A controversial proposal to put housing in a currently-undeveloped area of Willow Point has gone through a re-design and been put back before its neighbours – who still aren’t impressed.
The initial proposal for the area was to rezone it from an R-1 (single family residential) to an RM-2 designation in order to develop lots that line both sides of the currently-barricaded section of Penfield Road between Holm Road and Goodwin Road into a mix of medium- and high-density residences like townhouses and apartment complexes. When that proposal went before the neighbours, however, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
Over 200 members of the public came out for a public consultation at the Willow Point Hall last September to tell the developer the area should remain under R-1 zoning.
Mark Degagne of McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. – the consultants on the development – told the neighbours that RM-2 wasn’t an accurate designation for what the developer wanted to build, anyway, so that idea was “off the table,” but they hoped some kind of “middle ground” could be reached between the developer, KLP Construction, and the neighbours.
The initial proposed change to the rezoning request was to have it become a Comprehensive Development (CD) zoning, which could see between 27 and 30 units developed per hectare – a significant decrease from the initially-proposed RM-2 zoning, which could contain up to 50 units per hectare.
But the neighbours said that was still unacceptable. They bought into an area that was zoned R-1 and they wanted it to remain that way, they said.
Now, the developers say they have listened to the neighbours’ concerns and hope they have found an acceptable middle ground and presented their new proposal to the neighbourhood at a public meeting, again held at Willow Point Hall, earlier this month.
Jeanette Laverdure of KLP Construction says the new proposal is to rezone just the the east side of Penfield into R1-A and R1-B lots, which could see single family homes with basement suites and carriage houses in some of the backyards.
She says something needs to be done to address the lack of affordable housing in the city – including rental properties – and this is a way the community can make headway in that regard.
“It’s not just people who are low-income, it’s also people who are working two jobs who are having trouble finding affordable housing to purchase or rent,” Laverdure says, pointing to a recent article in which the mayor himself admitted that the rental and housing affordability in Campbell River has become a “crisis” that is “escalating.”
“What we’re proposing is for units that would be under $300,000,” Laverdure says, “which is affordable, especially for a young family who could have a rental in the bottom and start to get somewhere without it being such a struggle.”
Natalie Crawshaw, one of the many neighbours opposed to the plan, says there are many places in town a development like this would fit right in, but where it’s proposed isn’t one of them.
“We’re not opposed to development, we just think it’s zoned R-1 for a reason and it should stay that way,” Crawshaw says. Building this kind of higher-density development into a neighbourhood like theirs, she says, goes against the revisions made to the OCP just this past January.
“They said they want to infill lots that are undeveloped but it has to be sensitive to the form and character that already exists. And this isn’t what already exists.”
Dave Keiver, another concerned neighbourhood resident, agrees there are plenty of other areas of Campbell River where increased density makes sense and he’s glad to see developments being built in town to help address the housing situation, such as the new apartment complex proposed for Dogwood Street near Merecroft Village or in the downtown core, like the complex that went up at the site of the old SuperValu last year. But people who bought into that area of Willow Point did so precisely because of its lower density. It’s in the best interest of the community as a whole to add density in the areas where people expected it when they moved there, he says.
Laverdure says they, too, want what is best for the community as a whole, but says the “public mistrust” of developers, makes getting it done difficult. She says her family moved to the area in 1948, her father-in-law started a plumbing company in 1968 and she and her husband started their company in 1993.
She says if people look at the developments KLP has built in Campbell River, they will see they have been – and are trying to continue to be – providing a value to the community.
“We’re third generation family of born and raised Campbell Riverites, and this is our way of giving back for the wonderful life that the community has given us,” she says.
But Keiver says there’s good reason for that mistrust between the public and developers, in general.
“When they put that development in behind Shopper’s Drug Mart, people went to the meetings and the drawings and designs and what have you weren’t the same as what eventually showed up,” Keiver says. “The concern is that once the zoning is changed, all the rules change, because developers tend to want to maximize their business. I would fully expect them to do that. I don’t blame them at all, but this is us protecting ourselves against that possibility.”
City staff will now draft a report to go to Campbell River City Council for a possible first and second reading of the proposed bylaw amendment. If that takes place, a formal Public Hearing will be set so council can hear directly from residents and the developer before making a final decision on the rezoning application.