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Comox council overrides public hearing opposition to approve development

Comox council approved final adoption Wednesday for a development at the corner of Noel Avenue and Torrence Road which increased the maximum number of lots on the property from seven to 10.

Council provided third reading to the rezoning amendment in July, which allows the zoning change from R1.1 (single family) to R3.2 (single family/secondary suite). It also reduces minimum parcel depth from 26 metres to 25 metres.

Coun. Maureen Swift stated her support of the project.

"I think the original proposal was for seven lots, but I believe under that zoning, they could do eight. So we're really not talking about the difference between seven and 10, we're talking about the difference between eight and 10, which is just two lots," she noted.

Following a public meeting with little support of the development, Coun. Patti Fletcher said the decision to vote in favour of the rezoning was one of the most difficult in all of her years sitting on council.

"I recognize the impact on the neighbourhood, many who are my friends and acquaintances and I am not planning on taking this lightly," she explained. "It's a puzzle where many facets have to come together."

Fletcher touched upon the increase in lot amounts on the property.

"It may seem like a small thing — eight lots or 10 lots — but that's the turning point. It's saying we're not going to do things the same old way, we're going to make a better community. And we're going to do it in a smaller, more compact way. A sustainable way."

She added that she examined three fundamentals of the project — economics (building on existing infrastructure), the environment (not extending boundaries, rather accommodating growth) and social aspects (small lots mean small houses, which offer smaller price tags).

Couns. Fletcher, Swift and Tom Grant voted in favour of the project, while Couns. Barbara Price and Hugh MacKinnon opposed it. Coun. Ken Grant was absent.

Amanda Low, a resident of the neighbourhood, addressed council during the open question period with her concerns about the development.

"I have to say ... your decision for this really gobsmacked us. You tossed us under the bus. There were no concessions. You gave the developer everything," she said, and asked council about traffic concerns — particularly speed — near the development.

She also inquired about the benefits to the community.

"We are the direct community, and I see no benefit at all. If you put 10 houses, and it was zoned for eight, you get $6,000 more worth of tax money per year. We get a lot of crowding. I fail to understand how that benefits us — the people who live right there."

Mayor Paul Ives said a traffic study was commissioned, and there will be a number of initiatives undertaken as part of a 20-year plan.

He also noted the various factors that are considered by individual councillors when considering a development such as this.

"Decisions made by council are always going to be guided by interests expressed by the public ... and guided by the Official Community Plan," he said. "All those in consideration along with budget and infrastructure.

"It's a broad range of things that council members and staff bring their advice as to what constitutes the public interest. It doesn't always mesh with private interests, and that's the nature of the job."

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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