Why do we have a Planning Department, if mayor and council do not pay heed to their recommendations?


Have just watched the CR Council meeting of May 31 for the third time, over the past while, and I am quite shocked by it.

An item on the agenda was to accept an application asking for an amendment to the RM 3 Bylaw as it applies to a residential lot at 2221 Dalton Rd. in Willow Point to increase the number of units allowed as per the Bylaw from 33 to a grand total of 60 units.

The recommendation from the Planning and Development Department was to deny the application.

It appears council continued after the live meeting, with an “In camera” 1st and 2nd reading of the application, expediting it to proceed to Public Hearing.

However, before it goes to 1st and 2nd reading, mayor and council are supposed to review submissions from both sides. Not only those presented at the meeting by the developer’s rep., Mr. Salisbury, of WestUrban, Developments , but also the submission from the Planning Dept. to deny, and…submissions from members of the community opposed to the size and scope of the proposed development.

There was much opposition, and for good reason. This proposal is to build a 60 unit apartment on a short, quiet, dead end, residential street, at present comprised of mostly older family homes and a duplex. Plus at the no-exit end of the road, a smallish seniors townhome complex.

There were at least 30 letters, and a petition with over 500 names on it, in opposition. On the flip side, Mr. Salisbury touted the 68 signatures they had garnered “in favor” from Willow Point business owners and others. Actually there were about 10 different business’ represented, the rest being staff one would presume.

The mayor said at the council meeting, that perhaps they should have more input from planning staff as to why they recommended denying the application for amendment, and also schedule an info course for himself and council explaining what FAR is and how it works, as they all admitted they don’t fully understand it.

FAR (floor area ratio) Is the process by which a developer is able to squeeze more units into a project, by making each unit less square feet, in order to skirt the bylaw parameters for a specific property. Thus the request for an amendment in this case, as their proposal does not comply with the Official Community Plan.

Councilor Moglove also asked a question of Mr. Salisbury, about why, if it was not a six-storey, 60 unit building, but a 33-unit building, would it have to be “high end condos?” Mr. Salisbury chose to ignore that question, and only answered the second part of her question regarding why some of the 60 units could not be three bedrooms…he answered that they would not have enough square feet of floor area for three bedrooms.

He also called the small one and two-bedroom units proposed by them for this project, “Multi family affordable units.”

I fail to see how a “family” can fit in a small two-bed unit, (averaging 650 sq feet!), nor can most low to mid income families afford $1,800 a month in rent, as quoted a two bedroom would be, especially if only one of them works! Who it is then that we are needing all this high density, low square-footage housing for? This need that was noted by several other councilors. Where do these people work, here in Campbell River? Could clerks and shelf stockers from Discovery Foods afford to live in them with rents from $1,600 to $1,800? Or the Pizza delivery people from Panago? Or those working at tires shops? Or seniors? Doubtful!

Currently available on the city website, is the Housing Needs Report for Campbell River.

It indicates that the greatest need, aside from subsidized housing, and in the next five years, seniors housing, is for affordable housing for families with combined incomes of $70,000 or less.

And, ideally, we should be shifting toward a mix of apartments with three (or more) bedrooms, and ground-oriented, multi-family townhomes, with rents being no more than $1,800/month. This to fill the need for quite a large percentage of renters living in Campbell River, or moving here, and needing rental accommodation since homes have become too expensive/out of reach for many families!

A townhome complex would be much more suited to this area as per the Official Community Plan for infill in existing Residential areas.

Did the mayor and or any of the councilors actually visit Dalton Road, and the site, and tried to picture a five or six-storey apartment looming there and consider the impact of same?

It should be a pre requisite when considering a proposal such as this that doesn’t meet the existing bylaws, but from discussion at the meeting, I doubt they did.

In the end, council made the motion to let it go to 1st and 2nd reading and Public Hearing, regardless of what the Planning Department recommended.

And with very little concern voiced by either the mayor or councilors, regarding all the letters, and the petition with well over 500 signatures in opposition to it…nor much mention of the Open House, held onsite by WestUrban, which over 50 people attended, all expressing their opposition to this huge development for various reasons – Shameful!

The Planning Department did their job, but….did council?

Interesting to note that at the Open House, when the WestUrban rep was asked why they needed so many more units than were allowed , the reply was … “because it is more profitable.”

And WestUrban does not seem to retain ownership their big buildings for long. Hmmm

So, all residents of Campbell River need to question….why do we have a Planning Department, if mayor and council do not pay heed to their recommendations?

Why do we have bylaws, if big development companies keep getting them amended, or variances granted because they don’t want to follow them as mandated?

And lastly, who are the mayor and councilors working for? They are supposed to be working and making decisions to meet the needs of the residents of this city, not to assist the development companies in lining their pockets!

Crystal Cheshire