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Chilliwack council rejects rezoning proposal for eight houses on little more than one acre

Rezoning for ‘pocket style’ subdivision voted down but Fairfield neighbours told more growth coming
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Council voted against the rezoning on March 7, 2023 that would have seen eight houses built on a little more than one acre at the corner of Williams Road and Strathcona Road. (City of Chilliwack webmap)

Chilliwack council turned down a rezoning proposal Tuesday night for eight houses on two lots in the wake of concerns raised by Fairfield Island neighbours.

It was the extreme density and scale of the rezoning that rankled neighbours with concerns brought to council about privacy, views, traffic and parking.

The staff report had referred to the rezoning going from R1-A to R3 as a “modest” density increase.

But many residents said the increased density with eight units would be too much for the properties at 10195 Williams and 46193 Strathcona, which added together would total 1.1 acres of land.

The first time the rezoning proposal came before council almost two years ago it was for nine units.

At the time residents brought concerns about the impact and scale of the proposed rezoning, and it was referred back to staff.

The rezoning application came back before council on Tuesday (March 7) at a public hearing with eight units proposed, which was down from nine, and a voluntary height restriction covenant limiting building height to two stories, or 8.5 metres.

Council members listened carefully to those voices from the neighbourhood, and to the applicant, then voted against the rezoning application.

Coun. Jeff Shields, who grew up near Fairfield Island, and lived there in the 1990s, was the first council member to say he was not in favour. He said he could “sympathize and empathize” with all the current Fairfield residents who live in the older residential neighbourhood on the north side of Chilliwack.

“I don’t see where eight houses need to go into that corner, so I will not be supporting this application,” Shields said during the council discussion.

Coun. Chris Kloot said that he certainly recognized the need for more housing starts, and that Chilliwack has a “duty and an obligation” to absorb a certain amount of the regional growth.

“That doesn’t mean every proposal is an automatic yes,” Kloot said.

In this case, he felt the neighbours had spoken, and what he heard them say was the applicant’s vision was “too dense.”

“I will vote against and I do encourage the applicant to reapply with something reduced in scope that will blend in a bit better,” Kloot said.

In reference to some of the existing ‘pocket-style’ developments, with five or seven units shoehorned into them, he said in some of these cases as he’s driving by, he looks away, and cringes.

“What this shows is that we learn. We are growing rapidly,” Kloot added. He offered a word of caution to the neighbourhood that redevelopment is still coming to Fairfield with more growth imminent.

“I want to applaud the applicant,” he said about due diligence shown, and renderings produced for neighbours to see scope, and encouraged the neighbours to keep an open dialogue with the applicant in future.

Coun. Nicole Huitema Read said she struggled with this rezoning along with her colleagues, and had a “hard time with the densification in that amount of space.”

Mayor Ken Popove echoed other council members adding: “Yes, we have to densify but it’s got to fit; it’s got to work.

”I feel it’s just too much in that one area.”

Staff had noted in a report the eight lots proposed were in keeping with the official community plan (OCP) designation for the area, constituting a “modest” increase in density, while preserving the single-family character of the neighbourhood.

One letter-writer opposed to the rezoning said in a letter in the agenda that “density or infill on the island has already shown to be problematic,” and that although neighbours are prepared for density increasing, not to the level “being sought by developers.”

A petition cited reasons for rejecting the rezoning including privacy, sunlight, views, traffic safety, parking and more. An alternate proposal in the form letter called for the developer to build two houses per lot, for a total of four houses maximum, rather than the eight homes proposed.

Coun. Harv Westeringh declared a potential conflict and removed himself before the council discussion began and did not take part in the discussion or the vote.

RELATED: Residents touched on Fairfield Island density during draft plan talks

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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