Mi'kmaq Confederacy building plans get mixed reviews at public meeting

Charlottetown residents got their first chance to speak up about a proposed development near the city's waterfront: a new, three-storey Mi’kmaq Confederacy building.

Some area residents oppose the project, saying building is too large

Some local residents complained at the meeting the proposed building is not a good fit for the neighbourhood. (CBC)

Charlottetown residents got their first chance to speak up about a proposed development near the city's waterfront: a new, three-storey Mi'kmaq Confederacy building.

The building, to be constructed at 8 Stan MacPherson Way, would be an Aboriginal Friendship Centre, a cultural hub for on and off-reserve members of the Abegweit and Lennox Island First Nations on P.E.I. In addition to space for the Mi'kmaq Confederacy, there would be office space for rent and a car rental service.

Car rental component causing delay

But before the Mi'kmaq Confederacy can move forward, the city must approve a zoning change in order to allow the car rental service. That application has been submitted to council, and at a public meeting Tuesday night there was a chance for residents like Malcolm Lodge to have their say on the proposed plans.

Area resident Malcolm Lodge says the character of the proposed building is out of context with the residential nature of the community. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"Generally speaking, there's very little support for this sort of development on the waterfront," said Lodge. 

The Charlottetown resident said he's lived in the area for decades, and worries that the building as proposed is too large and will stand-out from existing homes and structures.

"People appreciate driving into a port city that they see the water, that they have a view of things that belong around a waterfront, like ships and boats and wharves, and putting up a 40-foot-high wall along that street blocks that off."

'Excited and hopeful'

Mi'kmaq Confederacy executive director Don MacKenzie said his team has worked hard to come up with a design that is in keeping with natural materials, such as Island stone and cedar, adding it is still early in the process.

Don MacKenzie, executive director of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy, is hopeful the application to rezone the property will be approved. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"If it goes forward, there will certainly be community engagement of the Mi'kmaq people for their feedback and input, and once we've undertaken that step, if we get approval, we're looking forward to this project hopefully moving forward."

MacKenzie said a rejection of the rezoning application likely won't stop the project. 

"We would take it back to the First Nation governments and community members if the car rental facility was not approved, and they would examine about moving ahead regardless."

The information presented at Tuesday evening's meeting will be brought to the city's planning board for a decision on the rezoning application. That decision will be made public at the next Charlottetown council meeting, scheduled for August 8.

The Charlottetown Harbour Authority has already signed a deal with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy for the sale of the property.