Deep Bay residents are deeply divided over a proposed development in the community that would see the housing density of the area skyrocket.
That division, coupled with what was expressed by some residents as a deep distrust of the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), turned out to be a potent mix at a special meeting with Deep Bay residents and RDN director Bill Veenhof at the Bowser Legion Tuesday night.
The proposed Deep Bay strata development by Baynes Sound Investments would see 386 residential units and an RV resort with 292 units, along with park space, trails and a community building.
Moderator Robert Legatt was well aware of the tension Tuesday among the approximately 70 people at the meeting, making a plea for civility prior to getting down to business.
"We're all neighbours here," he said. "Keep it friendly."
Veenhof, the RDN director for Area H (Deep Bay-Bowser), said he needs to remain neutral on the issue, noting there are many people in favour of the development, as well as many opposed.
"I made a couple of motions that moved the Baynes Sound application down the road, and some of you are not for that approach," he said. "It's a fine line to navigate. Just because in some situations I'm not for you doesn't mean I am against you. The last thing I can be seen as is a shill for Baynes Sound Investments."
Veenhof said he plans to remain neutral throughout the process until a survey is held in the community. At that time, he said, he will take a stand.
"That survey will be binding on me," he said, stressing that if people are strongly in favour or opposed to the plan in the survey, he will take that position to the RDN board.
That didn't sit well with some of those in the packed Legion hall, who noted that Veenhof only has one vote at the RDN, meaning he could easily be overruled by the majority of the board.
Although he conceded this could be the case, Veenhof stressed that a rural area director has a great deal of pull on the rest of the board when dealing with issues confined to their region.
"I just have one voice, but it's a pretty strong voice for Area H issues," he said. "They generally go along with the director for a director's area. If I'm armed with the results of the survey, it makes it much more difficult to go against it."
Veenhof found himself forced to defended the RDN board after several comments that seethed with distrust of the elected body.
"I haven't seen one scintilla of evidence that there are dark forces lining up against us in this case," he said.
The issue of whether to move the project on to the next stage will go to a vote at this coming Tuesday's RDN meeting in Nanaimo.