Haldi Road court ruling doesn't surprise Skakun
Haldi Road residents won a court ruling recently that overturned a Prince George city council decision which rezoned the old Haldi Road school so proponents of the project could establish a women’s treatment centre in the building.
The battle to stop the treatment centre from being established in the area tore through the neighbourhood and resonated through the city, with citizens lining up on either side of the heated issue.
The opinion of city councillors mirrored residents, and though the vote to pass the rezoning went through, it was not a unanimous decision.
Coun. Brian Skakun was one of the city’s elected officials who opposed the decision to rezone the area.
“That ruling wasn’t unexpected at all in my opinion,” Skakun said. “The research I did on the BBK Bottle Depot was similar. At the end of the public presentation when we voted on this thing I was concerned if we passed it we would face a challenge, a court challenge, and we did.”
Skakun said though compelling arguments were made by both sides he was particularly impressed with the concerted effort made by the Haldi Rd. residents, as well as the points made before council by their solicitor.
He added he felt many of the residents were chastised for their opinion, one that wasn’t warranted.
“It was so unfair some Haldi Road residents took a public beating. They just wanted to defend the integrity of their neighbourhood. They didn’t want changes. You can’t blame anybody for wanting to keep their neighbourhood the way it was. I think it’s unfortunate they had to put that money together and the amount of sleepless nights they had preparing to fight city hall – I think it was way too much.”
Skakun added the advice supplied to council by staff regarding the rezoning was off target.
“Their advice was wrong. They’re human – they make mistakes,” he said. “In my opinion an elected official can’t rely just on staff’s advice, especially for a controversial rezoning like this one. I have to do my own homework and listen to both sides. I have to research the issue and form my own opinion.
“I respected the staff’s position, but I didn’t agree with it.”
Skakun added he’s not sure what direction the treatment centre proponents will take now, but he hopes they will seek another location for the facility.
“Administration has said if it ever comes back to council there will have to be a bylaw amendment and an OCP amendment.
“In my opinion I don’t think there’s any appetite for that. This is a really controversial issue. I hope this group looks for another location. I can’t see there being any benefit in going through that battle again to put the residents and proponents through this type of stress.
“I think it’s a big waste of time. They should never have tried to get it in Haldi Road. I supported the residents in this one, and what they said and their lawyer said.”