Doreen Dinsdale speaks to council in North Cowichan expressing her concerns around a new housing development on Donnay Drive at a public hearing on the issue on May 15. The project got the green light to proceed, with a 4-3 vote. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Video: Donnay Drive development gets green light

North Cowichan council votes 4-3 for controversial project to proceed

The controversial proposal for a development project on Donnay Drive has finally received approval to proceed from the Municipality of North Cowichan.

Council voted 4-3, with councillors Rob Douglas, Maeve Maguire and Kate Marsh opposed after a public hearing on May 15 that saw standing room only and went on for approximately five hours as people gave their opinions of the project.

The majority of delegations spoke against it, citing concerns mainly around housing density in the largely rural neighbourhood and the development’s impacts on local lakes and waterways.

The plan is to build 38 residential units on 27 lots on a 2.65-hectare site just north of Maple Bay Elementary School.

Resident Neil Anderson told council he believes the process would have been easier for everyone if the developer had engaged the community with the plans for the project much earlier.

“I believe a lot of pain and suffering could have been alleviated had we met about a year ago,” he said.

“Council and the developer heard an overwhelming statement of what the community wanted at the public meeting [held on March 6]. Were these concerns heard? How and when will this flawed process be rectified?”

The public hearing on May 15 was the third one held on the proposal, and was scheduled shortly after a packed community information meeting that was held in Maple Bay to seek public input on planning issues in the Donnay Drive and surrounding areas.

Resident Dan Wright, who acknowledged that he has an interest in the development, said, unlike many perceptions of the project, the intent is not to turn the area into a “little Surrey” with intense densification of housing.

“The houses we plan to build are like a lot of the houses that are already in that area,” he said.

Doreen Dinsdale said Quamichan Lake is “sick” and she is aware that North Cowichan is planning to spend a significant amount of money to deal with its toxic phosphorous problem, which is believed to be largely caused by the farms and other housing developments adjacent to the lake.

“We also have to look at ways to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into the lake in the first place,” she said.

“Digging for housing and road development will only lead to more phosphorus getting into the lake. The less development, the less phosphorus in the lake.”

Steve Jones said he just moved back to the Cowichan Valley to retire on a rural, half-acre lot near the development site.

He said he’s concerned that the project is the start of development in that area that will “radically change its ambience”.

“I’m worried and scared,” Jones said.

“I’m fine with development, but not to the point that it ruins the feeling of the neigbourhood.”

Mayor Jon Lefebure, one of the four members of council that voted for the project to proceed, said that from his point of view, the project is consistent with the Official Community Plan and it is within North Cowichan’s Urban Containment Boundary, which allows for increased densification.

He said it’s a fact that just eight per cent of North Cowichan is within the UCB, while 92 per cent is outside of it.

“While the property is not immediately adjacent to more densified urban cores in the Valley, it’s still considered part of an area that we hope to densify more and provide more services to the residents that are within walking distance,” Lefebure said.

“There were some concessions made with this development, including reducing the density, creating buffers to deal with environmental concerns, and sewer systems have to be built that will take the sewage out of the watershed.”

Lefebure said some people don’t like to see change in their neigbourhoods, and he understands that, but the property is privately owned and it is within the UCB.

“We can’t say there won’t be any environmental impacts with this project, but we’ve worked to ensure they are kept to a minimum,” he said. “It’s been more than a year since this proposal was first presented to us, and it’s good to finally have made a decision on it.”

To see the full public hearing, check out the municipality’s website at www.northcowichan.ca.