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Courtenay councillors like Arden development proposal so far

A proposed 80-lot residential development in the Arden Road area received tentative praise from Courtenay council this week.

Applications to amend the Official Community Plan and rezone a property near Arden and Cumberland Roads came before council Monday, and were given first and second reading. A public hearing is scheduled at 5 p.m. on Dec. 3 in the council chambers of City Hall (830 Cliffe Ave.).

If passed, the land would be rezoned from Residential One A (large lot, single family) to a new comprehensive development zone and Public Use and Assembly Two zone.

"My initial response to this is quite positive," said Coun. Doug Hillian. "It appears to me that the developer has put a lot of time and energy, along with staff, into, as was stated, trying to meet the goals of the (Arden Road) Local Area Plan (LAP) that is being developed.

"I'm certainly interested in hearing what people in the community will have to say at a public hearing."

Other councillors echoed Hillian's view, including Coun. Jon Ambler, who pointed out the proposed project is also in line with the Comox Valley's Regional Growth Strategy.

The undeveloped lots are within the Arden Road LAP, with the east end of the area bumping up against Arden and Cumberland Roads, the north border running loosely along Piercy Creek, the west end touching a closed portion of Comox Logging Road and the south side next to privately owned undeveloped land.

The proposal is actually one of two that was in the works before the LAP was started, thus it's moving ahead before the LAP is fully complete and is not subject to the LAP process.

However, the City has already received plenty of community feedback during the LAP creation process; according to a City staff report on the proposed development, "staff believe the proposal meets many of the objectives that have been discussed by the community during the community engagement process (of the LAP)."

The project would be developed over seven phases, and would include a mix of housing types and lot sizes; smaller lot single family homes with secondary suites, single-family homes and duplexes are proposed.

"This mix of housing types will assist with the creation of a neighbourhood for a range of life stages, incomes and tenure options, leading to an inclusive and diverse community," wrote City staff in their report.

McElhanney representative Ian Whitehead told council about the developer's idea behind the mix of housing sizes during his delegation to council.

"The intention is to try and meet a market segment that is lacking a little bit in the Valley," he said. "The intent is certainly to meet a market that the average person could buy with the average salary."

According to the staff report, a riparian assessment of Piercy Creek and an environmental impact assessment of flora and fauna have been completed.

In response to the assessments, the proposal includes a 10-metre wide riparian buffer next to the creek, and a public trail would also be made running along the creek adding a further eight metres to the buffer zone. Protected areas are proposed for two tree species and a salamander species.

The developer has also offered $500 per lot towards habitat improvement work in suggested to help the creek's fish habitat.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard noted these environmental considerations, adding she had heard concerns around the potential impacts to Piercy Creek a while ago.

"But I do recognize that staff work very hard to balance a lot of different interests," she said. "It's a real challenge to come up with something that works and I'm going to say that I think staff have done a good job of working with the developer and recognizing a lot of different interests here."

She also said she looks forward to hearing what the community says at the public hearing.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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