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Courtenay council spourns early return of 'not as affordable' rezoning application

A request by Len Mathot Homes Ltd. to reapply for rezoning of its proposed affordable housing project on Cumberland Road within a year was denied Monday by Courtenay council.

The original proposal to rezone properties at 703, 721 and 745 Cumberland Rd. from industrial to residential use was defeated after the public hearing on Nov. 14. However, by Nov. 21 the City received an amended application from Len Mathot, owner of the development company.

"After careful consideration of the comments received from the neighbours I have amended my development proposal to comply with the current zoning on the neighbouring properties," wrote Mathot in a letter to the City. "I respectfully request that council permit the submission of a new application for this property."

The normal wait time for reapplications is one year, but Mathot asked council to waive the rule in this case.

Coun. Starr Winchester was opposed.

"I spoke with three neighbours, including a business, and they felt it was incumbent on the applicant to come and talk to them about his 'new proposal' prior to asking council to waive the one-year waiting period," said Winchester in an e-mail.

She added that neighbours said Mathot had not spoken with them yet, although he said  in his letter to the City he intends to discuss the proposal with them during December.

"If the developer spoke with the neighbours and worked with them, I would be more than willing to look at waiving the waiting period of one year," Winchester said.

Coun. Jon Amber called the 12 months between reapplications a "cooling-off period," but noted that the risk of taking a shorter cooloff time fell on the developer. He also mentioned that if defeated, the developer would have 12 months to talk to the surrounding residents.

Coun. Doug Hillian pointed out that the new application changed from 33 proposed units to 12 two-bedroom units, adding that this change was significant, but that he suspected the rental units would each cost more at this size.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard said the proposed project fits within the Official Community Plan and that the reapplication addressed the need of low-income housing for families instead of singles. She agreed the risk fell on the developer and suggested giving him a chance.

"It's fair to give him the opportunity," said Leonard.

Coun. Bill Anglin said Mathot seemed to be trying to meet the needs of the neighbours, and said "the bar has not been lowered; it's been raised," by the company.

Coun. Manno Theos made a motion to table the issue for 90 days since the reapplication was "hot off the press" after the original was defeated.

This motion was defeated.

Mayor Larry Jangula called the issue "contentious" and "tough." He said he was concerned about possible noise complaints from new residents of the property, as land surrounding it is zoned for industrial use.

He also said jobs and affordable housing were two major issues during the municipal election, and that if the land remains zoned for industrial use, future jobs are a possibility. While he said low-income housing is important, he said people have questioned how affordable the proposed housing would actually be.

Council needed a two-thirds majority voting in favour to pass the proposal. It was defeated with Leonard, Amber, Anglin and Hillian in favour, and Theos, Winchester and Jangula opposed.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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