Motel future uncertain due to delays

Developer says the construction of a Motel 6 in Terrace, B.C. is contingent on approval of LNG projects

The vacant lot beside Polly’s Cafe on the 4900 Block of Keith Avenue is the location of a planned motel development.

The future of a plan to build a motel on land formerly part of the Skeena Cellulose sawmill holdings on the southside is now uncertain, says the developer.

The vacant parcel on the 4900 block of Keith beside Polly’s Cafe was purchased by Saskatchewan developer Josef Tesar in November 2014 who then approached the city last year to have it rezoned from industrial to commercial.

However, Tesar first needed to obtain a clean environmental bill of health from the provincial government and delays in receiving that halted his rezoning plans for more than a year.

Speaking last week, Tesar said he had hoped to have construction of the Motel 6 franchise well underway by now, something now contingent on the approval of liquefied natural gas and oil projects.

“The [environmental] process took over a year or we would have already had it half built,” he explained. “At the same time, the economy in Saskatchewan and Alberta has slowed down . . . and now we are waiting for some of the major projects in the area to [start] so that we can target the opening.”

Tesar had planned to develop a four-storey, 80-room Motel 6 franchise with full kitchenettes at a cost running close to $10 million.

The city held a public hearing into the rezoning request on June 27, but it stopped short of approving the change pending a request to the transportation ministry to assess the impact the development may have on traffic in the area.

The address in question was pegged a brownfield site – a former industry site requiring a land contamination review – because it housed utility and storage buildings from the Skeena Cellulose sawmill which spanned Keith Avenue.

A provincial assessment completed this February deemed the site low risk, allowing the city to proceed with rezoning, though clearance to re-develop the property is pending.

“Basically there were no environmental issues on the land,” stated Tesar. “We had some issues with the process and the paperwork.”

“The economy has all went down, we didn’t expect that,” he said.

Tesar said he won’t set a date for construction of the motel to start until he hears good news about the many proposed LNG and oil projects in the northwest.

The Motel 6 is an economy hotel aimed at attracting budget travellers, those on business trips and industry workers for extended stays.

Modelled after one Tesar owns in Moosomin, Sask., the Terrace development would have a small board room, a banquet facility and a gym, according to Tesar.

He says tenants Brinkman & Associates currently leasing the west portion of the 1.34 hectare property which contains an office building would remain while the hotel and parking lot sit along the frontage.

“But that all depends on the recent economy and the approvals of some of the projects affecting Terrace,” Tesar said.

The motel plan would fit into the city’s vision for the former mill location along the Keith Avenue corridor.

That vision, called the Keith Estates Neighbourhood Concept Plan, forecasts a combination of residential, commercial and light industrial use for the area.

That plan, conceived in 2014 at the height of activity geared toward a  liquefied natural gas industry, anticipated the need for developable land based on population growth forecasts.