Campbell River city council passed the first two readings of a bylaw to rezone two properties next to Beaver Lodge Lands slated for residential development.
The development will feature around 400 residential units spanning two privately-owned properties located next to the northwest portion of Beaver Lodge Lands, west of the Elk River Timber (ERT) Road. Access to the development will be provided from the north, via a planned extension of Walworth Road.
Plans to develop the properties were first submitted to the city in 2018 but were later put on hold. Revised concept plans were submitted in June 2020, followed by the present iteration in March 2021.
The two properties are already zoned for residential development. But the proposed rezoning bylaw was requested to allow the developer to increase the subdivision’s density, by constructing medium-density build forms (e.g. townhouses) and single-family units with suites, as per the newest plan.
Beaver Lodge Lands is managed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and overseen by an independent advisory committee called the Beaver Lodge Trust Committee (BLTC).
But according to Sandra Milligan, BLTC member, neither organization was notified of the latest development plan.
“We haven’t had time to look at it in detail, because we didn’t know it was coming forward and weren’t informed,” she said in an interview.
Part of the reason for stakeholders being left in the dark is the city’s decision to not hold neighbourhood meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
In a letter to city council, Milligan asked for the decision about the bylaw to be postponed until more information about the new plan could be gathered and considered. But during the Oct. 18 meeting, Campbell River city council voted unanimously to adopt the first two readings of the bylaw.
A public hearing will be held before a third reading of the bylaw is considered. However, prior to this, there will be a more informal meeting to discuss the proposal with the BLTC and other stakeholders, after a subsequent motion by Coun. Claire Moglove passed unanimously.
The point of this additional meeting is to speed up the application, not slow it down, said Moglove in the meeting.
“What has happened, especially in a development that’s quite complex like this, issues will come up and then what will happen is things get delayed, because we have to send those issues to staff,” said Moglove. “The whole point of a neighbourhood meeting is to try to iron out some of those issues.”
Milligan said she has subsequently learned the developer tried to contact the committee by way of the ministry for six months but was unsuccessful.
“The developer wanted our feedback, but the ministry didn’t allow them to connect with us, for whatever reason,” she said. “We just need to sit down with the developer and discuss these things, and I appreciate that the developer apparently has tried to do that, but they didn’t get to the committee through ministry staff.”
While Milligan said more time is needed to review the plans, there is concern the development could increase access to more untouched parts of Beaver Lodge, resulting in adverse environmental impacts.
“We need a place in Beaver Lodge where there are no trails, where wildlife has a sanctuary from people,” she said.
The lack of notice regarding this latest submission shows the need to form a public non-profit to advocate for Beaver Lodge, an effort currently underway, said Milligan.
“It illustrates the need for good communication and what will happen if you don’t have good communication.”