The developer of an affordable housing project in Chemainus is frustrated that another effort is underway to scuttle the development.
The Core Group’s Robyn Kelln said the notice of motion by North Cowichan Coun. Kate Marsh, made at the council meeting on Sept. 21, to downsize the zoning at 9090 Trans Canada Highway to prevent the development of a 108-unit modular-home park on the 21.5-acre property makes no sense.
It’s expected that council will discuss the motion at the next meeting on Oct. 6.
“What is the method behind this madness?” Kelln asked.
“Why take an affordable housing project that the community needs and pummel it? The motion by Marsh to downzone the property to allow for the sale of lots of no less than two acres means that the site will only see millionaires buy properties there to build lavish homes.”
This is the second time that councillors in North Cowichan have tried to stop Kelln’s project from moving forward.
In a tight 4-3 vote in June, council voted against a recommendation by Coun. Rob Douglas to downzone the property from a residential home park zone to a rural designation that wouldn’t allow a modular-home park there.
At the time, Douglas took exception to its location, which is not near any of the municipality’s established growth centres, and the lack of alignment with the official community plan.
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Douglas said the OCP encourages walkable communities, and reducing greenhouse gases from car emissions and this development appears to be the opposite of that.
As for housing affordability, he said there are no assurances there will be any at this development.
But the fact that the region is in the grips of an ongoing housing crisis helped sway a slim majority of council to reject the motion by Douglas.
Marsh said she’s initiating this second attempt to stop the project for many of the same reasons Douglas outlined in June.
“To live with myself by staying true to my word and the promises I made when I stood for local office, I am attempting to have this property reflect as closely as possible what the citizens of North Cowichan said they wanted in the 2011 OCP, which is the people’s document,” she said.
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But Kelln pointed out that the property was zoned to allow for the type of development for 42 years, and he bought the property in good faith that he could build the modular-home park there.
He said placing affordable housing projects on land closer to established communities would make then unaffordable for developers.
“Land in the Drinkwater area, for example, can go for about $1 million an acre and that would bankrupt affordable housing projects like ours before they even start,” he said.
”The only way a developer could build a project like this and make it affordable is if costs were low. The only other way is to get the government to build it, but I don’t see that happening.”
Kelln acknowledged that there is some opposition to the project in the public, but said many more people are in support of it.
“I’m already getting calls asking me what is going on, and I expect North Cowichan will see emails and letters flying in between now and the next council meeting in support of the project,” he said.