LTC passes first reading for affordable housing proposal

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 1 2020

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee has given first reading to the proposed bylaws which would see an affordable housing development built on Paisley Place.

The land, which was donated to the Gabriola Housing Society (GHS) by Emcon Services, is part of the former Provincial Highways Yard.

Emcon divided the property up when it took ownership of the property - the lots were zoned Institutional by the authorities of the time.

The portion of the property which would see the housing built on is adjacent to the back of the elementary school soccer fields and the privately owned forestry land behind the soccer fields.

The land which neighbours the homes on Lockinvar is being left as undeveloped forest by the GHS.

In order to build the affordable housing on the property, the Housing Society needs the Islands Trust to rezone the property and approve it for multi-family use.

Members of the Gabriola Housing Society - specifically Sibyl Frei, Chair of the Building Committee for GHS, with GHS President Nancy Hetherington Peirce, and their development consultant Ian Scott - presented to the LTC this past Thursday

Frei said, “We believe that our Paisley Place affordable housing project has been carefully thought out, and that the draft bylaws are well-constructed.”

Frei pointed out the proposed location as being perfect, as it is near to the Village centre and community amenities, and acknowledged that the proposal does require an Official Community Plan amendment which would allow for densities to be created, as well as the creation of a new zone and site-specific regulations in the LUB.

“We hope that the LTC will see that the draft bylaws have found the right balance between the ‘preserve and protect’ mandate of the Islands Trust and the clear need for more affordable housing on Gabriola.”

The Society asked the LTC to establish a schedule which would accelerate the rezoning process for the project so that rezoning can be as close to complete as possible prior to January 15, 2021.

If this was done, they said, it would strengthen the Society’s application for critical funding from BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund, without which the Housing Society may not have the money to build this greatly needed, affordable rental housing project for many years to come.

Over 70 households wrote letters to the LTC supporting this request. Three households wrote letters of concern.

Five island organizations that work directly with people facing affordable housing challenges wrote letters of support: People for a Health Community, the Chamber of Commerce, the HOPE Centre, the Parent Advisory Council of the Gabriola Elementary School, and the Gabriola Health Care Foundation.

Frei said, “Our target still is to get to third reading by mid- to later October if at all possible.”

Along with giving first reading to the bylaws, the Gabriola LTC passed a resolution aiming to have the public hearing about GHS’s proposal by the week of October 5.

This would mean the second reading would need to be held prior to that public hearing.

If the hearing was completed by October 5, a third reading could then happen, such that the bylaws could be sent to the Province and to the Islands Trust Executive Committee for approval prior to January 2021.