Letter: Church/Spruce/Taylor Bay development proposal and accompanying request for rezoning and density transfer

Tuesday, June 21 2016

Have Gabriolans really looked at the impact and scale of this proposed new subdivision? This project is about much more than an easier route to the village. And as a Spruce/Phase 4 resident, there seems scant consideration of those who would be most directly affected by the subdivision. From the perspective of a lay-citizen, many concerns and questions arise:

This appears to be a large-scale subdivision development (180 acres between Taylor Bay, Church and beyond). The planned 25 big properties (an average of 4.7 acres?) with residences plus cottages, would probably house at least 50 plus new residents coming and going. But the size of the densities/lots and the number of densities being added/exchanged seems unclear. And larger properties tend to be costly. I expect purchasers will have to have money. Yet is it not affordable housing that we actually need on Gabriola?

Our water resources are scarce - especially with recent drought and global warming. While I am not an expert, RDN Water Budget maps appear to indicate a lower water table elevation in some areas of the subject property - for example at higher elevation and perhaps near the Lochinvar area. How will Lochinvar/Burnside residents feel about this development and well capacities? And can the rocky properties support septic systems?

It looks like the lower subdivision will cut a wide path through the wooded lands between the Mallet Creek and Burnside, and down to Taylor Bay. Beautiful trees, wildlife and plant habitat will be affected. Despite setbacks, might the Mallet Creek and Pond habitats still be vulnerable to the noise and dangers of runoff from nearby construction, road building, septic and subdivision activity, especially during higher water periods? How many years would construction drag on for? Apparently “the pond is utilized by many species of wildlife as a source of drinking water and feeding/rearing area” and coho and other fish have been identified in the creek/pond.” One specified 10 metre creek setback is far less than the required distance between our wells and septic fields.

A search “of the CDC’s BC Ecosystem Explorer database provided a list of multiple rare ecological communities, plant and animal species “with potential to occur on the property”. The wildlife surveyor reportedly found evidence of red-tailed hawks, beaver, red-legged frogs, eastern cottontail, and a variety of nesting birds and egg-laying salamander. The bio-inventory states “Any future development occurring on the property involving land clearing activities should only be undertaken outside of the April 1 - August 1 general breeding season for most wildlife species”. And how will property wetlands be protected over time?

According to the proposal documents, there is documented First Nations archaeology within 1km of the subject property containing middens and “pre-contact human burials, surface and subsurface stone tool sites....” and potential for sites on the property. Yet it seems there has been no First Nations input on the development.

Where will the lower development exit? One proposal map appears to show 2 roads for 17 lots exiting directly onto the Taylor Bay ferry hill area. That’s disturbing. On another map it is unclear if there are exits at Lochinvar and/or Burnside. A road down to Daniel Way is proposed. Will those neighbours want additional traffic, noise and dust? Would you feel differently if it was happening on your street? How will the developer control and maintain these private roads and steep slopes and for how long?

A Spruce Church public connector road seems like a good idea for emergency access but what about: the extra traffic; speeding (already a problem); tight curves; pedestrian, child, pet and cyclist safety; dust; noise in a super-quiet area; loss of privacy; and loss of property values? Not to mention the vehicles that have shot off the road into the woods or private yards on the curves. Additional traffic on Church could also create congestion where ambulances and fire trucks are trying to exit. These new thoroughfares could create safety and costly maintenance issues - that fall outside of the private development responsibility.

Many Spruce neighbours agree that with current technology, a gated emergency access road could service Phase Four without a public thoroughfare. Maintenance and safety upgrades (signage, speed bumps etc.) for public road traffic, would likely exceed the costs of a gate. All other arguments for the Spruce/Church connector road seem to revolve around convenience. Why pave paradise for convenience?

Indeed why are we rezoning to install a large subdivision? Why would we bulldoze woodlands in exchange for parkland and multiple subdivision buildings? I don’t see the gain here. Let’s not sell our souls for a road and park carrot. Emergency routes and parkland should not come with a requirement to buy into a big subdivision (that could alter sensitive ecosystems). If it is the emergency access that we want, there should be another way to accomplish that.

Finally, the Islands Trust Staff Report on this proposal is dated May 2, 2016. It seems some of our public services expressed support for the proposal at a meeting/presentation held by the developer a year ago. Was all relevant, objective Islands Trust assessment, and official public and other input available at that time? I don’t know. Perhaps they would consider revisiting some of the issues after reviewing any new input. My understanding is that this project proposal is in the early stages of consideration by Islands Trust, MOTI and others and is subject to scrutiny, change, public input or perhaps even termination.

~ Karen Hodgson