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Look of entrance to Comox will change after tight council vote

A divided Comox council passed a rezoning and development permit application for a development on Glacier View Drive Wednesday, despite some council members noting it could permanently change the landscape of one of the main entrances into the town.

By a one-vote margin, council approved the development for 221 Glacier View Dr. — a seven-unit, multi-family residential development comprised of three detached dwellings and one four-unit townhouse.

A public hearing was held in November, where all eight residents who spoke noted they were against the development as presented.

Residents cited changing "first impressions" of people entering Comox, creating a new zoning category, trees slated for removal, and an increase in traffic as some of the main points against the proposed development.

"I certainly understand there are concerns from the public about this lot being the signature spot as the entrance to the town," said Coun. Hugh MacKinnon.

He said although the initial presentation from the developer to council did impress him, the plan as presented had some contradictions.

"The public are leery about this one because of the spot and the entrance to our town, and that's understandable. I wonder if we don't need to revisit this with the developer looking at and making it clearly visible through three-dimensional designs or through a change of plans to get public sentiment to show less concern," he added.

Coun. Tom Grant noted Comox does not have a tree-cutting bylaw, and staff have been working with the developer to retain the trees.

"If we keep making it so difficult on developers, before the next developer comes before us, he's just going to mow down all the trees so he doesn't have to go through this," he said.

"We do listen to the people when they come to talk at the public hearing, but we also have to take into consideration all the other things such as staff reports and the professionals that have been hired and have given us reports."

Coun. Barbara Price agreed with MacKinnon and explained that, although she likes the concept of density, she would like to see the plan sent back to the developer to see a more compact design to ensure trees are retained.

"Our citizens clearly identified the importance of this site to the town and many considered the proposed density too high for the size, location and composition of the lot," she added.

Coun. Patti Fletcher echoed MacKinnon, noting when she first saw the development, she was "really delighted."

"It didn't take long to recognize how important the trees and Comox hill is for the community, and I don't think we near heard the full story at the public hearing. I think our entire community values that hill — it's our front door," she added.

"I certainly like the concept of density on that lot, but I think the trees are paramount and it is of significant value to our community to protect that."

Couns. Ken Grant and Maureen Swift supported the development, and Grant noted council should be careful about the message turning down the application sends to developers.

"When we get a developer that come into town and he complies with our OCP and he goes through all the professional reports ... I think there's a deal that we have to look at as a council and say, 'Boy, we put the guy through the wringer'. He's done everything we've asked him to do and to then turn around and say that's not good enough, the message there is wrong."

"There's something here that just doesn't quite wash with the public," replied MacKinnon. "I think it can be fixed by this developer with the help of our planning department. I think it gives this individual a chance to get creative ... and it can be a signature piece that can be acceptable by everybody."

Mayor Paul Ives noted when he looked at the drawings and heard about this development he believed it was going to be a suitable use of the property.

"To go back and ask the developer to reconfigure it, I don't think would achieve what we're trying to do with the (official community plan)," he said. "By doing this comprehensive development plan and having the developer work with the town planning staff, I think we've accomplished a very good compromise."

Couns. Fletcher, Price and MacKinnon voted against the rezoning and development permit application, while Couns. Tom Grant, Ken Grant, Swift and Mayor Ives voted in favour.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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