Fairwinds plan gets thumbs up

Russell Tibbles, the vice-president of  development and operations for Bentall Kennedy (the company managing Fairwinds developments), speaks to a packed house at Nanoose Place on Monday night. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
Russell Tibbles, the vice-president of development and operations for Bentall Kennedy (the company managing Fairwinds developments), speaks to a packed house at Nanoose Place on Monday night.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

There was a recurring theme in the words of speakers at a standing-room-only public hearing in Nanoose Bay Monday night regarding Fairwinds developments that could almost double the population of the community in the next 20 years: get on with it.

Of the 30 members of the public who took to the microphone at the hearing, 29 spoke in favour of the bylaws that could pave the way for more than 2,000 homes, trails, parks, retail shops and other amenities around Schooner Cove and what’s called the Lakes District.

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors is expected to consider third reading of the four pertinent bylaws at its regular meeting on May 27. The bylaws then must go to the provincial government for approval before the RDN can give final approval.

There were about 300 people in Nanoose Place on Monday night, the majority wearing stickers that said “YES to the Fairwinds development.”

Nanoose First Nation Chief David Bob was one of the first speakers to the microphone Monday night. He expressed his support for the development after agreements were reached with Fairwinds for the protection of The Notch and surrounding lands at the high point of the Lakes District portion of the plan.

“We have been put on a reserve but we have never given up our traditional way of life and The Notch is part of that,” said Bob. “When I spoke with our elders, they told me to do whatever I could to save it. We’re not against development but we have to look after our sacred places.”

Many of the residents who spoke Monday night acknowledged the work of Bob and the developer to get to this point. Some of them also voiced frustration at how long it has taken.

“It’s now time to stop consulting and start building,” said Doug Paterson, who noted there has been 94 meetings with stakeholders in the last three years of this process that started in 2006.

“I want to see the RDN approve this and move ahead,” said Ross Griffiths.

Randy Dunville said he has built three homes in Nanoose Bay and he welcomes the return of quality tradespeople this development may bring.

“With the certainty of big construction will come the smaller construction, the building of homes,” he said, adding that he has watched many local people in the home-building trades leave the area for Alberta and other locations due to a lack of work here in recent years.

“These are tradesmen with strong ties to this area but they need to follow the money,” said Dunville.

David Patterson, the president of the Fairwinds Community Association, also expressed his support for the development.

“The development of Schooner Cove will only enhance the feeling of community,” said Patterson. “Support for this development has been unwavering.”

Other speakers urged both the RDN and the provincial government to move this “expeditiously.” One person even offered some advice for the local MLA.

“If Michelle Stilwell was here I would encourage her to move this through the province’s bureaucracy as fast as she could,” said Joe Straka.

After the meeting, Russell Tibbles of Bental Kennedy (the firm managing the development for Fairwinds) said a best-case scenario could see the pub/restaurant/retail and some portion of the housing on the Schooner Cove part of the plan being opened in less than three years.

“From the point that the bylaws are finally approved it’s probably about a year’s worth of pre-development work until construction can begin, then construction would take 18-24 months, something in that range,” said Tibbles.

The one person who didn’t speak glowingly about the plan like others did on Monday night said she was excited about the project on the whole, but still had concerns about easement issues surrounding the proposed boardwalk near her Outrigger Road home and how that would affect her waterfront access.

“I do understand the discussions are ongoing,” said Glory Gray.

The four bylaws regional district directors will consider for third reading on May 27 are:

• a bylaw changing zoning to allow up to 1,675 units of residential development in the Lakes District, including single-family residential, duplexes, mixed-use residential, parks and trails.

• a bylaw changing zoning to allow the development of a mixed use waterfront village at Schooner Cove with commercial shops and services, a marina, seniors’ housing, a waterfront boardwalk and up to 300 multiple dwelling residences.

• a bylaw to amend the subdivision servicing standards for community water and sewer. All of the new homes and businesses will be hooked up to community water and sewer.

• a bylaw authorizing a phased approach to the development (up to 20 years).

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