Chilliwack Mountain project given development permit

DP had been pending geotechnical and environmental reports, which are now on file, said city staff

A development permit was recently approved for a huge residential project for almost 300 new homes at the base of Chilliwack Mountain, which had been held at third reading.

Council already approved rezoning and OCP changes for the properties on Lickman Road last September.

Those changes were approved with the creation of the comprehensive development zone over the objections of Mayor Sharon Gaetz, who warned that the average 45 degree slopes did not meet the intent of the city’s hillside policies.

The development permit had been pending geotechnical and environmental reports, which are now on file, according to the staff report from earlier this month.

Residents at last year’s hearing cited concerns about steep grades, traffic and impacts on wildlife habitat. A stuffed beaver was used as a prop by one resident to underline the concern for the mountain’s creatures.

A suggestion at the rezoning in 2012 by the project engineer that the project met the intent of the hillside guidelines rankled the mayor.

“It certainly does not,” she said crisply. “And that is what has been flagged by staff.”

Slopes should be no steeper than 30 degrees, according to the hillside development guidelines.

The original staff report cited sewer capacity issues, as well as difficult terrain on the site with steep slopes and environmental concerns. Challenges of high retaining walls or “green” walls in this case were underlined, despite the applicant’s plan to cluster some of the units in flatter areas, and retain treed areas for better views over the 140 acre site.

Council was informed by staff that the cost of engineering and construction on the site will be “significantly higher” than for a development without similar slope hazards.

“Cautious construction procedures will be required to avoid slope instability,” reads part of the most recent staff report.

Potential hazards from rocks falling from the upper slopes will be mitigated by installation of rockfall fencing or other protective measures, such as

catchment ditches.

There are plans to realign a creek in a rip rap channel and through a culvert.

The housing proposal has actually been in the works for several years and was amended a few times. The number of units was ratcheted down from the initial plan for 400 single homes, to the current proposal of 298 units of multi-family, duplex and single-family homes.

The applicant is offering a 10-metre buffer, common amenity areas and public amenities in the form of a park and trails with almost 40 hectares of woodlands, to be deeded to the city as a park or conservation area. They foresee bands of trees separating the vegetated areas, and the vision for the development is a long-term, multi-year buildout of up to 25 years.