Connecting Spruce and Church through density transfer; park creation

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 17 2015

A density transfer proposal is being put forward which, if approved, would see Gabriola gain 400 acres of parkland for a zero increase in density.

The proponents of the proposal would also complete the connection between Church and Spruce Roads which the Gabriola fire chief has been advocating for over a number of years.

The donor parcels are 345 acres which lie between the 707 Community Park and Coats Marsh Regional Park.

The receiver parcels are three pieces of property between Church Road and Burnside/Lockinvar, north of the Village Core.

In the end, there would be 345 acres of park created next to the 707 Community Park as well as 40 more acres of park to the area east and south of the Cox Community Park, including the Peacock Pond and Mallet Creek waterway.

Brian Henning and Bob Rooks of Williamson & Associates were speaking to various groups over the past week to gauge whether the proposal had merit enough to bring before the Gabriola Local Trust Committee.

They presented to the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District Board (photo to right) on Wednesday evening, also presenting to the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce that same night and to the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust later in the week.

The donor parcels are three pieces of property which surround the east and north borders of Coats Marsh Regional Park, dividing Coats from the 707. Those properties are currently zoned Forestry and have 17 available densities on them.

Henning and Rooks noted in their presentation the parcel to the east of Coats Marsh is where the springs which feed the marsh are located, as well as a portion of the marsh itself.

The two parcels north and northwest of Coats Marsh (south of the 707) already have trails which are commonly used. As Rooks said, the idea is to get those properties set up as parks rather than try to redirect the trails around the properties.

Previously, Williamson & Associates had proposed transferring the densities to lands near Sandwell Provincial Park.

Henning explained to the fire board trustees that the Sandwell proposal was not going to go ahead. Instead, he and Rooks are proposing to transfer the densities to the properties between Church Road and the former Peacock property on Taylor Bay Road.

Currently, explained Henning, there are three parcels. The one closest to Spruce-Church is between 75 and 76 acres and is zoned Forestry. Adjacent to Taylor Bay Road is a fourth piece of property with two lots zoned Large Rural Residential (LRR). Between the LRR property and the Forestry lot is a two parcel property measuring 100 acres in size and zoned Resource.

In all, not including the two lots in the LRR, there are six, potentially seven, densities currently in the land north of the Village Core.

Henning said he needs to speak to the Islands Trust planning staff to confirm whether it is six or seven densities available there.

The proposal then is to transfer the 17 densities from the properties by the 707 to the Resource/Forestry properties north of the Village Core.

When it comes to subdividing the 175 acres into private property lots, the largest piece is proposed to be set aside as park land.

A few (up to five) properties five acres in size would be set up along the bluffs to the northeast of the Church Street parcel, north of the road which would connect from Church to Spruce.

Henning said of the whole proposal, these would be the only properties with road access not originating from Taylor Bay Road.

The remaining 18 to 19 lots would be between three and five acres in size and would be built on either side of a road running east from Taylor Bay Road, east of the LRR lot directly adjacent to Taylor Bay Road.

As Henning explained, there would be no vehicle access to the new properties from Burnside or Lockinvar Lane, although there would be trail accesses connecting to those respective roads - as well as further east to the trail that runs west from the Community Health Clinic.

It would also create a trail connection from the north side of the elementary school property and Paisley Park through to Cox Park and Descanso Bay Regional Park.

Between the new properties, and the Church-Spruce connector, there would be a 40 acre park created, with connections to the current Cox Community Park. 

If all goes as planned, the pond/water reservoir currently on the former Peacock property would be included in the park area, as would the waterway flowing along Mallet Creek.

In terms of the fire board, Henning explained that they were seeking advice from the various interest groups on the island to see if this was a proposal that should move forward.

The fire board voted in favour of the proposal, saying that it would certainly improve the Gabriola Fire Department’s ability to respond along Spruce Road to the rest of Phase 4 and along Berry Point Road.

Fire Chief Rick Jackson said it currently takes the department eleven minutes to respond to Phase 4.

Henning explained that if the road is extended, and “if we do the density transfer, then the road can be extended. Obviously that is good for the fire department, the school bus, GERTIE, and insurance rates.”

He and the fire board acknowledged there will be people living on Spruce who may not want to see the road connected. Fire Chief Jackson said, “We’ve always felt this road needs to go through for the greater good; for fire and ambulance.”

Henning and Rooks said this is not a development that is going to go up overnight if approved; estimating that from when the application is put into the Islands Trust to when homes are on all the properties would take between 10 and 15 years.

The important numbers, as they pointed out, is that there would be a zero increase in density to Gabriola if this is approved, with 400 acres of land set aside as parkland and 120 acres then set up as 23 private residential properties.