It died on the floor of council chambers.
The rezoning came up at city hall Tuesday to redesignate a small chunk of land on McDonald Road from ‘agricultural’ to ‘low density residential’ in the OCP, and to rezone from ‘agriculture lowland’ and ‘one family residential, to R3 ‘small lot one family residential.’
But not a single member of council would move this motion. The rezoning was for 10571 McDonald Road, by applicant Gore Brothers New Homes.
The lack of support by council thereby killed the idea right there before it was even introduced on the floor, and The Progress set out to find out why.
“When this happens there is no discussion. Because there was no motion to introduce it, there is also no public hearing on it,” explained Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
“It means council feels strongly enough about the matter to not entertain it.”
The proposal was to build new subdivision, with OCP changes and rezoning to allow for 13 single family homes. It was reviewed by the members of the Agricultural Advisory Committee and they voted to turn it down as well.
“Their job is to weigh everything,” Gaetz said. “Advice like that from a committee influences us.”
When no one moved the proposed bylaw for introduction and first reading, it sent “a very strong message” to the community about protecting farmland, the mayor noted.
“It shows that council highly values its agricultural land. It also means we are not trying to eke out every piece for development.”
Every piece is examined “on its own merits,” the mayor underlined. The irregular shaped piece of property on McDonald, would have left a chunk in the ALR, almost six hectares.
The piece that was to be rezoned is not in the ALR, measuring just over one hectare, but it is designated Agriculture Lowland in the OCP.
Farmland is “highly subsidized by the taxpayer” paying about one per cent of what residential taxes would be. So for example a resident might pay $3,000 in taxes where the farmer would pay $30 for the same parcel.
“So it’s tempting for council to entertain development when it brings more tax revenues, but we looked at all the factors.”
It well known there’s a shortage of flat land that can be developed in Chilliwack. Most recent development tends to be infill, apartments or on the hillsides.
The challenge is often managing the potential irritants from the agricultural/development interface. There can be friction and challenges where farmland ends and housing developments begin, even with buffers.
“So this was not what I wanted to see done in this area, and I guess the rest of council didn’t either because no one was willing to move it forward. It died on the floor,” Gaetz added.