British Columbia

Emotions flare at public meeting for proposed bus garage in Prince George

Over 250 people turned out for a heated public meeting about rezoning land near a popular walking trail in Prince George for a B.C. Transit bus maintenance and storage facility.

Controversial plan would rezone green space for B.C. Transit maintenance and storage site

Community organizer Susanne Williamson warned voters 'wouldn't forget,' if city councillors voted to rezone green space for a bus maintenance site. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Over 250 people packed a heated public meeting Thursday night to discuss rezoning a popular green space to accommodate a bus maintenance and storage site in Prince George.

Boos and cheers rang out over the course of a question-and-answer session in which residents repeatedly asked why the facility is not being put on existing industrial land.

A bus maintenance site could be built near a popular walking trail on the corner of 18th Avenue and Foothills Boulevard in Prince George. Opponents say fumes and noise will spoil the area's appeal. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"We should not be taking over more greenbelt," said Ken White, the first member of the public to speak.

He then asked what had been done to try and acquire industrial land near the city's downtown.

"Anytime we're involved in real estate, buying or selling property, we do not discuss other people's property," replied city planning manager Ian Wells. 

At this point in time, there is no plan B or C- B.C. Transit project manager Levi Timmermans

"We will not be discussing other sites, [we're] here to gather input regarding this property at hand," he concluded as the crowd erupted into boos and yells.

A member of the public started yelling after a B.C. Transit spokesperson said they were not considering any other locations for a new transit maintenance facility in Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Michelle Gaudet directed her question to B.C. Transit project manager Levi Timmermans.

"Should this area not be appropriate for a variety and long list of reasons, what are the other places that are considered [for the project]?" she asked.

"At this point in time, there is no plan B or C," responded Timmermans .

"Maybe let's talk about creating plan B and C," Gaudet replied.

The maintenance yard is proposed for a green space located west of a popular walking trail. City staff say the trail will be preserved regardless of what happens to the land around it.

"Plan B ... if this didn't go forward, is we probably would not be able to proceed with a transit facility at this time," said Timmermans, prompting a member of the audience to start yelling.

"You dragged us all in here and you're saying you picked one site? You've done analysis for one site?" the man exclaimed.

Listen to emotions flare at Thursday's public meeting.

After the meeting Timmermans said if the proposed rezoning is rejected, he would try to find another plan, but deadlines are looming.

The federal government has offered $9.5 million in grant money for the $23 million project but only if it's complete by March 31, 2019.

There will be significant repercussions for council members who wish to be re-elected- Susanne Williamson

"You need time to design, get your approvals, actually construct the facility," Timmermans said.

"You're starting to pinch timelines if we have to go to plan B."

B.C. Transit project manager Levi Timmermans (left) and spokesperson Jonathan Dyck were peppered with questions about other potential facility sites at the end of Thursday's public meeting. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Only one person spoke publicly in favour of the plan: bus driver Ralph Tyler said he thought the new location was "great" to a chorus of boos.

"Probably three-quarters of these people drive their cars," he said.

"They have no idea what transit is or where it goes."

Tyler said he was in favour of the new site, because the central location would make it more secure and easier to access than the current facility on the outskirts of town.

Ralph Tyler has driven a bus in Prince George for 13 years. He said he's in favour of a new location for storage as way to reduce time spent driving to and from the current facility, which is not along any bus routes. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It'll be easily accessible to all the drivers, mechanics ... there's no houses around the area." 

He was, however, the lone voice of public approval in a series of speakers upset by the proposal.

Susanne Williamson, who has organized a Facebook group and online petition against the plan, said B.C. Transit should work with the public to find a different location, if they want the project to proceed.

"This public pressure is only building," she said.

"There will be significant repercussions for council members who wish to be re-elected."

Public comment on the rezoning is open until May 18, with city council expected to vote on the decision in June.

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Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at You can also send encrypted messages using Signal or iMessage to 250.552.2058.