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15th February 2023
‘We do not have enough water:’ Parksville residents voice disapproval over Greig Rd. development

By Jordan Davidson
Feb 14, 2023 12:56 PM

PARKSVILLE — Local residents overwhelmingly voiced their objection to a proposed, expansive development of the city’s south end.

A public hearing for the development of 1465 Greig Rd., held Monday, Feb. 13, heard from dozens of concerned people determined to see “Riverside”, a new 800-unit neighbourhood, not proceed a step further.

Sherry Dance, with the Greig Greenway Society, said she is “vehemently, strongly opposed” based on a number of factors, including infrastructure which she said can’t handle the rapid construction underway in the city.

“The drain on the current infrastructure system by the influx of more residents, along with the arrival of tourists causing the population to triple, is obvious by the stage four water restrictions at the end of October 2022. I cannot emphasize this enough: we do not have enough water.”

Riverside is projected to begin construction in 2025, adding homes gradually over a 10 to 15-year period. Multiple housing types are planned, primarily higher-density buildings such as apartments.

Little in the way of commercial amenities are set to make up the area behind the Parksville industrial park, with developers eyeing a primarily residential build in a bid to cut down on traffic.

Links in and out of the neighbourhood would primarily come through Greig Rd., which would receive upgrades, as well as a more established intersection at Tuan Rd. and Hwy. 19A.

Green space areas will be preserved, with roughly 60 per cent of the total land being reserved for non-building purposes, including 40 per cent deemed environmentally sensitive and another 20 per cent for parkways and trails.

A well-used trail network on the property would also be expanded, according to the plans.

Primary concerns

Speaker after speaker approached the microphone to voice opposition, with some of the major objections to the development including environmental concerns, increased population density and traffic pressures.

Barbara Lowden of the Greig Greenway Society, a group of Oceanside residents opposed to this development, said they started a petition of those against this proposal, with 1,463 Parksville residents already signed.

She said the number of signees comes close to the total votes the Mayor and councillors received during the most recent election, it’s clear a majority of the voting citizens want this area preserved.

“It must be remembered that the Parksville citizens largely voted for change and sustainable development in the last election. In the Mayor’s inaugural speech, he said ‘My priority will be to act on the issues most important to you.’ I therefore suggest, that you’ve heard from a majority of the citizens of Parksville…and they have spoken, and they say no to this rezoning amendment.”

Michael Stewart, who told councillors he’d visited Parksville some 50 years prior and ultimately moved to the region to escape the hectic Lower Mainland, said preservation of green space should be paramount and is part of what makes Parksville a desirable place to live.

“It’s going to destroy the natural beauty we have, a facility where you can take your dog and other people that have mobility issues we can walk there comfortably. It’s a natural green space that links Rathtrevor to Top Bridge Park.”

Warren Cooper, a 35-year local resident, echoed recreational use for the property.

“This is an opportunity for conservation. This area does get a lot of recreation use, including as people have said, bicycling, walking the trails, dogs and even more recently there’s a disc golf course.”

Joanne Kelly, a Parksville resident for 25 years, agreed housing was needed, but 800 units in the south end would see a large spike in the number of vehicles on local roads.

“This is definitely the wrong place as it is too far from all the amenities for people to walk so everyone will have to drive. Two cars per home, gives us 1,600 vehicles on our small roads in this area, and it is not feasible without a great deal of taxpayer money being spent to upgrade the appropriate infrastructure.”

Some support

Favourable opinions of the project were few and far between with only a couple of speakers voicing praise for the development.

Local business owner Tyler Cody was first against the proposal until he saw the build-out plans. He told councillors he’s spoken with several of his staff, many younger people with families, who also support the development.

He thinks there should be a way to juggle housing for a growing population, including many young families, with environmental protection.

“Balancing the needs of the environment in our community for the greater good is what you’ve been charged with, I just hope you remember the voices of those who work and couldn’t make it tonight.”

Qualicum Beach resident Zweitse De Wit also offered what he called a “different perspective” compared to the majority of the speakers.

He spoke about the opportunities developers can give to communities and to respect free enterprise, while also taking into account the goodwill of those communities.

“We need housing. Of course, there’s always a challenge as to where that should be. I’d like to encourage Council to keep looking at it and keep working forward on trying to come up with an amicable solution that could satisfy all rather than just discarding this opportunity.”

Michael von Hausen, a Lower Mainland-based planning consultant for the developers also addressed the hearing, to the opposition of some local residents.

He said the plans meet and exceed Parksville OCP goals, environmental protections and recreational needs.

“We believe this neighbourhood is an example for others across the province and around the world that intend to create a climate resilient, sustainable, environmentally sensitive and more affordable alternative by providing a diversity and choice of housing in pockets surrounded by nature.”

The next steps

Monday’s public hearing closed with a clear message from Dance, who spoke multiple times during the event.

“No matter how this vote goes, we are watching you and we are going to hold you accountable to what you said during the election. That’s it.”

Council will deliberate feedback received and third reading of zoning bylaws related to the project will return for discussion at a future meeting.