Last September, Willow Point residents turned out in droves to tell a developer they weren’t interested in having an area along Penfield Road rezoned to allow for “a mix of single family residences and duplexes.”
They turned out again in similar numbers, with a similar message, when the developer brought them back together this past July after re-designing the proposal.
And as a result, when the rezoning proposal made it to council last week, it was stopped dead in its tracks before it even got to the point of discussion.
The concerns from the residents ranged from traffic increases to where all of the kids would go to school should the density of the neighbourhood be increased.
“If there were 50 units [built], as an example, that could be an extra 100 cars coming and going from that neighbourhood – because everyone seems to have a car each these days – and in my mind, that changes the character of the neighbourhood,” Said neighbourhood resident Natalie Crawshaw when the proposal first came forward.
That kind of development also naturally attracts young families, she added, “which is fine, we’re by no means anti-family – there are lots of young families in this neighbourhood,” but she does point out that Penfield Elementary is already close to capacity, as is Georgia Park Elementary, the next closest elementary school to the properties in question.
“So where are they going to put all those kids?”
The residents were also concerned about the level of consultation and transparency in the process. Despite the public meetings held at the Willow Point Hall, the residents felt their concerns were not being taken seriously.
Jeanette Laverdure of KLP Construction, the proponent of the project, told the Mirror they were trying to help address the serious lack of affordable housing in the city by increasing the density of the area.
“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 said, pointing to an article in which the mayor himself admitted that the rental and housing affordability in Campbell River has become a “crisis” that is “escalating.”
The rezoning application was to have first and second reading last week, which would see it go to public hearing. But the proposal to do so was only supported by one member of council: Mayor Andy Adams.
“I won’t be supporting the motion,” said Coun. Larry Samson. “I think we’ve heard loud and clear from the residents of this area, and I, for one, don’t feel that there’s a need to go to public hearing.”
Coun. Marlene Wright echoed those sentiments, as did Coun. Charlie Cornfield, who said the proposed development “far exceeds what the neighbourhood is.”
Coun. Ronn Kerr said he drove around the neighbourhood in question earlier that very day, “and I think the status quo up there is quite fine.”
Coun. Coleeen Evans also announced she would not be supporting the motion to give the application first and second reading.
“I guess I’m going to be the lone person on this,” said Mayor Adams. It’s not that he necessarily thought the rezoning was in the community’s best interest, he said, but because he thinks it is council’s responsibility to at least consider things before dismissing them.
“In my 12 years on council,” he continued, “I have always supported first and second reading to move an item forward to public hearing whether I agreed with the proposal or not.
“In this case, I share some of the concerns of council, but I’m going to be consistent,” he said before voting in favour of the motion, which was easily defeated.