Legal challenges are likely if North Cowichan’s council adopts a proposed notice of motion on Jan. 15 that calls for limiting development in some areas in the municipality until a review of the official community plan is complete, according to a staff report.
The report by Rob Conway, the director of planning and building, which will be presented at the council meeting also said that the initiative could impact the reputation of North Cowichan as a place for investing and doing business, and it could have unintended consequences, such as pushing development to rural and suburban areas outside the municipality.
“The motion is expected to have minimal impact on land-use applications in rural areas, but would impact between eight and 12 applications for the subdivision of rural lands annually,” Conway said.
“Lands within the impacted areas of (growth centres) could be significantly impacted as land owners in these areas have acquired land and made investments in developing those lands based on current municipal planning policy.”
Councillor Christopher Justice first introduced the notice of motion in December by telling council that sensitive ecosystems and other issues related to growth were not considered when North Cowichan developed the maps for its urban containment boundaries, and development pressures on these lands are expected to increase over the next year and a half during the time that the municipality will be conducting the review of its official community plan.
The motion is titled “Reconsider the UCB in the Quamichan Watershed Area”, but Conway’s report makes it clear the motion actually covers a much larger area than just the Quamichan watershed.
Council decided at its meeting in early December to defer further discussion on Justice’s motion until staff had prepared a report on the issue.
In his report, Conway said there would be two main areas within North Cowichan that would be impacted by the proposed motion, if it passes.
The first is the Maple Bay Road corridor, east of Storehouse Way, and the Bell McKinnon Road corridor, slightly north of Norcross Road, both of which are within the urban containment boundary.
Conway said the Maple Bay Road corridor area impacted by the motion covers approximately 351.5 hectares and contains about 1,100 parcels, while the impacted area on Bell McKinnon Road is approximately 117 hectares containing about 140 parcels.
Justice’s proposed motion has raised concerns in the business community, and Cowichan Works, a group comprised of business owners, landowners, realtors, developers, contractors, property managers, financial consultants and others in the Valley intends to have a delegation at Wednesday’s meeting to speak against it.
Another delegation who will present on behalf of Bell McKinnon residents and land owners is also scheduled to speak against it at the meeting.
Conway said land developers, builders, funding agencies and others doing business with local governments often cite transparent and predictable regulations as one of their most important considerations when investing in a community.
“Requirements that are seen to be unpredictable and arbitrary can, over time, erode trust and discourage community investment,” he said.
“While it is not always possible for local governments to be completely transparent and predictable when establishing development regulations and approval processes, the potential impacts of decisions on the reputation of North Cowichan as a place for doing business should be considered.”
Justice said there has been some misunderstanding about the intent of the motion.
He said it wouldn’t halt development in the Valley.
“The motion proposes only a partial and temporary pause in processing some applications in some areas of the community while we consider how we want to grow in the future,” Justice said.
“North Cowichan has been growing at about one per cent a year and is forecast to continue doing so at least through 2050, so we’ll need to continue to develop housing to accommodate that population growth.”
Justice said if the motion passes, work on any legally subdivided properties would be unaffected, as would applications for zoning changes or subdivisions in areas outside the designated zone.
“Further, the motion would have no effect on commercial or industrial development, and would have no effect on the building of the new hospital [which is expected to be built on Bell McKinnon Road] or the new RCMP building,” he said.
“Spread out development far from commercial cores have proven over the long run to cost more than it brings in. Over the long-term, it is subsidized by taxpayers and makes no business sense. Maintenance and repair of infrastructure related to past sprawl is now seriously impacting our budgets and tax rates.”
Justice said his motion has a misleading title because when it was first discussed about a year ago, it was specific to the location of the UCB in the Quamichan watershed.
“Upon further consideration, it was determined that there were other areas of North Cowichan where it would also apply,” he said.
“However, the revised motion somehow got stuck with the old title.”