A rezoning for 28 new townhouses at 47203 Vista Place was approved by council Tuesday. (City of Chilliwack orthophoto)

Council oks 28-unit townhome project over neighbourhood opposition

Several Vista Place residents showed up at city hall to strongly oppose the rezoning

A rezoning for 28 new townhouses at 47203 Vista Place was approved by council after a lengthy public hearing Tuesday night.

Several Vista Place residents showed up at city hall to strongly oppose the rezoning from R3, and AU to R4, with concerns like tree removal, parking, traffic safety and more.

Some wanted access through Jinkerson rather than Vista Place, but that option would be too steep, and would require huge retaining walls.

Mark Van Driel of Vista Place said he was one of the “most affected” by any decisions taken on the rezoning, and said he was speaking for the 13 neighbours who signed a petition against the proposed rezoning.

Several speakers said that they had done their due diligence prior to purchasing, asking about any foreseen developments, and then purchased their rancher homes on a quiet cul-de-sac with the expectation that it would remain a single-family home neighbourhood.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz pointed out that just because nothing was planned for development at the time of purchase did not mean that densification wouldn’t be a reality eventually.

“I understand you want more density, but I feel a little bit duped,” said one speaker.

Vista Place was described as a short street, that was marketed to future owners on the basis that it was a “quiet cul-de-sac.”

Finding out less than three months after moving in there would be 28 new townhouse units, accessed by Vista Place, “the horror of it became apparent,” said Van Driel.

“Construction will disrupt our community for years to come,” and the street will become a throughway for 100s of vehicles.

One speaker said he felt let down by council.

Dick Westeringh, of Westbow Construction, said he stood before council as the applicant, representing 200 happy homeowners from other developments they built.

He said he met with one of the property owners, and although he was unable to relieve all of their concerns, they did reduce them, addressing fencing and RV access issues, and designing the lowest pitch possible.

Westeringh said they came to council with a proposal for 21 single family homes last year, but were told council wanted more affordable housing.

The design is virtually complete and complies with hillside guidelines, except for one part.

Westeringh said he sympathized with the neighbours, but when the property owner signalled she was ready to sell, they went for it, as it was a “prime piece of property” in Chilliwack.

“I know there will be some against it, and I know if I lived there I would be upset if someone did this. I sympathize, but can’t do anything but ask for you to support it.”

Several Westbow employees attended the rezoning hearing to show support for the project, and several spoke.

One asked council “not to overlook the positive effect” the development will have.

Another employee said it was a “beautifully designed development” that will be a positive addition to the hillsides.

One speaker said the housing “will greatly improve our view,” while Chelsea Simpkins reiterated concerns around parking, traffic and road safety.

Nick Westeringh of Westbow apologized to the neighbours for the change the proposal represented, and said he heard their parking and traffic concerns.

“Obviously no one likes change,” he said. “It’s not something we relish doing.”

The homeowners they have made happy are a testament to what they’ve learned building on the hillsides.

“We hope to repeat that with this project.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she was “struggling” with how residents said the first development was marketed as a quiet cul-de-sac, but agreed the potential was for the project being the “highest and best use of the land.”

But “to be fair” it’s still a cul-de-sac, Westeringh said, and regarding the marketing, back in 2014, that was the “best information” they had.

The timeline was estimated to be 24 months from breaking ground to final touchups, pending market conditions.

Coun. Chuck Stam noted it was another “robust” discussion and he was in support, adding that townhomes were probably the best for the neighbourhood.

Coun. Chris Kloot said he appreciated the community members who came out.

“The pricepoint of townhomes will benefit our community as a whole,” he said, adding he was in support and wished the neighbours well.

Coun. Sam Waddington said he was supporting the proposal “based on land use, but said as a city, they needed to explain the “difference between existing and future land use.”

Coun. Ken Popove praised the fact that the development will add to the city’s affordable housing stock.

“It will allow young families to move in and grow up here,” he said. “It will be well utilized.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz added it “behooves” developers to sit down and have the tough discussions with the neighbours to mitigate concerns.

The townhome project will “set a standard” for what is to come, Gaetz said.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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