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City backs away from sale of Watrous Park

A proposed seniors housing development at Watrous Park won't be going ahead.
19 Watrous Park WEB
Area resident Natalie Warren organized a petition opposing the sale of Watrous Park by the City of Prince George to developers.

A proposed seniors housing development at Watrous Park won't be going ahead.

The City of Prince George had considered selling the the park to a developer to facilitate the construction of a private, four-storey, 90-unit seniors' long-term care complex. 

"A proposal to develop a section of Watrous Park to construct a privately owned extended care facility will not be proceeding past the initial, early stages of the City’s development process," a statement released by the city on Tuesday said. "The City believes that an extended care facility is still needed within the community and so will continue to work with the developer to identify alternative sites."

That was welcome news to Natalie Warren, a resident of the area who organized a petition opposing the proposed development. Warren said her petition received roughly 1,000 signatures combined between an online petition and physical paper petition.

"It's definitely wonderful," Warren said. "I think the amount of support we got, not only from people here but in the larger Prince George area, was really amazing and unexpected. Of course, as a community, we support any kind of seniors' housing. It wasn't that, it was about parkland."

Warren, who has lived next to the park for 20 years, said the playground in the park is well-used by children and a local daycare, and the rest of the park is a favourite spot for dog walkers and lawn bowlers.

The Prince George Lawn Bowling Club has its bowling greens in the park, and earlier this year, club president Dan Gilgan said the 35 members of the club would be sad to lose the site. While the proposal would have seen a new bowling green built elsewhere in the city, it would take at least a year for the grass to be suitable for lawn bowling, Gilgan said.

"The grass we have at Watrous Park is really good grass," he said.

The city has been working with the developer for years to locate a site suitable for a long-term care home, a city's release said.

"Such a facility would ideally be located near a hospital and would include care rooms, limited medical facilities, and offices for nurses and doctors," the statement said. "The Watrous Park site was initially considered by the developer because it is City-owned land in the area of the hospital with sufficient space to allow for a facility of its size. The proposed purchase price of the land was at market value, which would offset the cost of relocating the lawn bowling green at Watrous Park as well as the playground."

Before the city sells land to an interested developer, the developer must enter a contract to conduct multiple stages of public consultation before the project can go forward to a public hearing before city council.

"More detailed estimates for site preparation were also developed, given that the site had previously served as an outdoor public swimming pool and the pool's old foundation would need to be removed," the city statement said. "The developer has since decided not to proceed with the project at Watrous Park."