Density Transfer bylaws adopted by Gabriola Local Trust Committee

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Thursday, September 27 2018

The Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) has adopted Bylaw Nos. 289 and 290, arising from rezoning application GB-RZ-2016.1 (Potlatch Development and Pilot Bay Holdings).

Doing so will eventually see over 400 acres of parkland added to the overall Regional District of Nanaimo Community Parks system on Gabriola. It will also - if given approval by the Transportation Ministry - see a road connection built between Spruce Avenue and Church Road, shortening the distance into Phase 4 considerably, from 7km to 1km.

For the applicant, it will mean being able to subdivide the receiver parcels into 25 residential lots, most of them accessed off of Taylor Bay Road.

Gabriola Trustees Heather O’Sullivan and Melanie Mamoser, with LTC Chair Laura Busheikin, voted unanimously in favour of adopting the bylaws at the final LTC meeting of this term, held on September 27, 2018.

Trustee Mamoser said she was disappointed to see one issue arising from the application still not completed.

There will be a five-acre piece of land still remaining in the applicant’s ownership adjacent to the donor lands along Coats Road.

The LTC and applicants had talked about there being a framework put in place to give the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) the first option to purchase that property.

Mamoser said that with all the LTC did to consider the application within a year, having it take a year and a half to still not get that framework in place with the RDN was disappointing.

In GB-RZ-2016.1, the applicant will transfer and donate 155.3 hectares (383.74 acres) of land between the 707 Community Park and Coats Marsh Regional Park in exchange for the creation of 25 residential lots between Church Road and Taylor Bay Road, south of Cox Community Park, with those lots having an average lot area of 1.9 hectares (4.69 acres).

The subdivision will include 40.5 acres of park and trail connections on the receiver lands between Cox Community Park and the Village Core area.

With Bylaws 289 and 290 adopted, Trust staff say the applicant will be required to transfer the donor lands to the RDN.

The applicants have prepared the transfer documentation and the Trust has a letter of undertaking from the applicants’ solicitor to that effect. 

Once Land Titles receives the documents it can take anywhere from 7-30 days for the transfer to be completed. 

The 16.4 ha park proposed in the receiver lands will not be transferred to the RDN until the time of first subdivision. 

Nor will the connector road between Church and Spruce be open until approved by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

Trust staff said on Thursday that the subdivision application to MOTI has already been referred by MOTI to the Islands Trust, and has been sent back to MOTI with 16 items for MOTI and the applicant to deal with including a development permit application.

After they had voted to adopt the bylaws, Trustees had final comments on the application, which has dominated the last two years of this term.

Trustee Mamoser said it was amazing foresight by previous Trustees and the Gabriola community to put in place a mechanism like the density transfer to find a way to increase the amount of parkland on Gabriola.

Prior to the this transfer and the one which led to the creation of the 707 Community Park, Gabriola had less than two per cent of the island set aside as park.

With the two density transfer applications, Gabriola has increased that by eight per cent. “So it has been an incredibly beneficial tool for Gabriola.”

She said she knows there was a lot of discussion around this application on how it could have been used to help with affordable housing on Gabriola. At the end of the day though, Gabriola is getting three per cent more parkland for the island.

“There will be opportunity to revisit this - and look for whether we need an incentive for parkland or other needs.”

Brian Henning, one of the applicants responsible for the application, said he believes this may be the last big density transfer opportunity the island has. “There’s not a lot of parcels left.”

He suggested the tool may need to be looked at to address housing and other things, but, “this may be it for density transfers.”

Mamoser said, “I want to make sure we remember how significant these policies have been in our Official Community Plan in having this parkland in the middle of our island protected forever. 

“This is the right parkland, and the right place to develop - and we’re going to get another chunk of parkland behind our school, with trails to connect our community better, never mind the road that will connect our emergency services better.

“I know not everyone wanted this, but I think we’ll be happy with this moving forward.”

Trustee Heather O’Sullivan said she was grateful that the current LTC can see the close of this application within this term.

“Definitely down to the wire, but it feels good. 

“This was an exceptionally challenging process for us and the community because there were strong feelings on both sides, and I honestly think we, as the community, made the effort to hear all the arguments, pros and cons, and try and do our very best with the best solution for the community, for the applicants, for all interested parties.

“One of the beauties of the Islands Trust, because land use planning is separate from other services, we do have the ability to make our decision solely with the Islands Trust mandate in mind.

“I honestly believe I can sleep at night because we did this according to the OCP, LUB and our community values and I’m proud to have played a part in this.”

Bob Rooks and Brian Henning, representing all of the applicants on the file, thanked the LTC and staff for their work. Rooks said “it was hard work for all - I appreciate the thoroughness, the job the Trustees did, thank you.”

Henning said the staff were great to work with and that, “I think it will be a successful development - those happen when developers and the community and staff work together. Thank you.”

RDN Director Howard Houle said following the meeting, “I would like to thank the Island Trustees and the Islands Trust staff for all their hard work on the Potlach density transfer. This land around Coats Marsh is a wonderful addition to the 707 park. With another 384 acres we will have a more complete ecosystem and the trails will be more connected.”