Campbell River City hall control freaks at it again

Mayor had trouble with two paragraphs city staff inserted into the recommended motion

A positive turning point for the city turned sour at council Tuesday night as the company poised to transform downtown took exception to conditions in its building permit.

Seymour Pacific Developments and Broadstreet Properties Ltd. CEO Sean Roy was in attendance to see council approve a major development permit application for the company’s new headquarters on five lots that border Alder, Dubeau, and Beech streets, and St. Ann’s Road.

The five-storey head office is expected to be a state-of-the-art steel building with glass features that can hold at least 200 employees.

Councillors were excited to approve the construction.

“I want to say I think this is a very exciting time in the history of Campbell River,” said Coun. Claire Moglove. “It’s going to change the nature of downtown and I believe it’s going to stimulate the development of downtown.”

Coun. Larry Samson said the building will be “a major turning point for our community.”

Mayor Walter Jakeway said he was supportive of Seymour Pacific’s development permit application but had trouble with two paragraphs city staff inserted into the recommended motion.

The second paragraph of the motion allowed Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, to approve minor revisions to the development without having to go through council and the third clause gave Neufeld the authority to determine whether the colour scheme, the materials used, and the exterior illuminations are appropriate.

Those paragraphs also didn’t sit well with Roy.

“This approval would basically not give us outright approval for a development permit,” Roy said. “This has huge impacts on financing and I honestly don’t know if this is regulatory or even allowed under a development permit process so I have huge reservations. We’re talking about a development permit that has subjects in it, that’s subject to colour, materials, and illumination schemes which I’ve never seen in development permit guidelines. I sit here kind of baffled.”

Jakeway said Wednesday that it’s not the city’s place to decide the colour or style of someone else’s building, and that it’s the right of the architect.

“Who are we to tell them what their building looks like, they’re the ones paying the millions of dollars,” he said. “I think our employees need to get out of their box. That’s the role of the architect and the owner to determine what the building looks like – that’s their right.

“In a free country you should be able to do what you want, within reason and as long as it’s not hurting anybody, without city hall dictating every little detail.”

But Ross Blackwell, city land use manager, said the clauses are aimed at helping the developer and that the paragraph regarding colour is a guideline set out in the city’s new Sustainable Official Community Plan, that is designed to ensure a project fits in with the existing neighbourhood.

He said the second paragraph eliminates the need for the developer to come back to council every time a minor change is proposed in the project.

“This was primarily designed to benefit the developer by providing sufficient latitude,” Blackwell told council.

But that’s not how Seymour Pacific saw it.

“This in no way helps us,” Roy responded. “In fact, it does the complete opposite. When I have to build a building such as this that can cost upwards of $15 million, I have to obtain financing of course and when I have a development permit that still has an outstanding approval process, I’m in a really bad situation – just to let you know that.”

That prompted City Manager Andy Laidlaw to suggest council strike the third clause – regarding colour, materials, and lighting – from the motion, taking into account Roy had presented design plans to council during a delegation earlier in the meeting.

“Maybe just try a compromise on that then,” Laidlaw said. “The developer provided information tonight on the building and some details we didn’t have previously so I’m wondering if it may be an option to strike the third one in this particular case…and leave the second one so that those flexibilities can be moved forward.”

Moglove asked if eliminating the third paragraph would help.

“Yes, that would be fantastic,” Roy replied.

Council then unanimously approved the development permit application. But Jakeway said he’s concerned the city is being too controlling.

“I hope to not see those two paragraphs again,” he said. “The more it shows up, the harder I’ll fight it. The reason I ran for office is I think the city is not always moving ahead as it should. They (city staff) caused me nothing but grief when I tried to build my building.

“Nobody is going to want to come here and build when we’re restricting everything. We’ve got too many rules.”

Building specs

Seymour Pacific Developments and Broadstreet Properties Ltd. employs 250 people and is growing by the day. The Campbell River development company, which stretches across Western Canada, is planning on expanding into Ontario and needs a new, larger home base.

“We’re pretty excited to make downtown Campbell River the site of this new building,” said Sean Roy, CEO of Seymour Pacific. “It will have a pretty significant entrance just off of St.Ann’s…. It will be something pretty special, it will redefine downtown, from the way we look at it.

“It will really be state-of-the-art engineering.”

The five-storey glass building will also have an underground parkade, glass detail and a deck at the top of the building, off the executive suites.

“We’re talking about a glass building with an aluminum channel,” Roy said of the building. “As far as colour, we’re dealing with the tint of that window.”

The building will also be unique in that it will include a small sliver of parkland running along Alder Street for about 12 feet. The public space is part of a deal with the city.

“A land exchange between the city and the company, related to a lane closure in the development area, will result in an extension of the public green space from city hall along Alder Street,” said Ross Blackwell, city manager of land use.

Seymour Pacific Developments and Broadstreet Properties Ltd., are locally-owned companies with more than 25 years of experience in land development and construction.