Two opposing groups were at the last council meeting to discuss the proposed smokehouse at the Community Garden.
As part of the Stepping Stones project, Houston Link to Learning wants to build a smokehouse at the Community Garden, but a group of residents on Copeland Avenue North wrote a letter to council and presented a petition signed by 23 residents, opposing the proposed smokehouse.
Both groups were at council last Tuesday to express their views, and neighbourhood residents spoke first.
Henry Delege, resident representative, said the main smokehouse concern is bears.
“We have quite a lot of wildlife in our neighbourhood and one of the biggest concerns is bears,” Delege said.
He said that over the last few years, RCMP had to destroy bears in that area, because the Fish and Wildlife Branch did not have resources to relocate them.
“If we do build a smokehouse in our area, it’s just going to attract more bears,” he said.
Delege said another concern is speeding.
“One of the reasons I bought a house where I live is because it’s a very quiet part of the neighbourhood. It’s almost like being out of town, and being in town at the same time,” he said.
Delege said that with developments at the Community Garden, such as the wailing wall and the proposed smokehouse, traffic is increasing in the area and people are not obeying traffic rules and abiding by the 30 km/hr speed limit.
A third concern is limited parking and Delege says people are ignoring ‘no parking signs,’ and the streets are filled with vehicles.
“It’s not that we’re against the idea, it’s just that we don’t think our part of town is suited for this kind of an activity,” Delege said.
The final concern from residents was raised in their letter to council which said, “The last thing is the mess at the community garden, the mess from the wailing wall, the crates piled up not being used.
“The garden shed is an eye sore to look at, and we work hard to keep our lawns and property respectful.
“The compost always has a mess around it.
“Our property value has gone down because of the eye sore Community Garden,” said the letter signed as from the neighbours of North Copeland Ave.
Marian Ells, Operations Manager of the Houston Link to Learning, spoke to council next about the questions raised.
Ells said the Community Garden has been part of the Houston Link to Learning programming for over 12 years, and they want to expand their programs with the Stepping Stones project.
Ells said the issue of speeding is a concern for Link to Learning staff and participants.
She said that of the three staff who use the garden, one uses a vehicle, and of the 40 or so Community Garden participants, 60% do not own vehicles, but walk to the garden with their children.
“We’re extremely concerned about these speeders as well. It’s dangerous to our participants and the residents,” she said, adding that maybe they could all join together to get the licence plates of anyone they see speeding.
In regards to parking, Ells said it was brought up before by residents, and garden staff heard the concerns of residents and no longer park there.
It’s a policy that staff and members not park along 3rd Street, and staff actively move anybody from the garden who they see parking there, said Ells.
“We’ve complied in the most respectful manner that we know,” she said.
About the wailing wall and increased traffic, Ells said they had one event, the Rock Party, that drew a lot of people, but since then, the wall has not attracted any more traffic to the neighbourhood.
Ells said that with the smokehouse proposal, she understands the concerns from residents.
She says that they will have someone at the smokehouse at all times when it is running, they will have a guard and are looking for someone with a dog to do that.
They will be cold smoking (less smoke), and after each use they will burn and scrape all the residue from the smokehouse so that it will leave no scent of fish, Ells said.
Ells says that the Wet’suwet’en people have been smoking fish for centuries and keeping bears away, and the garden staff can use the knowledge from them to do the same.
Finally, in response to concerns about the mess of the Community Garden, Ells said they were shocked to hear that.
“Staff, participants and volunteers have worked tirelessly to help us make a beautiful space and up until now we’ve had nothing but positive comments about how beautiful the garden is,” she said.
“Our program has been recognized provincially and across Canada and at any time we could get hundreds of signatures from community members in support of the garden.”
Comments about lowered property value are totally unfounded, Ells said, adding that one resident reported that somebody offered to buy their house because it backs onto such a beautiful spot.
“I would advise any residents who have any concerns about the smokehouse, and mayor and council, to drop into the garden, and have a chat with us. It really is a beautiful space, and our staff would be more than happy to talk,” Ells said.
Mayor Bill Holmberg thanked both parties for coming to council.
“There’s been no decisions made on this proposal at this point,” said Holmberg.
People should check online council agendas for when the decision will be made, he said, and Houston CAO Linda Poznikoff says the decision will be made next meeting, August 20.