Last night city council gave first and second reading to a bylaw and community plan amendment that could bring a maximum of 3,000 workers to multiple work camps at the city-owned Skeena Industrial Development Park located just south of the Northwest Regional Airport.
The bylaw will allow a Prince George-based company called Falcon Camp Services to set up worker housing units on industrial park land it is leasing from the Kitselas Development Corporation, who last month purchased of 66 acres from the city, 20 of which they have now leased to Falcon.
The amendments alter the official community plan and several stipulations relating to the original heavy industrial zoning to allow for lodging on what was originally intended to contain only industry.
Falcon Camp plans to build a 200-400 person camp for workers on the Pacific Trails Pipeline that would carry natural gas to the planned Kitimat LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant at Kitimat.
This first camp will be fully operational by June 30 and Pacific Trails has said they could need space for up to 1,500 to 3,000 workers at peak production and are negotiating the purchase of more land from the Kitselas for a second camp.
Contained within the new bylaw are conditions for fees to be paid to the city if there are more than 500 people staying on the site. The fees start at $500 per person for numbers of workers above that 500 mark and the cost rises incrementally to a maximum of $1,000 per sleeping unit.
Any extra money levied through these fees will go towards an affordable housing fund.
Mayor David Pernarowski said that work camps will only be located on the Kitselas-owned land and that council would not allow another work camp outside of this area.
“We feel that the camps that we are designating…on the Kitselas Development Corps. is adequate to accommodate,” said Pernarowski.
Councillor Marylin Davies was the only council member to vote against the first reading of the amendmants because she said rezoning the industrial lands went against the original vision that the city had for the land with long term industrial development in mind.
Councillor Brian Downie had some concern about the long time frame of the amendment as it will allow work camps in the industrial park for 20 years.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood said he would only support the amendment with the assurance contained in covenant that the time limit would be set as well as the location of camps to only the industrial park lands strictly followed.
“I worry about the precedent-setting nature of this bylaw,” said Bidgood.
Before the changes are adopted, the amendments of the official community plan and zoning bylaw still need to go to public hearing, city planner David Block told council.
Kitimat LNG does have environmental and regulatory approvals to start construction but an investment decision by its owners has yet to be made although one is expected later this year.
Apache, an equal owner with Chevron of Kitimat LNG and the pipeline has, however, said it wants to sell some of its ownership position because of engineering and design costs which this year could cost it $1 billion even without an investment decision being made.
Estimates range to more than $6 billion to build the pipeline and LNG plant with the pipeline coming in at $1.5 billion of that amount. The Kitimat LNG plant could export as much as five million tonnes of LNG a year.
Earlier this month, a proposal surfaced by the PTI Group of Edmonton that could see it also build worker accommodation within the regional district boundaries. It would be on land located on the right hand side of Hwy37 South if traveling south to Kitimat leading toward the intersection of the highway and Churchill Drive.
Block said that the bylaw amendmants he recommended to council were based on those drafted by Kitimat council for camps within its boundaries.