This is the first of two stories on a proposed rezoning application in Oyster Bay.
The Strathcona Regional District board directors changed their tune and voted against their own recommendation to kill a low-density, family-oriented rural project centered on an equestrian centre known as the Oyster Bay Lands.
On Feb. 9, the Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC) made a recommendation to the board to deny the project application, which would effectively kill it. The motion to recommend denial was made by the local area (Area D) director Brenda Leigh, and the other electoral area directors supported that motion.
However, after the regional district board received a delegation from the project’s proponents and roughly 20 letters of support, the project is still on the table and is one step closer to having a public hearing.
“We want the public to hear what this proposal is all about,” said Bob Solc, one of the property owners on the project. “That’s what was so frustrating when they decided to kill this thing before a public hearing. We truly believe that the community wants this for an opportunity for Area D.”
The project is a neighbourhood conceived of by local residents as a low-density, family-oriented rural project centered on an equestrian centre. The idea is to subdivide eight existing lots to 34, each with an average size of 11 acres.
However, the idea will need a rezoning and an OCP amendment for Electoral Area D, which is what brought it to EASC and then the SRD board. At the EASC table, Leigh said that she had issues with the project not being consistent with the OCP.
“I completely, utterly, totally object to the rural residential zone that’s written and I think the planning department needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that is suitable for that land,” Leigh said at the EASC meeting. “It is not consistent with the OCP. I don’t like these words in the report saying it is ‘generally consistent’ with the OCP. It’s not. It is totally in opposition to the OCP.”
After seeing the recommendation from EASC, project proponent Rod Nugent appeared before the SRD board. Nugent was worried that their local area director had a “personal bias” against them and that they were “denied equal treatment under the law.”
Nugent told the Mirror that he was not expecting the project to be approved even after going to public hearing. In 2009, a different project was proposed for the same parcel. At the time the project did go to public hearing, where people from the community voiced opinions in each direction, according to SRD minutes from the meeting.
“A developer — in fact several different iterations of this project — got right down through the public hearings where there was overwhelming support of the project to my recollection (she says nobody supported it), and then right at the end, she killed it unilaterally by convincing the other area directors that the public didn’t want it,” Nugent said. “At that time, the developer had given up. He was thinking of suing and going to court, but he had medical issues, lived in Vancouver and just gave up on it. We don’t have that option.
“We live there. This is our community. If it’s not constructed in a way that will serve the future population of our area — a lot of whom are our children and grandchildren—we’re going to have to deal with this next year, the year after or some time in the future. Now’s the time to resolve this.”
As part of his delegation, Nugent said that the project owners could consider seeking “redress through the courts” for not being afforded the same due process as other applicants.
Electoral Area C director Jim Abram said that there had been some discussions among the directors about how the Feb. 9 action was “not really supportable,” which prompted the change of direction.
On the decision to continue with the project, Leigh said during the meeting that “I’m happy to send it to public hearing. I have a completely open mind when it comes to public hearings. I may have opinions now, but that doesn’t mean my opinions don’t change.”
The hearing has not been scheduled as of this writing.