The city-owned land at the end of Shelly Road in Parksville could become the future home of an affordable housing development for families.
At the Dec. 2 council meeting, Parksville city council passed the first and second reading of bylaws that would see rezoning of the land to support medium-density housing, as well as amend text in the official community plan to allow for affordable housing on land currently considered community use.
The parcel of land backs onto the Englishman River Estuary. It is a 13-acre parcel, most of which lies in the estuary’s 200-year floodplain.
There are, however, 2.35 acres of developable land that council is eyeing for the project.
“This is in line with our priorities that we’ve been trying to work on, is to increase affordable housing for families,” said Coun. Adam Fras.
“One thing I like about this particular location, being close to the estuary, it provides a wonderful backyard for a higher use of families. Rather than having low-density back onto such wonderful parkland, I’d like to see it be more accessible.”
Medium-density zoning allows for between 28 to 47 residential units on the 2.35 acres of developable land in the parcel. The land is currently zoned for single-family residential use. The city staff report says that there are other medium-density zones in the nearby area that the neighbourhood has found acceptable.
Mayor Ed Mayne was strongly in favour of the project, saying that this is a crucial first step towards creating more affordable living in Parksville.
“Single moms, people with disabilities, senior citizens – all those that are one day away from losing their existing homes, can afford to pay rent in these places, or to acquire these particular places if in fact it were to be sold,” said Mayne. “This is a good opportunity to put our foot forward, and to start this whole idea of affordable housing in the city of Parksville. We need it.”
The property was initially purchased with $650,000 of parkland reserve funds in order to construct the Rathtrevor Greenway trail. Coun. Doug O’Brien voiced concerns that in the event of the sale of the property, those funds would have to be repaid to the parkland reserve out of the city’s general revenue.
The report from staff highlights the same issue.
“It is staff’s understanding that an appropriate proportion of the value of the land will need to be contributed back to the parkland reserve fund. Establishing an appropriate value may require an independent appraisal,” reads the report.
CAO Keeva Kehler said that depends on if and when the land is sold.
“My understanding of the legislation is that that specifically speaks to the proceeds from sales. So if the city were not selling it, that wouldn’t be an issue,” said Kehler.
City staff also received feedback from local stakeholder groups as part of the process.
Both the Oceanside Development and Construction Association and the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce voiced concerns the land is not the best place for an affordable housing development, and that the city should consider the sale of the developable portion of the property to purchase another lot.
Specific concerns of the ODCA were that the area is not close enough to amenities, as is generally recommended for affordable housing projects.
“The site does not meet the location criteria generally considered for affordable housing, and specifically not for family-oriented affordable housing. An appropriate site should be on a public transit line, within 400 metres walking distance of schools, medical, retail commercial and recreational uses. This reflects that low-income families may not have easy access to vehicles,” said ODCA president Michelle Jones in a letter to Parksville Director of Community Planning and Building Blaine Russell.
Jeannie Maltesen of the Chamber said in a letter to Russell that purchasing and developing a different location could allow for a higher density designation.
At this point, it has not been decided whether the affordable housing developments would be rentals or purchased units, as the rezoning and OCP amendments do not dictate either way.
The next step of the project will be a public hearing at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 at the Parksville Civic and Technology Centre. Members of the public and neighbourhood are invited to voice their comments at this time.