A B.C. First Nation says it will support the responsible redevelopment of Boitanio Mall in Williams Lake where more than a dozen human skeletons were unearthed in the 1970s.
In a news release Oct. 14, the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) confirmed they have reviewed the results of a membership survey conducted this summer.
“What it revealed is that our members support the concept of additional housing in Williams Lake, but are concerned that cultural resources must be dealt with properly,” said WLFN Chief Willie Sellars.
Janda Group is seeking to redevelop the second floor of the mall into a 86-unit housing complex comprised of 15 studio units, 49 one-bedroom and 22 two-bedroom units with public areas, a sunroof and amenity spaces.
If approved by Williams Lake City Council, the more than $20 million dollar project will result in the disturbance of the remaining burial site which has been capped in asphalt.
The archaeological site containing house pits (kikwillies), cache pits and large number of human burials was first disturbed more than four decades ago to make way for the construction of Boitanio Mall by Cloverlawn Developments which was completed in 1975.
Because the development predated the modern era of heritage protection under the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act, the excavation was allowed to continue, and the human remains were deposited along with other materials at another location, noted WLFN.
“There is still a great deal of sensitivity in our membership over what occurred during the 1970s,” Sellars said.
“But as we understand it, the proposed scope of excavation for the mall redevelopment relates exclusively to the upsizing of utilities, and thus the extent of the excavation should not be that significant. Provided that the developer fully complies with the requirements at law under the Heritage Conservation Act, and the construction activities are properly monitored, we support the project moving forward.”
Janda Group is anticipated to provide Williams Lake City Council with further details on the proposed redevelopment at an Oct. 20 regular council meeting after which council will determine if to approve first reading for the project.
Sellars said WLFN not only commends Janda Group for coming forward and expressing an interest to invest in the region, but for also expressing an interest with the City of Williams Lake in ensuring the development is done properly and respectfully.
“We will continue to work with both the developer and the City of Williams Lake to ensure that occurs.”