The Cowichan Valley Regional District will host a public information session on the proposal from Laketown Ranch to construct a large residential area and an industrial zone on land it owns adjacent to its music festival site.
At the board meeting on March 23, five of the district’s nine electoral area directors voted that a public information session be held before the mandatory public hearing on the application so that the CVRD can explain the proposed project and answer questions from the public about it, including the implications it would have on the Youbou area and its potential benefits and concerns.
Laketown Ranch has applied for rezoning to build 182 manufactured homes, 50 cabins intended for year-round living, three single-family dwellings to be used as caretaker residences and 122 year-round RV camping sites on more than 40 hectares of land it owns.
Alison Nicholson, the director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora who made the motion to host the information session, said the proposal is large and complicated and she thinks it’s important to host the session to answer questions from the public before the CVRD’s formal public hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
“This is important because it’s my understanding that the Youbou local area plan has not been updated in a number of years and I think this project would have a huge impact on the community, so it’s very important that we listen to the community on this one,” she said.
But Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou/Meade Creek where the project is proposed, said Laketown Ranch already held a public information meeting last summer, which was well attended by about 65 people from his area, and Greg Adams, the project’s proponent, presented all aspects of the application.
“The information was well received by those who attended the meeting, and there is a lot of support for this project,” he said.
“I can’t see why there needs to be a second public information meeting and I don’t think a lot of people from my area will show up because they’ve already seen the information. I think they’ll wait for the public hearing.”
Sierra Acton, director for Shawnigan Lake, said providing the public with more information on the project can’t hurt.
“If there was a well-attended public information meeting this early in the game, I think that means there are a lot of people who are interested in this project,” she said.
“I’ve been a witness to some public hearings and they can be quite confusing. People come to them and can’t ask questions and can’t get real clarity on things so they end up discussing things that are not even part of it so their input doesn’t hold a lot of weight or interest because it’s totally off topic. So educating the community on what the plan is [before the public hearing] sounds like a good idea to me.”
Nicholson’s motion was successful in a tight 5-4 vote, with Kuhn, Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, Mike Wilson, director for Cobble Hill, and Ben Maartman, director for North Oyster/Diamond, voting against hosting the public information session.
A staff report on the project said there has been some feedback from the public that the location of the housing is inappropriate, given that it is outside of a growth-containment boundary, and that it is in close proximity to industrial and entertainment uses, which may lead to nuisances for the future residents in terms of noise, smell, and potentially dust.
But the report concluded that it is in the public interest to support the application for the rezoning and the amendment to the official community plan, despite having to override the growth-management policies of the OCP.
“The benefits to the community far outweigh the negatives, including the construction of up to 235 units of attainable housing to provide a housing alternative for people who are either looking to enter the real estate market or downsize their accommodations, and move a bit closer to the Town of Lake Cowichan, with all of its amenities,” the report said.