In narrow vote, rezoning approved for Comox development

With a 4-3 vote, rezoning and development permit applications were passed Wednesday at Comox council for a mix of single-family homes and commercial development at 2310 Guthrie Rd.

The proposal was presented to council in January by Jim Agius for the 2,768-square-metre development, which is kitty corner to the intersection of Guthrie and McDonald roads.

"After the public hearing, I didn't support this project going ahead as proposed because the community directly affected by it didn't support it," said Coun. Barbara Price prior to the vote.

Coun. Patti Fletcher agreed, and noted she was concerned with keeping as much commercial development as possible in the downtown area.

Coun. Tom Grant said council is guided by the Official Community Plan (OCP), which indicates the area is designated commercial.

"I know there was some opposition at the public hearing, but every proposal that comes before us, we're going to experience opposition. If we let the neighbourhood govern what we're going to do, we're going to have an entire town that's full of residential, single-family lots ... and our OCP was a waste of time and effort," he stated.

Coun. Ken Grant noted there has to be some certainty in zoning in the OCP.

"If we don't have certainly, who would every buy anything or go to the next level to do anything with it? If you can't count on what our own documents say, then there's no certainly and you can never get your vitalization plans going," he added.

While he noted he supports the OCP, Coun. Hugh MacKinnon said he heard in the public hearing nearly unanimously that residents thought they hadn't been consulted, and he wanted to weigh the vacancies in other areas, such as the Comox Centre Mall.

Price added she would like to see developers working with the community around them.

"I think that's when you get the best decisions and the best development, and really a public hearing is a public hearing. If what you do and say when you come to a public hearing is worth nothing because there's a general line in the OCP, then I think that would really dispirit people and work against citizens being involved in their city, their town and what the future of their town looks like," she said.

Mayor Paul Ives added there have been concerns addressed by the immediate neighbours with buffer zones and softening the amount of the residential component from the original plan.

"On a long-term basis, I hope that going forward,  those neighbours, instead of getting in their cars and going to Costco, would perhaps walk out their back door, and very conveniently use the services there and across the street. It's all about taking a longer-term perspective, which I suppose the OCP has mandated us to do."

Ives, Tom Grant, Ken Grant and Maureen Swift voted in favour of the motions, while MacKinnon, Fletcher and Price voted against.

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