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Proposed office building in Prince George facing city hall roadblock

City of Prince George staff are recommending council reject a proposed office development that would bring 80 jobs to the city, because it isn’t located downtown.

City staff are recommending council defeat a proposed development variance permit for a new 21,170 sq. foot office building at 700 Kinsmen Pl.

The site is currently a vacant lot at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Stuart Drive, next to the offices of Skyline Dental and TC Energy. In a letter to the city dated May 30, Prince George-based developer Rod McLeod said the proposed development is to house the offices of a major tenant which has other offices in B.C. and is looking for “representation in the North.”

“Although we are in a confidentiality agreement with the tenant, there is a lease agreement in place if the variance is approved,” McLeod wrote. “This is a great, long-term and reliable tenant for Prince George which would employ approximately 80 employees and provide reliable tax revenue to the City of Prince George.”

If city council approves the variance on Monday, McLeod said the tenant has agreed to a 10-year lease for the building, which would accommodate 80 workers and have 68 parking stalls. The 700 Kinsmen Pl. location is the tenant’s preferred site, and if council doesn’t approve the variance the tenant would “be required to consider other options,” McLeod wrote.

“The tenant has done a thorough search of all properties in the city which would be suitable for their office,” McLeod wrote. “There are no sites in the downtown area that meet the size required for their building and parking demands.”

Local architectural, geotechnical and civil engineering companies have been employed in preparing the proposal, he added, and local trades and suppliers would be involved in construction. The site has a concrete foundation of a former racquetball court and gravel parking area on it currently.

“700 Kinsmen has been vacant for many years and a number of inquiries for the site have not been suitable given the restrictions of the C4 zoning,” McLeod wrote.

In a report to city council dated June 1, city director of planning and development Deanna Wasnik recommends city council deny the development variance permit.

The property is currently zoned C4: Local Commercial, Wasnik wrote. Under the zoning, the maximum floor area allowed for office use is 560 sq. metres (6,028 sq. feet), and the maximum allowable floor area for any a single office tenancy is 280 sq. metres (3.014 sq. feet).

McLeod is looking to vary both those requirements to 1,967 sq. metres.

“Administration does not support the applicant’s proposed variances, as the proposed increase is not consistent with the C4 zoning regulations intended to encourage office uses downtown,” Wasnik wrote. “The proposed variance will set precedent for larger office tenants to sprawl outside of the downtown.”

The proposed variance is a significant increase, relative to the other commercial and residential uses in the area, she wrote.

In January 2013, city council approved a variance for the Skyline Dental building at 760 Kinsmen Pl. to increase the maximum floor area for a single office tenant from 280 sq. metres to 488.47 sq. meters (5,258 sq. feet). City staff also recommended rejecting that variance, Wasnik wrote.

The proposal is also contrary to the goals set out in the city’s official community plan, she added.

“The (official community plan) aims to maintain downtown as the central business district and primary location for offices… OCP Policy further recommends restricting offices outside of the downtown to professional services only where nearby access is important, such as insurance, banks, medical and dental offices…” Wasnik wrote. “To ensure that office uses are primarily located downtown, the Zoning Bylaw restricts the maximum gross leasable floor area in one tenancy and the maximum combined gross leasable floor area on a site in all commercial zones outside of the C1: Downtown zone.”