The large and controversial Kingsview Developments proposal is back on track again.
In a 5-2 vote, North Cowichan’s council decided after a recent public hearing to give the proposal, which could see up to 1,300 housing units constructed on the side of Mount Tzouhalem, third reading for the second time.
Council decided to rescind the original third reading in January, largely due to concerns raised by Cowichan Tribes.
At the time, the First Nation had issues related to increased traffic, cultural impacts on the band from the project and trespassing on native lands.
But in a letter from Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour to the municipality that was read at the public hearing, Seymour said after “lengthy discussions”, his council came to a consensus that while it was not prepared to remove its opposition to the project, council would allow the process to continue as long as Cowichan Tribes is fully consulted with all aspects of it.
Seymour said Cowichan Tribes, the developer Transtide Kingsview Developments and the Municipality of North Cowichan have been discussing ways in which the First Nation can be fully engaged in aspects of the development during its expected 30 to 40-year phase-in.
Transtide Kingsview Development is proposing to build its housing development where the defunct Cliffs Over Maple Bay project was supposed to be constructed.
However, many people at the public hearing and a number of councillors still have issues with the project.
They include the fear that increased development in the area would lead to more damage to Quamichan Lake, and the impacts of increased traffic and density in the neighbourhood.
Neighbourhood resident Lacey Hanson said she was “appalled” that North Cowichan was considering allowing the project to proceed.
“You are supposed to be looking after our interests, not the interests of a developer who lives in Victoria,” she said.
Nancy Doerr, speaking on behalf of plant ecologist David Polster, said nutrient levels in Quamichan Lake are already well above the lake’s capacity to properly absorb them.
“We can’t solve the problems with the lake until we deal with the problem of development around it,” she said.“We need to control the source of the nutrients or we won’t get anywhere.”
But North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, who is also a member of the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force, said that it’s not new development in the area that is the problem.
He said many of the lake’s water issues are largely due to the lifestyles of the people currently living there.
“Preventing new homes will not solve the problems in Quamichan Lake,” he said.
“There’s no silver bullet or overnight decisions that would deal with the issue.”
Speaking on behalf of Transtide Kingsview Developments, Deane Strongitharm said the developer would implement “best management practices” when it came to stormwater management, sediment and nutrient controls and help ensure the quality of the water in the lake.
Coun. Kate Marsh, who voted against the proposal, thanked Transtide for its efforts in developing a project that would be “pleasing to the community.”
“But there are ongoing discussions around the urban containment boundary in that area, and I fear that we are putting the cart before the horse,” she said.
“I also have concerns around increased traffic, and there are so many other unknown issues with this project.”
Coun. Rob Douglas, who also voted against the proposal, said council should wait until the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force completes its report.
“I think we need a further analysis of what the construction of another 1,300 homes there would mean for the water in the lake,” he said.
“More research is needed. It would not be a bad thing to allow more time so we can give this project some second or third thoughts.”
But Coun. Al Siebring said not moving forward with the project at this time would invite controversy in the community.
“Since the day I was elected, people have been asking me when we intend to fix that scar on the hill,” he said.
“If you want controversy, say no to the third reading tonight.”