A proposed 800-unit development near the Englishman River will require more public engagement.
District Developments is seeking an official community plan (OCP) amendment and a zoning and development bylaw amendment to permit the proposed planned neighbourhood “Riverside”, which would be bounded by the Englishman River to its west and south. The developer wants to rezone the land, currently designated single unit residential, to comprehensive development, while keeping its planned neighbourhood designation.
The proposal is still in its initial stages. During its May 16 regular meeting, Parksville council voted unanimously in favour of advancing it to consultation with stakeholder agencies, such as the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), School District 69 (Qualicum) and a number of provincial government ministries.
Several council members expressed concern over the project’s lack of details.
“We received many calls from the public saying they don’t really know what’s planned,” said Coun. Doug O’Brien. “So they’re afraid of the density, they’re afraid of losing the park and so forth, and rightfully so.”
He added council did not receive a draft plan laying out specifically which areas of the development will remain parkland and which will be developed. O’Brien said the public was not informed enough about propsed measures to protect sensitive features such as wetlands and floodplains.
Briana Mussatto, development manager for District Developments, presented a plan to council that calls for half of the 140 acres to be developed, over a 10-to-15-year period, while the other half is preserved.
During ongoing virtual public consultation from Aug. 2 to Sept. 30 of last year, District received mor than 1,000 responses to its survey. Forty-six per cent were “aligned with District’s objectives”, 35 per cent indicated they were opposed and 19 were considered neutral, according to Mussatto.
Mussatto said concerns varied, from dog walkers who want plenty of walking trails to people who do not want to see the area developed at all.
“When we talk to environmental groups, the environmental groups would like to fence off a lot of the areas to protect them from dog walkers and people disturbing the areas,” she said. “So we’re trying to find the right balance.”
The property is within the Douglas Fir ecosystem development permit area, a flood plain development permit area and a water course development permit area, according to Blaine Russell, the city’s director of community planning and building. He added no trees could be removed on the site without a development permit and the application is still in its initial stages.
Before an OCP amendment can be prepared and brought to council, by law there will need to be additional public engagement, in addition to the agencies being consulted and providing comment.
“We’ve got to go one more step to hear what the agencies say,” said Mayor Ed Mayne. “Then the developer will be able to hopefully formalize some plans and say this is what we’re going to do specifically on this piece of property and then we can start to make some informed decisions.”