A group of homeowners in North Cowichan’s Regina Drive area have told the municipality’s planning department that they don’t want to see their neighbourhood park swapped for a trail to Lakes Road.
Their concern stems from actions taken by North Cowichan council in late May to start the exchange process.
According to a report from North Cowichan, it was on Aug. 6, 2014 that the municipality received an application from Mark Mitchell on behalf of Greg and Judy Adams to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) Maps 13 and 17 for the purpose of exchanging an existing dedicated park located at the end of Regina Drive for a linear park trail to connect the end of Regina Drive to Lakes Road.
This proposed exchange would see the developers using the existing park parcel as frontage for an abutting large agricultural parcel and facilitate subdivision of the agricultural parcel into two smaller parcels.
Meanwhile, according to North Cowichan, the municipality would "secure a permanent and municipally maintained trail to serve the community."
But the switch requires council to approve some significant changes.
The first is to amend the Official Community Plan Maps 13 and 17 to de-designate the current park parcel and identify the proposed park parcel and next they have to exchange the current park parcel for the proposed park parcel in accordance with requirements contained under Section 27 of the Community Charter.
This process includes provisions for an Alternative Approval Process but council still has to make the decision.
The subject property has a frontage of 136.3 metres on Lakes Road which does not meet the requirements for subdivision within the A2 zone.
In addition, North Cowichan’s Official Community Plan does not support the creation of panhandle lots within the rural areas.
The existing park parcel (1,870 square metres) was originally dedicated as park, following provincial requirements, in 1984 as part of subdivision
of the Regina Drive neighbourhood.
North Cowichan held an open house on Monday, June 15 to allow residents in the area a chance to learn more about the proposal and offer feedback in a questionnaire.
The session was attended by 23 people and 15 questionnaires were returned, with 14 coming from people living within walking distance of the Regina Drive community.
Asked if they agreed with the exchange of the existing park land for the linear park trail connecting to Lakes Road, 14 out of 15 said they "strongly disagree" with the proposal.
Entries in the questionnaire’s comments section ranged from simple answers like "keep the park" to "my concern is not for the immediate future but for the foreseeable future. A driveway to Lot A plus a driveway to Lot B could very easily become a road from Regina to Lakes in exchange for a trail that will not be used."
Others were concerned about property values, with one saying "purchased home with the understanding there would always be a park."
Still other area residents said that there is not a lot of walking done on Lakes Road even now because of heavy vehicular traffic.
Several respondents said that while they were not afraid of development they were still not happy with the idea of exchanging the park for a trail, with one comment saying, "very little effort from North Cowichan staff to properly inform residents; has the appearance of a done deal."
North Cowichan councillors now have to decide if they wish to go ahead with amending the community plan and the park exchange.