City council adopted a bylaw Tuesday that changed the Yarrow Ecovillage from Rural Residential to Ecovillage.

Yarrow ecovillage gets go-ahead in Chilliwack for next stage

Yarrow Ecovillage now ready to move forward on mixed-use development on the western edge of Chilliwack.

Yarrow Ecovillage members are now ready to move forward on their mixed-use development.

“I think we can double underline the word ‘finally’ on this one,” said Coun. Jason Lum, at the Tuesday council meeting, referring to the six years Ecovillage members had been working toward final approval.

Chilliwack council reconsidered and adopted a rezoning bylaw Tuesday that changed the zoning of the property from Rural Residential to an Ecovillage designation.

The project had been held at third reading since 2006, until certain servicing requirements could be met, including fire flow and waste water treatment concerns.

Coun. Lum offered his congratulations on the rezoning milestone, and thanked staff as well as members living in the intentional and sustainable community known as Yarrow Ecovillage.

“It’s been a long go,” he said. “It’s a neat place and I encourage you to go see what they are doing at the Ecovillage. It’s unique and they’ve integrated well into the community.”

One of the ecovillage founders, Michael Hale, said after the meeting it was “gratifying” to get the blessing of staff and council in this way.

The staff report noted that all the “outstanding technical issues” related to servicing had since been addressed.

Now they can go ahead with constructing a wetland for waste water treatment and drainage, and the purchase of an electrical generator to increase water pressure to address fire flow issues.

When council first approved the original rezoning to that of Ecovillage in 2006, it wasn’t the first ecovillage community in Canada to obtain sustainable zoning, but Hale underlined, it was the first known time a municipality would name the zone ‘Ecovillage’ specifically.

“It’s an amazing feeling of gratitude,” Hale said after council approved the bylaw. “It’s also a feeling of relief and pride in all the people who worked so hard to make our vision a reality.”

The vision includes different components for the 25-acre site. They range from the multi-generational Groundswell co-housing units, to a certified organic farm, to the mixed-use development they’re planning for the two acres closest to Yarrow Central Road.

The new parcel will include residential units called Elderberry Co-housing, as well as commercial operations and education centre that will be part of a future Yarrow Central Enterprises.

The reaction at the Ecovillage was jubilant after hearing the good news, Hale said.

“It was one of celebration and realizing just how far we’ve come, from our initial vision to the one we have now, with this successful organic farm and vibrant community, with capacity to continue the building process.”

There are about 50 people living in the community now, with plans to attract another 80 to 100 when the new units are built. They had to build capacity within the village first and they had to build community, he said.

On Nov. 2, they’ll be starting the design process for the adult-only Elderberry co-housing units, geared to those “who are not ready to be seniors,” he said.

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