After years of dealing with controversial development proposals in North Cowichan, many of its council members are expressing reservations about the latest proposal they are considering.
But after a lengthy discussion at its meeting on Sept. 5, council decided in a tight 4-3 vote to give the public an opportunity to have a say in the application to rezone 6293 Westlock Rd. to allow for a two-lot subdivision.
Staff support the rezoning application, stating in a report that the proposed new zoning is appropriate to the existing character of the neighbourhood and allows for flexible housing choices, the ability for seniors to age in place and the development of appropriate infill within the urban containment boundary.
Council gave the first two readings to the application at the meeting and it will now go to a mandatory public hearing, the time and place to be announced, but not before a couple of neighbours spoke against it.
Douglas Hume, who lives adjacent to the property, said he moved to the area because he liked the larger lots, and allowing the property owner to subdivide to smaller lots causes him concern.
“I think this is the thin edge of the wedge,” he said.
“Once you open the door, there’s nothing to stop additional lots from being subdivided. I wouldn’t want to live in that environment.”
Ken Kruger, who also lives next to the property, said he has concerns about his privacy if more housing is allowed on the lot.
“I retired here 25 years ago because the neighbourhood has big lots,” he said.
“Most other people in the neighbourhood also want it to stay the same.”
Coun. Al Siebring said all that council was considering at the meeting was giving the application first and second readings, and encouraged people with issues to attend the public hearing where the public will be given ample opportunity to provide input.
“For better or worse, we’re encouraging densification because it provides the most efficient use of infrastructure,” he said.
“We understand that this involves change in some neighbourhoods, but that’s not the only piece we look at. That’s why we go to public hearings to hear feedback from the public.”
Coun. Rob Douglas said if the rezoning gets the green light, other applications to subdivide in the neighbourhood could be coming.
“We’ve gotten a lot of push back from neighbours of the Donnay Drive and Kingsview developments, so it might be a good idea to put this application on hold until we have an area plan completed for that neighbourhood,” he said.
Coun. Kate Marsh said the official community plan is under review, and numerous issues pertinent to that area have arisen since the OCP was first developed, like the health of nearby lakes related to development and climate change.
“I don’t think it would be a bad idea to wait until we’re really sure where we want the urban containment boundary to be before we consider this application,” she said.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen also said the municipality’s official community plan is not working well, as council learned through the rezoning applications for the Donnay Drive and Kingsview developments.
“The review of the OCP is not happening as quickly as it should,” she said.
Coun. Tom Walker said he would be disappointed if council turned down the application at the meeting without allowing it to go to a public hearing first.
Coun. Maeve Maguire said the property owner had looked at the current OCP and saw potential for the property.
“The owner should be allowed to go through the regular processes,” she said.
Mayor Jon Lefebure said council made a commitment to follow the current OCP until there are official changes made to it.
“We are obligated to go to a public hearing and let others speak to this application,” he said.
The application received first and second readings, with Behnsen, Douglas and Marsh opposed.