Emotions flare at public meeting for proposed bus garage in Prince George
Controversial plan would rezone green space for B.C. Transit maintenance and storage site
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.
"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.
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.
"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."
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.
"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.