Some residents of a central Campbell River neighbourhood are upset at the possibility of a four-storey apartment complex being built at the corner of Island Highway (19A) and 3rd Avenue.
The property in question is under consideration for rezoning from R-1 (single family residential) to CD (Comprehensive Development) to accommodate a proposed 60-unit apartment building, and residents are concerned that their voices won’t be heard because of changes in the rezoning process due to COVID-19.
In a normal year, the proponent of the development would need to hold a public meeting where people could ask questions and express their concerns. This year, however, that requirement has been waived due to restrictions placed on gatherings by the provincial health officer.
“That obviously creates a whole lot of anxiety for property owners in the area that they won’t have the ability to voice their opinions,” says Beverly Schulte, whose property is across the street from the proposed development. “I mean, they’re accepting correspondence by email, which is great, but they haven’t done any public consultation on the project.”
Another red flag, Schulte says, is that she hasn’t been contacted by either the city or the developer about the project at any time throughout the process.
Renea Sumner is another concerned neighbour. She started a petition to stop the rezoning process on Change.Org which she plans on delivering to the city. As of the writing of this article, the petition had over 350 signatures.
“The city needs to follow its own processes,” Sumner says. “I know it’s COVID, so everything’s weird, but this sets a precedent. If this goes through, that’s a slippery slope.”
She agrees with Schulte that when development is being considered – especially if it involves major changes to the form and character of an area or goes against the city’s Official Community Plan – it needs to be brought to the people who live there.
“I happened to be driving home one day as a couple of people were installing the sign, which is how we found out,” Sumner says. “People don’t know this is happening. We went door to door to talk to people, and nobody had been contacted or even knew this was a thing that was going on.”
Development planning supervisor for the City of Campbell River, Andy Gaylor, however, says the neighbours will “absolutely” have an opportunity to give feedback, but the project is still early in the process, which is why letters haven’t been sent out.
While it’s true that requirement for developers to hold a neighbourhood public meeting has been suspended, Gaylor says, there will still need to be a public hearing should the rezoning be considered by city council.
“Right now, city staff are looking at the technical merits of the application at a staff level,” Gaylor says. “We work through some issues with the developer, at which point we would take it before council for first and second reading, and if council wants to see it move forward, then a public hearing would be scheduled. That’s when we would send our letters to property owners within 100 metres of the subject property and post advertisements in the newspaper, that kind of thing.”
Unfortunately, public hearings are being held virtually these days rather than in-person at City Hall, but Gaylor says there will be instructions circulated on how to join the meeting, should it get to that point, and anyone who wishes to speak on the matter will be more than welcome to have their say.
“Certainly we recognize that this is obviously a significant application in terms of density and there are some neighbourhood impacts, so this is something we really want to ensure the public has a say in throughout the approval process,” Gaylor says.
It’s not just the process that the neighbours have concerns about. There are traffic concerns, environmental concerns and infrastructure capacity concerns as well. And it’s not just the immediate neighbours, either. There are hand-painted “No Rezone” signs posted in yards from 1st Avenue to 4th Avenue, and all the way from the highway up to Alder Street.
Sumner says there has been some backlash to her petition, with some members of the community accusing her and the signatories of only being interested in their ocean views and property values.
While she admits that there is concern about property values, those concerns are not only financial ones.
“There are two things that mean something to people in this world: their family and their home,” Sumner says. “It’s not just monetary. Your home gives you privacy, pride, a sense of accomplishment. When you take those things away from people, it creates a whole lot of problems. We all have stressful lives, and we escape to our homes to find our peace and tranquility. If that place that is your sanctuary becomes your stress…” she says, leaving it open-ended.
“The homes in this area are the founding homes of Campbell River,” she continues. “They’ve been here since the 50s, and nobody wants to see them replaced by a line of new four-storey apartment complexes. There’s history here that you can’t replace with bright shiny new four-storey buildings.”
Watch future editions of the Campbell River Mirror and online at campbellrivermirror.com for any updates.