Keith Ave. land use plans coming into focus

City is seeking community input on how a large portion of the south side of Terrace should be developed

Keith Avenue Industrial Transition Area, Terrace, BC from CoT on Vimeo.

A vision of what a substantial portion of Keith Ave. stretching west of the Sande Overpass could one day look like is beginning to come into focus.

City council members last week examined a draft map containing ideas for shifting what had been property devoted to industrial use only to a mixed use for apartments or townhouses, commercial businesses, hotels, cultural institutions and green spaces.

The area in question is nearly 50 acres on the northside of the section of Keith from the overpass west to Kenney St. and 20 acres, also on the north side of Keith, from the intersection of Keith and Kenney west toward Blakeburn St.

The larger parcel, now privately-held, once held a sawmill complex and the smaller parcel contained the log storage yard for the sawmill. This smaller parcel is now owned by the city but it has a deal in the works to sell five acres to a local automotive dealership group.

City officials hired a consulting company to plan for the area’s re-development to invigorate it and to accommodate population growth based on projected large scale industrial development within the region.

Internal cross streets, a park running along the train tracks and a pedestrian overpass at Munroe Ave. are also on the map prepared by Urban Systems and shown to council members at an Aug. 6 committee of the whole meeting.

The plan is meant to be flexible and allow for mixed uses in order to respond to market demand and evolving needs, said Urban Systems planner Leighton Ginther.

Balance is also important, he said, with the presentation acknowledging that the neighbourhood is both a key industrial area and a key area to accommodate growth.

“It’s really is a guiding tool for council to make decisions in the future as this area changes,” said planner Tina Atva. “It’s a way to work with the community to come up with a vision for the area and also to build off of what you’ve already said in the existing official community plan.”

How to zone and account for an existing rail spur, one of Terrace’s last, on the northeastern end of the designated lands, will also need to be considered. And transportation planners will need to look more in depth at the internal road network for the area, existing and future traffic patterns and signage, and at how to best upgrade Keith Ave. and maintain its use as a trucking route.

The fact that it is a main trucking corridor was a cause of concern for at least one citizen who attended the meeting.

“If you don’t remain trucking friendly … you’re going to have a domino effect [ending in more expensive goods at the store],” said Mary Anne Freeman, whose husband owns LK Freeman Transport. She noted that if there isn’t a second overpass soon, there will be an accident, and she’s worried about what will happen to the truckers and trucking culture once families begin moving in to the area.

“When you start having all of these homes, [you start hearing] ‘well I don’t want a stinky old truck there’,” she said, noting that in the winter trucks need to keep their engines running, and trucks leave early in the morning. Trucks also need places to park and fuel up.

She found an ally in business owner Bruno Belanger, who reminded council of local residents who were concerned in the past about noise Canadian Freightways’ activity – light shining into their bedroom windows and trucks starting early in the morning.

“That’s all stuff to put into consideration when you are developing residential along Keith Ave.,” he said. He was also concerned about the businesses who are looking to expand in that area – and the future businesses who may want to come into town.

“We have a lot of people looking for larger pieces and if we don’t have them here, they’re looking at Thornhill,” he said. “We’re going to miss the boat. They’re not going to be looking at us as a priority.”

Lael McKeown, whose family owns Progressive Ventures and a number of properties included in the transition area, echoed those concerns.

“We are a service and supply hub. Businesses are thriving along Keith Ave. because of that,” she said. “We have to sustain that, we can’t cripple that part of our economy,”

Keith Ave. is the last area with big parcels of land for light industrial or commercial development in town, she said, and the city risks losing out on business taxes if it only focusses mostly on residential in that area.

“If you had a large commercial or retail development come into town and they said they wanted 10 acres – you can’t find 10 acres in town, you can’t hardly find five acres in town,” she said. “We really can’t anticipate how this area is going to be used. We have to be absolutely flexible but we also have to preserve this resource.”

City director of development services David Block said the plan allows for flexibility – residential above commercial, as the market dictates, for example.

“That’s why this plan doesn’t say this piece right here should be this use and only this use,” he said, noting that some of the larger parcels of land have been designated for commercial use.

The presentation from Urban Systems, the consulting firm hired to assist with the neighbourhood plan, came out of a weeklong community workshop in June that saw residents, business owners, and interested parties tour the neighbourhood and attend public meetings to provide input on what the largely unused industrial site should look like. A public commenting period is ongoing, with a survey and overview available here, with the goal of finalizing a concept plan for the neighbourhood this fall.