Parksville and area residents turned out in droves for a marathon public hearing Feb. 13 regarding a potential 800-unit development at 1465 Greig Rd. near the Englishman River.
Speakers overwhelmingly opposed the development, which will require a third reading from council regarding an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment and a zoning and development amendment bylaw before final adoption of the bylaws can be considered. The public hearing lasted well over three hours.
If carried, the amendments pave the way for the 800-unit ‘Riverside’ project by District Development, to be built out over a decade or more, if approved. It would be bounded by the Englishman River to its west and south.
Concerns included placing more stress on the city’s water supply, the possibility of flooding, urban sprawl, increased traffic, the area’s sensitive ecosystem — particularly the river, shrinking green space in the community and a lack of public transportation options.
Residents also said they were worried about the strain 800 new units would place on Parksville’s infrastructure and emergency services. Another common concern was the lack of services planned for the neighbourhood in plans presented so far.
“The neighbourhood is 3.5-kilometres away from the closest grocery store and it’s not walkable to city core,” said Linda Harbo, president of the Greig Greenway Society, which opposes the development. “I don’t see any biking paths or charging stations, and everybody will have to drive to everywhere they want to go.”
Harbo added the area serves as a wildlife corridor that provides food, water, shelter and breeding sites, and is home to blue-listed species like the Red-legged frog and the Rough-skinned newt.
Christopher Bob, elected council member for Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation, said his nation has been part of restoration and enhancement of the Englishman River, but had not been consulted about the development.
“It’s disturbing because we haven’t had involvement,” Bob said. “We have no say. We don’t have a voice at the table, so I’m here to share that concern on behalf of my nation and my people.”
He added he is concerned about stress on the watershed and would like to see the land preserved long-term for future generations.
Business owner and long-time resident Tyler Cody said he was initially against the development, but changed his mind when he saw what the buildout looks like. He added the project will be overseen by third-party engineers who have sworn oaths in their profession.
“Many of the concerns here would be addressed by disciplined professionals in their reports,” Cody said.
Cody said his employees are in favour of the development and he added that housing is a big issue for his staff.
District has proposed commitments that included 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 and securing public access to trails.
Forty per cent of the 140 acres will be developed, according to District, who anticipates the first residents are not likely to move in until 2025, should the project be approved.
Barbara Lowden, Greig Greenway Society secretary, said a petition against the proposal has been signed by nearly 1,500 Parksville residents, with more than 3,000 signatures in total. Lowden said that number is higher than the amount of votes any single member of council received in the October municipal election.
“I therefore suggest that you’ve heard from a majority of the citizens of Parksville,” she said. “They have spoken and they say no to this rezoning amendment.”
The proposal will need to pass a third reading by council before it can be given final adoption.