Property rezoning has residents questioning local democracy
We live in a quiet neighbourhood in Sardis, located just behind the Chilliwack Mall.
Recently a home was purchased by a developer and soon after his purchase a notice of rezoning sign went up. The existing small rancher was on a lot about 12,000 square feet in size.
The rezoning application was to rezone from R1 A - single family home to R3 -small lot subdivision. So far our neighbourhood has been untouched by the developer’s hand. The fact that this neighbourhood has gone untouched is what makes it so attractive to a buyer when a house does become available, which is not very often.
The OCP - Official Community Plan - calls for densification. We realize that densification/modernization is becoming a part of life. But, as it states in the city’s zoning guidelines they also strive to “preserve the character of the community”. We have a community of older, well kept homes on larger lots located near a riparian corridor. We have a very unique neighbourhood and when the Carter family did the original subdivision over 50 years ago they drew up a restrictive covenant that was intended to preserve the integrity of this area for future generations.
Our goal, as a neighbourhood, was to preserve the character of our community. So, we started a petition against the rezoning- part of the democratic process – or so we thought.
On November 20, 2012 there was a public meeting at City Hall and on the agenda was the rezoning application for the lot in question. We had 50 signatures on the petition that were opposed to the proposed subdivision. The developer’s real estate agent had five names in favour and those five, as we understand, were absentee owners. Of the 50 names we had on the petition, which was 91 per cent of the residents, over half of those were present at the public hearing to voice our thoughts on why the subdivision should not proceed. The restrictive covenant was brought up during the presentation but the mayor and council thought it was not relevant for the purposes of the proposed development. So, despite the petition, the attendance/support of our residents at the hearing and the restrictive covenant the rezoning application was passed. It was like our voices fell on deaf ears; so much for the democratic process.
Everyone was in disbelief. We were heartbroken. How could we, with such support, not be heard? How could a 50-to-five majority not have a voice? There was a process in place that we all had faith in, a process we thought was going to work. Apparently if City Hall wants something, democracy does not apply.
In closing, all the residents in our neighbourhood would like to thank Councillors Mr. Lum and Mr. Popove for their support. They listened to the people and they voted against the rezoning application.