Willow Point resident Natalie Crawshaw is one of many neighbours hoping the city will deny any development proposal that would see zoning changed on a key Willow Point property.

Willow Point residents concerned over proposed development

Residents alarmed over development plans near Penfield school

As soon as the sign went up at the corner of Penfield and Goodwin Roads in Willow Point in early August announcing a possible rezoning of three lots along Penfield Road, many residents in the area became alarmed.

The proposed rezoning, as submitted to the city, is to turn the lots at 2300, 2405 and 2500 Penfield Road from R-1 (single-family residential) to RM-2, which would allow for multi-family, medium- to high-density residences like townhouses and apartment complexes to be built.

And that doesn’t sit well with Natalie Crawshaw, who lives just up Goodwin Road from the proposed development.

“That would make a huge impact in that area,” Crawshaw says. “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.”

That kind of development also naturally attracts young families, she adds, “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?”

She’s also concerned that there hasn’t been adequate consultation with the people who will be affected by this change should it go through.That may change, however, because after the signage went up – at which point the surrounding residents would normally be notified – the rezoning application, according to City of Campbell River Development Services Supervisor Kevin Brooks, was put on hold by the developer, “until they can re-assess the approach to the application and complete some discussions with the neighbourhood residents and public.”

Brooks says it is very early in the rezoning process – they only received the rezoning application in July – but his department has been already been receiving “significant” feedback from the community in regards to the proposal.

“So we have recommended that they not only hold their neighbourhood public meeting, which they are required to do, but that they also do a full community consultation and go out, listen to the public’s concerns and really take them into account,” Brooks says.

Residents will get their first chance for input on Sept. 8, when McElhanney Consulting Services will host a neighbourhood meeting on the proposed development at Willow Point Hall, according to a letter circulated to the neighbours earlier this week.

Crawshaw – along with many other residents eager to have their say on the matter – will be there with their metaphorical bells on.

“We moved onto our cul-de-sac 10 years ago, and we back right onto (the subject properties),” says Mike Beatty as he looks at the sign at the corner of Goodwin and Penfield, pointing out his property on the map.

“We did our due diligence, and the realtor said, ‘there may be a time you may be looking into someone’s backyard,’ and we decided that was fine, but a three-storey apartment is a whole different deal. I wouldn’t have bought that house if I knew this was a possibility.”

Anita McCabe agrees. She has lived in the area for 42 years, and says she’s watched it develop into a much more populated neighbourhood, which was fine, since the houses going in were just that – houses. This proposed rezoning, however, is something else altogether.

“It’s really upsetting to think that a monstrosity could be put into this area,” McCabe says. “I mean, this just changes everything if it goes through.”

McElhanney, in its letter announcing the Sept. 8 neighbourhood meeting, says “the developer intends to listen to all constructive concerns and adapt the development plan to produce a winning solution for the City of Campbell River,” which may include an amendment to the zoning proposal.

Instead of rezoning to RM-2, which would allow for a density increase of up to 50 units per hectare, McElhanney says city staff have recommended the application be amended to Comprehensive Development (CD) zoning, reflecting their intent to create a “medium density development” of between 27 and 31 units per hectare.

“The proposed development respects the surrounding neighbourhood by creating no more than two-storey buildings consistent with other developments closer to Dogwood and Hilchey,” the letter states.

McElhanney adds the proposed development “will benefit the community by formalizing Penfield Road and completing the street to city standards from Holm Road to Goodwin Road. This includes all municipal and third party utilities.”

The proposed development will also, “maintain existing pedestrian corridors and formalize them to maintain the ‘walkability’ of the neighbourhood,” McElhanney says, and the developers are encouraging the neighbours to attend the meeting with an open mind so they can openly discuss ways to ensure “the neighbourhood remains vibrant and moves forward in a positive manner.”

The letter also says the meeting on Sept. 8 will only be the first – and not only – public consultation, with the formal one required by the city to be scheduled after neighbourhood feedback is received and the plan has been adapted to reflect concerns.

Crawshaw, however, says as far as she’s concerned, even if the rezoning application is amended to a CD designation instead of RM-2, it would still be “ignoring the overwhelming feedback from the neighbourhood,” since what they are asking is for the zoning to remain as it is.