administrative services, indicated all six respondents to the RFP came in over that figure. The lowest bidder, she said, offered a base fee of $53,000, but requested nearly $12,000 more for an option with detailed market assessments, highest and best use analysis and a presentation to council of the reports.
The bid also assumed the city would absorb the cost of meeting facilities, refreshments, advertising, printed materials and website updates, which Kehler estimated would tack on another $5,000.
“This would also need heavy involvement by staff,” Kehler added.
“I’m disappointed the responses were as they were,” Coun. Burden said at the Feb. 5 meeting. “I still think we need to do something with this property; affordable housing is needed for people who want to work in the community.”
Burden was absent from the Feb. 19 meeting, but Oates picked up the ball and lobbied for a zoning bylaw amendment to replace the RS-1 (single-family residential) zoning designation of the properties. His motion also called for rejection of the bids received by the city and shared during the previous meeting on Feb. 5.
“Early in our term, we sat down and identified things we wanted to accomplish as a council,” said Oates. “One was wetlands, and we’ve purchased the Ermineskin lands. The other was the Jensen properties.
“These lands have been vacant for many years; I would make a motion that staff create a rezoning bylaw that envisions the use of the city’s OCP (official community plan), and that would enable a prospetive buyer to plan a project there.”
Kehler’s Feb. 5 report to council noted the bids were based on input for the use of six of the eight contiguous lots on Jensen Avenue. Two of the lots, 106 and 110 Jensen Ave. W., were purchased under a parking reserve fund expenditure bylaw for off-street parking. Should the city wish dispose of or repurpose the two lots, it would be required to repay the money, with interest, to the parking reserve fund.