Cohousing project hits a bump in Qualicum Beach

Buffer zone for seasonal wetland is the issue: proponents still confident the project will go ahead

The Aldermuir cohousing proposal for Qualicum Beach suffered a blow, but the proponents say they will proceed.

“The odds may be stacked against us, but I think we will persevere,” said Gary Morrison, president and founder of the Vancouver based Livewell Cohousing, which hopes to build Aldermuir at the corner of Laburnum and Claymore Roads.

At a town committee-of-the-whole meeting Wednesday, council asked for clarification about required wetland buffer zones on the

8 ha. (20 acres) property where Livewell proposes building a 28 unit strata-titled cohousing community, developing 28 fee-simple single family homes and selling six strata-lots.

Working with the local Ballard Homes, Morrison said the plan is to develop a portion of the property to help fund the cohousing project, but the current proposal calls for development within 15 metres of a seasonal wetland.

“I think we got a bit more guidance from council and more clarity on the setback issue, which we think we’ve answered and resolved,” he said.

“We’ve followed the B.C. Develop with Care Guidelines 2014 to the letter,” Morrison said after the meeting, “as shown in the work, peer reviewed by the town’s own consultants.”

Town director of planning confirms the proposal meets two of three conflicting sets of regulations, the provincial care guidelines and riparian regulations, but hasn’t addressed the town’s 2005 official community plan (OCP).

The setback issue comes from the building of the Laburnum ring road through the area.

According to the staff report, a block of sensitive habitat on both sides of Laburnum, from Claymore Road south, was set aside with 50 to 200-metre development setbacks.

The 2005 OCP extended the zone across Claymore to include the property now in question.

Maps and the staff report clearly show and state, “Based on… the council motion (Feb., 2005)… it does not appear the subject property was intended to be included with the buffering requirements.”

“In the 2005 OCP council signed off on a 50m setback, therefore I can’t support this,” said coun. Neil Horner.

Coun. Barry Avis called the proposal “overdevelopment in sensitive wetlands.”

“I’m not saying no, but there are concerns that we may have to look at,” said mayor Teunis Westbroek, calling the current proposal a “non-starter.”

While Morrison asked for council to give first reading to get to the public hearing stage and allow them to present their case, council declined.

They can still bring the application before council in the future, but have ndicated they will not do it right away, taking some time to adress the issue.

Morrison admitted that if council does decide to enforce a 50m setback, let alone a 200m setback, “it would be a deal killer,” that would destroy the project’s economic feasibility.

“My guess is we have less than a 50 per cent chance of being approved,” he said, adding he mostly wants to be heard. “We can take a vote against us, but not without our day (in front of council).”

He understands “at the end of the day it will be up to council to make the decision, my job is to present our case.”

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