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Top Stories of 2011: Chilliwack cuts hillside density

Buildout potential was cut down considerably in the City of Chilliwack’s latest area plan for the Eastern Hillsides.

The new density threshold is set at 1,700 homes for about 4,000 people, which is less than a third of what people were talking about in the mid-1990s.

The 4,000-people mark was pegged as the threshold at which infrastructure costs would rise “significantly,” creating uncertainty as to how those costs could be shared equitably, according to city officials.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the plan would most impact those who had purchased land on speculation that there would be higher density, but hillside residents were sure to like the decrease.

City reps used descriptors like “more viable” and “sustainable” to describe the revised hillsides area plan that they’ve been working on for more than a year.

The real costs of servicing and infrastructure were calculated and taken into account with this document and that’s what makes it different from past plans. It surveys that available capacity to support growth, especially in terms of the geo-technical limitations around Panorama Heights, as well as looking at environmental and market forces. The city was forced to purchase homes on Panorama Heights when it was discovered they were shifting and built on an ancient slide before they had the tools to assess such things.

Topography in the hillside regions can be “very steep” with 45 per cent of the land at more than 30 per cent grade, which is not suitable for development.

There’s also a scenario where buildout is at 6,000 homes, but it’s contingent on about $20 million in infrastructure money being produced up front to rebuild Annis Road and modifications to Prairie Central Road.

Update: The hillsides area plan went to public hearing and will be coming before council for final approval with OCP amendments sometime in 2012.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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