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Developers present more details on proposed 800-unit Parksville neighbourhood

Council hears presentation from District Group at Dec. 5 meeting
District Group is seeking an official community plan (OCP) amendment and a zoning and development amendment bylaw to pave the way for the ‘Riverside’ project, which would be built out over a decade or more, if approved. (Screenshot from Parksville City Council’s Dec. 5 regular meeting)

Developers of a proposed 800-unit planned neighbourhood in Parksville provided more project details at city council’s Dec. 5 regular meeting.

District Group is seeking an official community plan (OCP) amendment and a zoning and development amendment bylaw to pave the way for the ‘Riverside’ project, which would be built out over a decade or more, if approved.

The proposed development, at 1465 Greig Rd., would be bounded by the Englishman River to its west and south.

The presentation addressed concerns such as wildlife habitat, the area’s existing trail network, increased traffic and insufficient civil infrastructure, including water resources.

Mike Nygren, District president and CEO, said multiple studies have confirmed the area’s capacity for storm, sanitary and water. He added city-commissioned independent reports demonstrate there is sufficient capacity for the development.

“While water is a sensitive issue, water has been contemplated for these growth areas for a very very long time,” Nygren said. “And the associated infrastructure that’s been built and will continue to be built through the city.”

He also pointed to a traffic study done in conjunction with the city and the ministry of transportation, which he said confirmed acceptable levels of service to accommodate the development.

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“It was probably the most benign transportation study that I’ve seen land on my desk,” Nygren said.

The plan calls for the intersection of Highway 19A, Tuan Road and Resort Way to be reconfigured and Tuan Road extended to the property. Northbound and southbound through lanes will be added to the intersection of the highway and Franklin’s Gull Road, as well as improvements to Greig Road.

The neighbourhood is planned to consist of five development pockets and will have up to 10 different forms of housing, such as duplexes and apartments, but will not include single-family units, according to District’s presentation.

Coun. Joel Grenz asked what plans there are for services and amenities in Riverside.

Brandon Crema, executive vice-president, said retail is a large traffic generator and bringing that level of traffic to the area did not seem reasonable, but District is considering small convenience retail such as a coffee shop.

The design calls for green space and amenity areas for parks, birdwatching areas and dog parks. District said it plans to keep many of the area’s existing trails, with new additions and the shifting of some trail alignments to work with the development pockets.

During surveys, a bear den was found, unoccupied, in the site’s northwest corner, according to Briana Mussatto, District Group development manager.

Coun. Sean Wood said he had heard there may be two dens on the site and asked if it was possible they were still being used.

Adam Compton, registered professional biologist with Environmental Dynamics Inc, said it was possible there are more dens.

“Depending on where they are, if they’re in a riparian zone, they would get protected anyway. That’s probably more likely where they would be,” said Compton. “If not, they’re not legally protected under the Wildlife Act, unless they’re occupied.”

Compton added pre-clearing surveys would be required before development in any given area of the site and the goal would be to clear land when bears are absent to make sure they are not caused undue harm.

“I think it’s safe to say there’s a bit of skepticism with respect to this development and we understand that,” said Kevin Foster, vice-president of development. “We’re building trust in this community.”

Foster said District has proposed commitments, including: rental housing as the first 100 units built, securing 53 acres of land as green space, a flood level agreement with 500-year floodplain, an updated traffic agreement after 400 units, securing public access to trails and a voluntary monetary contribution of $1,600 per unit.

Forty per cent of the land will be developed, Mussatto said, and it will take 10 to 15 years to complete, with approximately 50-80 units per year.

District anticipates the first residents are not likely until 2025, should the project be approved.

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Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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