Rezoning of Onni's Steveston development approved

The final adoption of Onni’s development on Steveston’s waterfront passed at Monday's council meeting, but not without criticism from four councillors.

Onni Group agreed to pay $5.5 million to the city in exchange for rezoning six commercial buildings on the waterfront, that were originally supposed to be for marine mixed use. The money was earmarked for Steveston Community Centre.

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The rezoning between Phoenix Pond and No. 1 Road passed with Couns. Carol Day, Harold Steves, Kelly Greene and Michael Wolfe voting in opposition.

Coun. Carol Day opposed the rezoning, saying Onni has “a history of broken promises,” saying they’d work with Steveston Hardware, Steveston Seafood House and provide free underground parking but those things didn’t materialize.

Day said she doesn’t want to give Onni “a by” on the rezoning because the mixed maritime use zoning was supposed to enhance the fishing village. In addition, there weren’t any community amenities like daycare space or affordable housing as part of the development.

“I think we’re selling ourselves short,” Day said, adding “the right thing to do is to say no to this and let’s go back to the drawing board and get what we really deserve out of Onni, which is true community amenities.”

Mayor Malcom Brodie pointed out, though, the city didn’t get any daycare space or affordable housing because council didn’t ask for it.

According to city staff, there will be two-hour free parking with validation from the merchants, and pay parking rates that are in line with other rates.

Coun. Kelly Greene called the new zoning a “travesty,” pointing out the mixed maritime use was supposed to be the city’s compensation for the development. She said it disturbs her that Steveston businesses are closing, and she hears locals saying the soul of the village is dying and soon it will be like any other place.

“I think approving this is just one giant nail in the coffin,” Greene said.

The zoning amendments that passed added several types of use to the six buildings - health service, hotel, recreation, restaurant, retail and financial service - and removed boarding and lodging, community care facility and home business.

The old wording restricted uses to “maritime and commercial fishing related,” but this was removed.

Steves said he would have supported a marine hotel, not a high-end hotel, adding that boaters pass by Steveston because there are no facilities, like showers, encouraging them to visit.

He added the area doesn’t need more retail competition as existing stores are closing in Steveston.

Brodie pointed out council first negotiated with BC Packers, not Onni, and they drew up a hard bargain. Council didn’t ask for amenities, and that’s why the city didn’t get affordable housing or daycare space.

He added that the worst part of the plan was when “council of the day” approved residential above the mixed maritime zoning.

“What kind of industry are you going to get with residential above – it’s just designed not to work,” Brodie said.

Brodie said the development took a year off his life, but he also pointed out that council didn’t approve many of the things that Onni brought to the table.

“Onni has been hard-nosed to deal with,” Brodie said. “There’s no law against being hard-nosed to deal with.”

He added if there’s future rezoning, council can then ask for amenities at that time.

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