Last week’s regular RDN meeting marked what chair Joe Stanhope called “a watershed moment” in the Fairwinds development project, a plan that’s been on the table for six years and is finally headed to formal public hearing.
The board gave second reading to zoning bylaw amendments which will see land known as “the Notch” zoned entirely as parkland — preserving what Nanoose First Nation (Snaw-naw-as) chief David Bob described as “culturally significant land.”
“We have no hard feelings about the Fairwinds development,” Bob told The NEWS in a phone interview Saturday. “We agree development has to happen but we, as a nation, have to look after our sacred sites and we will do so.”
According to RDN manager of current planning Jeremy Holm, the Notch lands are located within Fairwinds, encompassing an area of approximately 43 hectares. Under the amended bylaws, the entire Notch land will be zoned for park use, including 10 hectares which was previously proposed to be zoned for residential use.
Bob said he was “satisfied” with the agreement that came after five months of dialog between the Nanoose First Nations, regional district and developers. Additionally, Bob said he will attend the formal public hearing slated for May 12 to support the project.
RDN director George Holme, who represents Nanoose Bay, said the “milestone agreement” reflects respect and recognition of the First Nations people.
“It has taken a while to gain the trust of the First Nations,” said Holme. “They should be a part of these decisions.”
Holme has earmarked $50,000 from the Nanoose Park Fund for the RDN to purchase the 10 hectares of parkland.
In 2011, the RDN board of directors adopted two separate OCP amendment bylaws to integrate the Lakes District and Schooner Cove Neighborhood Plans into the Nanoose Bay OCP.
The Schooner Cove plan allows for shops, a full-service marina, pedestrian-oriented public open spaces and a maximum of 360 condo units. The Lakes District Neighborhood Plan includes a maximum of 1,675 single dwelling and multi-dwelling residential units, which represents the remaining balance of the 2,500 dwelling units permitted in the OCP for what the RDN calls the Fairwinds Urban Containment Boundary.
Holm said this is the biggest proposal the RDN has dealt with in recent history.
“Due to the size of this development it is very significant regionally and I would even said provincially,” said Holm.
Russell Tibbles, Bentall Kennedy’s vice president for development and operations at Fairwinds, said he is pleased to see the project move forward to formal public hearing.
“Public consultation has been a hallmark of this project,” said Tibbles. “The development of these projects needs to reflect the community.”
Tibbles said if third reading is passed at the formal public hearing the project will undergo approximately one year of “pre construction” — which will include getting development and building permits — before actual construction can begin.
Tibbles said the project will likely be developed over 20 years.
Fairwinds Community Association president Dave Patterson said while he would have liked to see this project go to public hearing last year, he is happy a public hearing date has been set to move forward with development.
“From our point of view we think there is a fairly strong support base for this project,” said Patterson on behalf of the FCA. “We’re pleased the public hearing has been scheduled and we’re looking forward to development happening.”
Holme said while there is widespread support for the Fairwinds development concerns over water and environmental issues are still at large and he expects the public hearing to be a full house.
Chair of the mid-Island wilderness committee Annette Tanner said the Fairwinds development project compromises a globally imperiled ecosystem.
“We have a unique climate and high biological diversity which gives way to an abundance of plant and animal species which are not being protected by government,” said Tanner. “We need to preserve this ecosystem — we can’t afford to continue development.”
The formal public hearing is slated for May 12 at 6.30 p.m. at Nanoose Community Hall, 2925 Northwest Bay Road.