City to conduct vote April 27
A1, Published Wednesday April 15th, 2009
By HEATHER MCLAUGHLIN
Move it to another location. Don’t build a gasoline bar. Don’t build any kind of big-box store. Put a moratorium on any further development of the University of New Brunswick woodlot.
That’s what the 38 environmental groups and opponents of big-box stores are telling city council about a proposed Costco.
Another five individuals, plus a group of citizens that signed a petition, stated their support for the development.
“This is an emotional issue for a lot of people,” said Mayor Brad Woodside after the nearly two-hour public discussion. “You have been very respectful and I appreciate that very much.”
Councillors gave first and second reading Tuesday night to a rezoning bylaw to allow a proposed Costco Wholesale store to be located at the Corbett Centre retail development on the University of New Brunswick woodlot atop Regent Street.
Much of the property needed for the store and its parking area is already within an approved zoning envelope.
But one corner at the Regent Street end of the property has to be added to the site plan for a proposed gasoline bar and that has put project developers at city hall’s steps for tweaking of its zoning.
It won’t be until April 27, when councillors vote on third reading of the zoning amendment, that the city’s verdict will be delivered.
Coun. Bruce Grandy has asked for a staff report on surface water runoff and the potential impacts on the city’s drinking water supply from the project prior to third reading.
Friends of the UNB Woodlot, the Fredericton chapter of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, UNB students and a couple of UNB professors revisited most of the same arguments that the public has heard about the development.
“Putting a gas bar next to a wetland probably isn’t a good idea,” said UNB Prof. Charlene Mayes. “It shouldn’t be about how much risk we can tolerate, but how much risk we can avoid.”
She said councillors have a golden opportunity to uphold the environmental protection goals that are stated in the city’s environmental plan.
“We need to consider whether it’s right and correct to roll out the red carpet for them by allowing them to expand their project, expand their parking lot and construct a gas bar,” said Julie Michaud of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
UNB Prof. Rick Cunjak takes his fish biology class to the Corbett Brook marsh area because the upper part of the brook is the only place where brook trout are found.
“What’s the significance of brook trout? They’re like a canary in a coal mine. They’re a very good indicator of environmental sensitivity … There’s still something right here. Let’s not mess with that,” Cunjak said.
“What’s the likelihood of a problem occurring with a gas bar? I don’t know. I would say is it worth the risk?” Cunjak said. “I would suggest not.”
Professors at UNB and St. Thomas University are working behind the scenes to try to change UNB’s approach to the woodlot plan into a more environmentally sustainable model, Cunjak said.
Wolfgang Faig, retired dean of engineering at UNB, said groups and individuals that want to revisit UNB’s plan for its woodlot had the opportunity to speak when the university prepared its woodlot plan.
“To hear that students didn’t have input is incorrect,” Faig said. “I’m a little frustrated to see now that members of the university community object while they could have objected all through the process.”
Terrain Group Inc., the engineering and site planning group hired by UNB to plan the property layout, has been working with the Environment Department on modifications to minimize intrusion on the marsh.
“Previously on the site plan, we had shown encroachment in these areas (the 30-metre buffer zone) … but the Department of Environment has prohibited any encroachment into those buffer areas,” said Scott Fash, a planner with Terrain Group Inc.
“We’ve agreed and will be putting retaining walls so that the development will no longer be encroaching.”
The gasoline bar fuel pumps have to be moved an additional 30 metres away from the buffer, he said.
“There are significant monitoring programs that are going to be required by the Department of the Environment,” Fash said.
“In terms of water supply, this wetland and the proposed gas bar is outside of the city’s wellfield protection zoning.”
In 2004, UNB adopted a land management strategy to turn half of its 1,526-hectare (3,815-acre) woodlot into future development lands. Because its land is an endowment from King George III dating back to 1800, the university can’t sell it, but can lease it.
At the time the strategy was drafted, the university held stakeholder and public talks about the proposal.
“Forcing Costco out of Fredericton would be a tremendous loss for this city and its inhabitants. I would not like to see that happen,” Faig said.
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