The Municipality of North Cowichan will hold a community meeting in Maple Bay early in the new year, with the exact date to be announced, to seek public input on planning issues in the Donnay Drive and surrounding areas.
Council decided to hold the community meeting after rescinding the third reading of a zoning amendment bylaw last month that would have seen a 39-housing unit subdivision on a 2.65-hectare site just north of Maple Bay Elementary School.
Many residents and neighbours of the mainly rural neighbourhood have raised a number of objections to the project, including their contention that the housing density proposed would be too high for the area.
The decision to hold the community meeting was made on Dec. 7 after a lengthy debate among councillors on the value of the meeting, and how the municipality has been dealing with the application for the development.
A staff report also makes it clear that staff members are of the opinion that holding a planning exercise for the area is not necessary, and that key elements identified in the Official Community Plan in relation to neighbourhood planning have been previously addressed through other processes.
“We do not believe a planning exercise will produce any tangible or beneficial outcomes that haven’t already, or will be, achieved through existing policies, guidelines and regulatory requirements,” said Kyle Young, North Cowichan’s assistant manager of planning and subdivision, in the report.
Coun. Rob Douglas suggested a better approach might be for staff to meet with residents that have concerns with the proposed development, listen to their ideas and report back to council.
“Many people feel their voices were not heard in the first two public hearings on this proposal, so I believe meeting with them would be in the best interests of all,” he said.
Coun. Kate Marsh made an unsuccessful motion that would have seen a comprehensive planning process for the area established.
“Having one meeting in Maple Bay is not a planning process,” she said. “It would just allow our plan to be presented, and we already did that.”
Coun. Al Siebring agreed and said the application process for the proposed development has been “completely legitimate.”
He said it’s a fact that some people were unaware of what was being proposed for the area and North Cowichan could have done a better job at communicating the plans to the public.
“But the community has had every opportunity to provide input,” Siebring said.
“We want to move forward without ticking off the neighbours, but we’ve been elected to make tough decisions, not to make everyone happy.”
Coun. Tom Walker said he would support holding a meeting rather than engaging in a full comprehensive planning process.
“A community meeting would allow more education and communication on the project and the process so everyone can understand it a little better,” he said.
“The applicants can also gain by listening to the concerns. I don’t think that everyone would be happy, but at least they can say that they’ve been heard.”