Concerns over Campbell River’s Official Community Plan mount at public hearing

Concerns surrounding land use dominated the city’s official community plan public hearing Wednesday

Concerns surrounding land use, particularly in the Quinsam Heights and Gordon Road neighbourhoods, dominated the city’s official community plan public hearing at City Hall.

A full gallery attended Wednesday’s hearing – some to express their concerns or appreciation with the Sustainable Official Community Plan and some to simply listen to what others had to say.

The plan is a comprehensive document aimed at shaping Campbell River’s future, and contains not only land use and zonings but the Agriculture Plan, Master Transportation plan and Energy and Emissions Plan.

This week’s public hearing was the last chance for the community to have its say.

The change in zoning in the Quinsam Heights neighbourhood quickly became the main topic of discussion.

The area is currently mostly zoned residential estate, which permits single family homes on large lots, in keeping with the rural atmosphere of the neighbourhood (located in and around the south end of Petersen Road).

The city’s new Sustainable Official Community Plan calls for some of those properties to be re-zoned to RM-1, a low density infill that permits single family homes on smaller, subdivided lots.

Mark Johnson, who owns 3.5 acres in Quinsam Heights, said he’s been told his property is destined to be rezoned from the current residential estate and he’s disappointed the city gave him no notice.

“You say the Sustainable Official Community Plan was a consultative process but I disagree,” Johnson said.

“We live on one of the properties to lose on the SOCP down-zoning and we didn’t know about it. Each of the affected homeowners should have been notified by letter, we were not.”

Steve Ross, who, along with his wife Michelle White, owns and operates a blueberry farm in the Quinsam Heights neighbourhood, said he’s concerned the city does not have a consistent vision for the area.

He noted the plan reads that “the established character of the neighbourhood…includes hobby farms and equestrian uses” and goes on to say the neighbourhood is “destined for little to no major development changes and not intended as a primary growth area for the city.”

But Ross said a map in the plan outlines Quinsam Heights as a focused growth area.

“We are really wondering what the true intention is for this area as the plan is unclear and this is very unsettling,” Ross said.

Gordon Road residents were next to voice their concerns. Corinne Matheson told council she is concerned her neighbourhood will be overrun by industry.

“Most of the area around us is in the Agricultural Land Reserve and we’d like to see that continue. We would like to see the development of agriculture,” Matheson said. “We would like to see the area marked for industrial claimed back for agriculture. We don’t want to see it expand because it’s destroying our little neighbourhood.”

Matheson said she wouldn’t bring up the “real disaster in the area” because the night was for the Sustainable Official Community Plan. But Gordon Road resident Connie Cawley did.

“The pole plant going in was really disheartening,” Cawley said. “From the maps, I see you people are pushing more industrial closer to us. How heavy industry can be pushed into a residential area is criminal – it shouldn’t have happened.”

Michele Babchuk, chair of the plan’s steering committee, said the plan can be altered.

“It’s a vision document, not a restrictive document, that allows council to modify it as the community changes,” Babchuk said.

“With a document of this magnitude I’m not convinced consensus is attainable.”

Morgan Ostler spoke in favour of the plan, outlining the success of the Agricultural Plan which identifies Campbell River as having soil for agriculture as rich as that of the Fraser Valley.

“I want to explain to the public that within the boundary of Campbell River is 12,000 acres of Agricultural Land Reserve,” said Ostler who explained it’s hard to see because the land is covered in trees.

She said particularly the area west of Willis Road and the south side of the golf course on Petersen Road have high fertility soils.

Ostler said agriculture could be a vital industry for Campbell River, as the city currently produces one per cent of the food it consumes, relying heavily on transport.

Luisa Richardson, representing the Environmental Advisory Committee, also supported the plan, saying it is a “high-level document” with good intentions that supports a sustainable community.