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Cortes Island affordable housing project rezoning bylaw amendment passed

Project has faced multiple hurdles at SRD
An aerial view of Cortes Island’s Seniors Village. Photo by Bill Weaver

The delayed Cortes Island Seniors Society affordable housing project’s rezoning application and bylaw amendment has passed, paving the way for the development to start construction.

After its public hearing was delayed due to the pandemic, housing advocates worried that the project would miss out on the necessary funding opportunities to bring it to fruition. The public hearing was rescheduled for Oct. 15 and received generally positive feedback from Cortes Island residents, who believe that an affordable housing option would help alleviate the housing concerns on the island.

A report from the hearing was presented to the SRD board at their Nov. 4 meeting. That report included a transcript of the public hearing, as well as supporting documentation and letters from the public and agencies about the project. However, senior manager of corporate services Tom Yates said that one letter from the Vancouver Island Health Authority clarifying an earlier communication was inadvertently not included in the documentation portion of the package.

“In staff’s opinion, it is not a significant change from an earlier letter they had submitted,” Yates said during the meeting.

His opinion was echoed by chief administrative officer David Leitch, who said, “I personally don’t think there’s a material change in anything here, however, if the electoral area directors want more peace of mind with having seen the letter, then certainly we can provide that to them and put it back on the agenda for the next meeting.”

Electoral Area D director Brenda Leigh made a motion after Yates’ update to do just that: defer the matter until all documents could be received and given to directors to read. However, most other directors on the board were opposed to this motion, which was defeated.

Leigh still voiced her concern about the project, particularly about the sewage system, which would need to be expensive in order to function properly for the number of people it would serve.

“I would say that the density of the proposal is very reliant on what public health has to say about septic disposal, the proximity of the proposal to the drinking water supply at Hague Lake. I haven’t seen any of the documents that were sent in by mail either. I need to see all of the documents before I can vote on this proposal, and I need to see Island Health, and write ins that people have sent, and those have not been sent to me,” she said.

Staff clarified that all documents except the letter had been provided in the original package.

Cortes Island Alternate Director Corry Dow worried that a vote against the bylaw would tank the whole project, and offered to wait until directors had a chance to read the letter. She also reassured those concerned that the project lead had ensured the wastewater system was sufficient, saying: “this letter clarifies VIHA’s position and it didn’t alter my view of the validity of this project or the due diligence that the applicant has done in dealing with water and wastewater concerns.”

“I don’t want to see this all fall apart right here because of a letter that says something that’s already been said,” she added. “I don’t want my electoral area directors to feel they haven’t been able to see information either.”

“I would say that the organization has received the supporting documentation,” added director Charlie Cornfield. “I wouldn’t want to see this particular item held up, it’s been held up before all over the summer and we weren’t doing any rezoning until September. This one’s been held up and held up. My concern is that if the people from Cortes Island were concerned I think they would make their voices heard. I have not heard anything from Cortes.”

After the discussion about the merits of reviewing the letter, Yates offered to read it out loud for the directors. His update showed it was sent to clarify a previous letter of support sent by Island Health, which the district was in possession of. It was in support of the project.

After discussion, the matter went through three readings — all of which were opposed by Leigh — and finally passed and was adopted.

RELATED: Coalition to End Homelessness asks SRD to find a way to hold public hearings

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread after SRD defers hearing

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