Rezoning changes and variances for a new commercial development, Eddy at the Bridge, were approved by council after the public hearing Tuesday night.
Speakers both for and against the project raised concerns like noise, lighting, river impacts, pedestrian safety, and whether a nightclub could ever open in the commercial development that will house a microbrewery and indoor climbing gym.
Several speakers who said they patronized a climbing gym in Abbotsford praised the proposal to build one in Chilliwack.
“I would really like Chilliwack to stand up for the environment more than they have,” said resident Ted Holtby, after noting concern about patron vehicles “dripping oil” into the river. “Why is there this rush to ruin another part of the river? I don’t get it, and I don’t agree with it.”
The ‘Eddy At the Bridge’ project, at 45530 Vedder Mountain Road, was proposed by the builders of the Vedder Bridge, Emil Anderson Construction, who purchased the property to develop it, with architectural design by CHP Architects.
Harold Schmidt, who lives across the river, raised issues like late-night lighting, traffic safety, and noise.
“I’d hate to see something that would destroy the natural beauty,” Schmidt said, adding that he also hoped no nightclub would ever be permitted.
Yarrow resident Cliff Prang said he was “super-pumped” to have a brewery and climbing gym to be built near the edge of Yarrow.
“Personally I can’t wait,” Prang said.
John Crump, who lives across the road, said it’s a “beautiful” site but had concerns about the brewery’s hours of operation, the patio, architecture, and the bright lights.
“It deserves everybody’s attention,” Crump said, thanking the crowd for showing up. “I can’t say I’m for it as it sits. Some questions are still outstanding.”
One of those question marksCrump had was for the potential impact on the local Indigenous community, Soowahlie First Nation.
Resident Ashley Duret said from her experiences working at Fieldhouse Brewing in Abbotsford, it showed her it was unlikely that the Chilliwack microbrewery would create smells that would escape outside the building, or cause issues with lighting.
Resident Drew Brayshaw, a rock climber, and a hydrologist, said he was in general support of the project.
“Currently if I want to climb in a gym I have to go to Abbotsford, and it’s about a half hour drive,” Brayshaw said, adding that he’d appreciate a climbing gym closer to home that he could bike to. But he also underlined concerns about building on the “sensitive” Vedder River, and urged council to look for the opportunity to require that habitat, rip rap, and riparian vegetation improvements are made.
The answer from council was that those environmental issues would be dealt with at the time of development permit issuance.
Resident Nate Lepp said he felt “torn” wanting to see the area protected, and agreeing with those preferred keeping a “dark” corridor, but feeling that Chilliwack could use a gathering space like this with a climbing gym and brewery.
Adam Palmer, youth outdoor education instructor said he sees the project as a “stepping stone” to the outdoors, asking for equal opportunity for local First Nations, giving credit to the land and people it serves.
Resident Claire Mader said she was speaking on behalf of Chilliwack residents, her family and about 800 people who indicated they were opposed in an online poll she started, because of the “quality of life” impacts the project will have.
“There are no other businesses on the river, and for good reason,” she said.
While a climbing gym is a great business venture to have, it should not go in “at the river,” she said, citing traffic, late-night noise, and pollution issues.
Jean Charters of Soowahlie First Nation said she is opposed, and concerned about safety of pedestrians in the area, and especially local youth, as well as river erosion and washouts.
Resident Bob Buhler reminded everyone there was “viable business” on that site for decades.
Jeanette Charters said she has concerns about the impact of the development on Soowahlie, in terms of access roads, parking, and also because it will be a place that serves alcohol.
“I don’t support this at all,” Charters said.
Robert Hazel, president and CEO of Emil Anderson Construction, tried to reassure the public: “I am a local person, of course, and I live in within walking distance” and pledged to build something “special” for the community, while respecting the environment and Soowahlie First Nation concerns.
Emil Anderson has been “building roads, developing and maintaining highways in the Fraser Valley for 80 years” Hazel told the crowd.
“We take a tremendous amount of pride in being a responsible citizen and responsible business,” Hazel said. “We heard these concerns and we’re going to address them — that’s for sure.”
Matt Temple, EAC general manager, later spoke to several of the speakers’ concerns, such as signage, lighting, and riparian improvements, including a pledge to look into “dark sky lighting” and confirming they’d met more than once with Soowahlie Chief Brenda Wallace.
Temple said there would be setbacks of 15 metres off the river and plans to ensure oil separation from stormwater sewers.
After the public hearing, Coun. Chris Kloot commented he was “happy” to support the commercial development, adding he had full confidence in the provincial and federal processes that the river will be protected and enhanced, as well as the builders.
The EAC team want to achieve “a masterpiece” in the community with the unique development.
Coun. Jeff Shields having the “right builder” will mean putting something in there we can all be proud of.
Coun. Bud Mercer said the development will be a great for the area will in fact “enhance” the environment and the trail system.
The zoning and OCP bylaws will be held at third reading, pending the registration of restrictive covenants and the issuance of a development permit to address geotechnical and environmental considerations.
Proposed C5 zone and existing CS2, would have off-street parking reduced from 124 to 93 parking spaces through the DVP, and reduction of the front lot line setback to 4.4 metres.
The rezoning was to redesignate sections of the property from CS2 Tourist Commercial to a C5 Night Club/Neighborhood Pub zone, and RSV1 (Limited Use Reserve – Remnant Area) along with OCP amendments. The restrictive covenant that the developer undertook voluntarilty was to make nightclub use prohibited at the site, in response to neighbourhood concerns.
The OCP amendment is to redesignate the developable portion of the property to ‘General Commercial’ and the undevelopable portion to remain RS1 reserve due to flood concerns.