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City looks at rezoning Zoo land for possible seniors housing

Flin Flon’s city council is looking at rezoning the Joe Brain Petting Zoo area to allow for seniors’ housing to be built at the site.

Flin Flon’s city council is looking at rezoning the Joe Brain Petting Zoo area to allow for seniors’ housing to be built at the site.

The City gave first reading to a pair of bylaws that would reclassify the northern portion of Willowvale Park - the area occupied by the zoo. The first bylaw would call for an amendment to the City’s development plan to relist the area from “park and recreation” to “residential”, while the second one would call for an amendment of the area from “PR” - parks and recreation - to “R3” - a multiple family dwelling zone.

Mayor Cal Huntley confirmed the bylaws covered the zoo area, saying that the reason for the change is that the City has received overtures to possibly use the zoo area as a location for seniors’ housing.

“That's part of our investment-ready process right now. We have some tentative interest in that property and we want to make sure that, if it comes to fruition, that the land is available to do the development,” Huntley said.

“If it doesn’t come to fruition, we can certainly go back to where we were at, but we’re hopeful that we can get some seniors’ housing in the community in the very near future.”

Huntley added that a review of operations at the zoo, including whether it will reopen, will be subject to review by the City.

“Whatever we decide to do, it’ll be a review of what we had in place and what makes sense going forward,” said the mayor.

“Over the past few years, when we did operate the zoo, there’s been some real challenges with regards to accessibility to animals, storing animals in the winter time, things like that. I think, if we have to move the zoo, we would have to review what kind of zoo we have.”

The zoo was closed for this summer and reopened as a dog park, with City officials citing possible concerns over construction at the proposed site of a Flin Flon Aqua Centre replacement elsewhere in the park causing upset to animals. Weeks after the closure was first made public, the City announced that the proposed site of the Aqua Centre replacement had changed, moving to the former pool site on Oak Avenue, about 300 metres away, and that construction would not likely take place this summer. The former Aqua Centre site had been discussed by councillor as a possible location for seniors’ housing after the former pool building was closed and demolished in 2020.

During the City’s release of an online investment portal with officials from Creighton and Denare Beach earlier this year, seven locations were listed as “immediate development areas”, including Main Street, part of the Hudbay compound and several areas near the perimeter highway. The zoo area was not one of the seven areas listed.

Seniors’ housing has been a top priority for city council this term, with the City having received funding through Manitoba Housing that it had originally earmarked for a seniors’ housing facility - when informed that the funding was not able to be put toward such a project, the City then created its current homebuyers’ assistance program. Multiple surveys into community seniors housing needs have been organized, but no construction has yet taken place.

A public meeting about both bylaws will be held at the Oct. 4 council meeting at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

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