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Council sends Higginson development back

Chilliwack council wants more done on a proposal for 174 new homes following concerns about height, traffic safety, and reduced sunlight.
Neighbours living around the proposed mixed housing development on Higginson came to city hall en masse Tuesday night.

Neighbours living around the proposed mixed development on Higginson came to city hall en masse Tuesday night.

Several urged council to vote against rezoning the mixed housing development featuring 174 new homes due to height, traffic safety and reduced sunlight issues.

After hours passed at the meeting, council sided with residents, and voted to refer it back to staff for some retooling.

The proponent was applying to create a CD-26 zone, a comprehensive development to build 104 single family homes, with secondary suites, and 70 multi family dwelling units.

An open house was held May 5, and there have been meetings between the developer, staff and residents.

The proposed changes include a shift in designation from agricultural lowland to low density residential.

Thomas Pollard cited his concerns including reduced real estate values, loss of privacy and peaceful enjoyment of property, as especially the multi-family townhouses versus single story structures. Others mention townhomes “towering” over them, as well as parking issues and road widths.

The developer offered concessions like sloping rooflines that would be lower in some areas creating “view corridors” but some residents still requested single-storey ranchers, over two-storey townhomes.

For Ryan Byers Eckersly it was about the height of the proposed 10 metre high buildings, and the proximity, which would be “too high and too close” to their building.

“Half my sunlight would be obliterated,” he said, adding as someone who works as an engineer in a windowless room, he’s keenly aware of the value of natural light.

Lowell Ritchie emphasized the safety issues like the traffic on South Sumas.

“We haven’t had a bad accident there but it’s coming. Safety is the issue.”

City engineer David Blain pointed out that South Sumas was due for a road upgrade in 2017.

When asked why they couldn’t build single-story ranchers, Walter Bianchini, who was representing the developer, said at that point he didn’t think there was any way they could do that.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it does revolve around the finances of the project,” said Bianchini.

Phyllis Faucet said the whole area around Sardis Park used to single family homes, and while she understood the need for densification, she also said: “Holy smokes we need to be careful what we do.”

Developer Jake Klassen offered “softer” rooflines to deal with the light issue, and the project is already a scaled down version of best use, in terms of densities.

“We will allow as much light in as we can.”

Robert Doyle said at their property on Vedder Road, the backyard is the only piece of “green” they have.

“We’re going to be staring at a 20 foot building. There will be no light,” he said. “It will deplete the value our our place while raising the value of this property.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she wouldn’t feel right going ahead.

“The fact that the majority of the neighbours came out en masse, tells us a lot.”

She noted that they couldn’t always make everyone happy, but they could “try hard,” and moved to refer it back to staff.

With a motion to refer passed by council, the developer can come back as soon as something new can be looked at. If it had been defeated, the developer would have to wait six months before trying again.

Coun. Sam Waddington commended the neighbours who showed up, for “one of the most articulate and well-rounded” presentations at the hearing.

“That is what you are hearing echoed by council. We heard your concerns and very reasonable requests.”

He also praised the developer, who had been open to community concerns.

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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