Councillor’s push to limit residential projects raises hackles in North Cowichan

A North Cowichan councillor is bringing a contentious motion to council on Monday that is designed to limit residential development in certain parts of the municipality.

The proposal has ignited opposition from those who fear it could discourage investment, hurt local business, boost housing prices, lead to higher taxes and affect a proposed new hospital.

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North Cowichan developer Curtis Stretch of Suncraft Construction said the motion’s negative implications are “vast.”

Stretch predicted fallout including expensive legal challenges if the motion passes, adding council support in general for development has decreased.

“Development is now an expensive and risky venture that mainly larger, non-residents of the area tend to take on.”

Coun. Christopher Justice’s motion to restrict new subdivisions would apply to a total of 468.5 hectares (1,157 acres) if approved, a municipal staff report said.

Some is designated rural and some is within the existing urban containment boundary.

The motion proposes a partial and temporary pause in processing some applications in some areas, “while we consider how we want to grow in the future,” Justice said.

He said the goal is to eliminate suburban sprawl in favour of building high-density, vibrant core communities.

But the staff report warned that the motion could affect the reputation of the municipality as a place for investing and doing business.

It isn’t known how applications already in progress would be affected if the motion passes. Some developers have already built infrastructure, such as roads, to meet subdivision requirements, staff said.

The motion comes as North Cowichan reviews its official community plan, which should be completed by June 2121, Justice said. Many believe the existing urban containment boundary, containing large green areas, is too large and that some lands should be removed, he said.

North Cowichan is already facing development pressure, which will likely increase prior to the community plan being completed, he said, suggesting owners of lands in those areas could swamp city hall with subdivision applications prior to the OCP being wrapped up.

He said the intent of his motion is to discourage new rezoning applications within lands of concern.

Even if it’s approved, the motion does have limitations.

Although the motion would send a signal to land-use applicants, council is still required to consider applications that come in, the staff report said, and the approving officer wound not be bound by the motion.

Mayor Al Siebring said the motion could affect the proposed hospital.

The idea was for Island Health to deliver water and sewer infrastructure under an arrangement that would see developers of new residential subdivisions reimburse the agency once they hooked up to the lines.

Siebring is also concerned that the motion would seem to pre-determine the outcome of the community plan, which legally requires the municipality to carry out broad public consultation.

• To read the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, go to northcowichan.ca/EN/main/municipal-hall/meeting-agendas.html.

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