Residents gathering at an affordable housing forum on Jan. 20 in Parksville. (Cloe Logan photo)

Residents speak out against proposed Parksville affordable housing development

Environment a primary concern; land is largely on a 200-year-old floodplain away from city centre

A crowd strongly opposed to an affordable housing development at 130 Shelly Rd. voiced their concerns to Parksville council at a forum on Jan. 20.

Residents stepped up to address Mayor Ed Mayne and other city staff and council members, mostly about environmental concerns surrounding the development, the majority of which is located on a 200-year-old floodplain.

Mayne said council will consider everything said while making their decision about the development, as well as the Official Community Plan amendment.

The floor was first opened for comment on the OCP amendment, which would allow council to give consideration to “allow residential and/or multi-unit residential land uses for affordable housing, rental housing, special needs housing or where it is determined to address gaps in the existing housing inventory.”

Several people got up to speak against this amendment, which went through first and second readings at a council meeting in early December 2019. After the public hearing, it will be read a third time in the council and then considered.

One man got up and said, “it’s supposed to be an Official Community Plan, not an Official Council Plan.”

READ MORE: Public hearing set for affordable housing development in Parksville

Similar sentiments were expressed by other speakers, who accused the council of disrespecting the previous municipal government by changing the OCP in this way.

Mitch Carson got up to speak, and said he doesn’t think city-owned land should be sold at all.

The majority of people were there to talk specifically about the proposed development at Shelly Road, though. A bylaw would need to be passed to allow rezoning of the land to allow for medium-density housing. The city passed first and second readings of the bylaw, which if passed would allow for 28 to 47 residential units on the land. The land is zoned for single-family residential use right now and was purchased with $650,000 of parkland reserve funds.

Residents spoke for a maximum of three minutes, each with individual concerns surrounding the bylaw. Questions about how the 13-acre parcel of land was purchased were brought up, but the loudest protests surrounded the Englishman River Estuary.

Tom Reid from the Nature Trust of British Columbia expressed his concern about the habitat, explaining that building on the land (and therefore increasing the foot traffic in the area) could harm the delicate ecosystem.

He ended by saying: “The Nature Trust, we’re always willing to work with municipalities.”

Lynn Brooks, who lives in Errington, asked why land purchased from the Parkland Reserve Funds would be used for anything other than a park. She brought up a letter from the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, which outlined why they didn’t support the bylaw amendment to 130 Shelly Rd. The letter reads: “We believe that revenue derived from the sale of 130 Shelly Rd. could go towards the purchase of a less costly per hectare piece of land that would allow for higher density and more units being made available at an affordable price.”

It was a point brought up by other residents who feel like this piece of land isn’t appropriate for affordable housing, aside from environmental concerns.

Some say the development isn’t close to a bus stop, schools or grocery stores — which some residents said is an oversight by council.

Other issues about the development brought up on Monday surrounded Indigenous perspective, as well as the overall process of involving community members in the conversation.

Linda Reid urged the council to involve members from the local Indigenous community in the process.

“We’ve already seen what happens to the federal government when they aren’t consulted,” said Reid.

One of the last speakers was high school student, who said she wants the council to get information out more widely to youth.

The proposal is slated for third reading on Feb. 3.

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