The owners of property at the top of Lanfear Hill are making a renewed attempt at securing approval for a commercial development in addition to two residential projects.
A first attempt last year by a Vancouver-based numbered company was stalled after objections from neighbourhood residents about increased traffic arising from commercial development at the intersection of Thomas and McConnell at the top of the hill.
This time the developer wants to continue with plans for two multi-unit residential projects on two separate lots but has a new zoning proposal for a third parcel, .2 hectares at the intersection proper. The zoning being sought would permit a restaurant or retail store, for example, but not a gas bar, neighbourhood pub, offices or recreation facilities.
“The applicant has also offered to register a restrictive covenant on the property that would not permit a drive-thru style restaurant,” a memo to council from city planners indicated.
The renewed attempt by the developer comes as council continues to grapple with erosion problems on Lanfear Hill itself that are now sufficient to close off the hill to cyclists and pedestrians. Last month council elected to spend a projected $360,000 on a temporary fix it acknowledges would last up to five years.
Last year’s bid for approval did make it to the public hearing stage but given the weight of neighbourhood objections, council decided to suspend the hearing. It also asked the property owner to undertake a traffic impact study.
That study has now been presented to the city with its authors calling the McConnell and Thomas T-intersection “failing for eastbound McConnell Ave. traffic approaching the intersection and that sightlines south on Thomas St. do not meet current standards,” states minutes of a council committee of the whole meeting.
There are further complications because of the Cooper Ave. exit and entry on the other side of Thomas from McConnell.
The study does suggest ways to improve traffic flow to support the developer’s proposals, chiefly by providing for access from McConnell to the proposed commercial development and the two residential parcels.
Separate from the traffic study, however, city staffers have determined the best solution to handling traffic at the intersection now and into the future would be to build a roundabout, a project that would require purchasing property bordering the current intersection.
“If the zoning amendment is adopted and development is proposed through a development permit and a roundabout has not already been constructed by the city, the development would likely be required to complete another traffic impact study specific to the proposed commercial use,” reads the committee of the whole minutes.
“Without improvements to the intersection commercial development is unable to happen at this location as it would cause significant traffic problems.”
The traffic study commissioned by the property developers further advances the prospect of building a roundabout.
“Given ….. the proximity of the McConnell Ave. and Cooper Drive intersections on Thomas Street, the City of Terrace should consider planning a roundabout to replace the two intersections,” it reads.
“A roundabout would reduce the delays experienced by the eastbound movement on McConnell Ave. and alleviate the safety concerns related to the intersection’s alignment and lack of available sight distances.”
City staff are not recommending that financial contributions toward future road improvements be required as part of the rezoning process, indicates city development services director David Block.
But a commercial development will require a development permit and a “condition could be that the developer is required to construct improvements, possibly a roundabout, in order to obtain the necessary development permit and building permits,” he said.
Aside from a commercial development, the developers wish to build 32 semi-detached homes on one of the other parcels and 26 townhouses on the other parcel.
The entire property of 2.13 ha. contains some of the last remaining open views on that part of the bench of the Skeena Valley.
For years it was the home of Mamie and Fred Kerby, known locally for their contributions to preserving area history with Heritage Park being a project.
The property was sold in 2014 as interest in a liquefied natural gas industry in the region grew. Reports indicated the selling price was not far of the asking price of $1.5 million.