Developer Laurie Leblanc has leapt the first hurdle towards his plan to build four tiny houses at Penny Lane subdivision near the Cowichan River.
Lake Cowichan town council has approved changes in the official community plan.
But, they refused to go that last step and OK changes to the zoning bylaw after a tense public hearing, in which neighbours presented a wide variety of concerns about the plan.
Leblanc has approval to build on the site. It’s just the idea of four more homes that is bothering people.
At the public meeting in council chambers on Jan. 30, owners of nearby properties charged council with not supplying enough information about flood water from the nearby river in an area where there have been problems before, how fire and emergency equipment could get in to an already congested area, whether the houses would be sold or rented, what will happen to the big old trees in the subdivision, and more.
Leblanc said the idea of tiny houses was to both use “less of a footprint” and “use up the rest of the area” as well as providing more housing for the town. The Penny Lane development dates back to 2007.
When asked by Mark Martin, a Somenos resident, if the trees were on his land or town land, Leblanc answered “good question” but added he thought they were on municipal land.
Sharon Rankin, a Penny Lane resident, explained to council that drainage was already a problem there.
“I have two pumps running there now,” she said. Another concern she raised was about the need for building according to the 200-year-floodplain, which would lift the tiny homes two feet above their neighbours.
Run-off from them had to go somewhere, and she was worried about where it would go, she said.
However, there seemed to be few specific answers for the anxious residents.
Mayor Ross Forrest and Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez said that the rules would be followed and building inspection would follow the regulations as well, so that there would be safeguards.
However, the sheer number of residents who came out to the hearing, and their questions led to councillors taking a step back and deciding not to approve the zoning bylaw changes until their next meeting.
The Cowichan River, currently running high, is right beside the subdivision, adding its own chorus to the that of local residents.