Comox council. Photo by Kim Stallknecht

Comox council. Photo by Kim Stallknecht

Comox greenlights Anderton development; website and youth infrastructure focus of budget talks

$20,000 recreation and parks capacity assessment questioned

Comox council has given the greenlight to make way for a new development on Anderton Road to allow 11 townhouse dwelling units and four two-family dwelling units.

At the regular council meeting on March 17, council unanimously voted on an application to rezone the property at 468 and 490 Anderton Road from a single-family zone to a multi-family residential zone.

The site is heavily forested, but in a previous staff report from the town’s planning department, it noted many trees are in poor health and will be impacted by sidewalk widening and building construction.

Part of the application included Comox Zoning Amendment Bylaw 1953 which is to authorize the Town of Comox to enter into a phased development agreement with Cameron Contracting Ltd., limiting the town’s ability to change the zoning in exchange for an amenity contribution of $21,765 to their Affordable Housing Reserve Fund.

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Website redesign, parks and infrastructure were some of the topics included in an examination of Comox’s capital and special budget during the council meeting.

The budget is part of the town’s overall 2021-2025 draft financial plan.

Coun. Pat McKenna inquired about a $75,000 line item for a website redesign. While he recognized the town’s website is “in desperate need of a redesign,” he said the budgeted cost appears to be high.

“It seems like a lot of money when I can get a website built for $1,000 … (but) I understand the functionality you want is different.”

Jordan Wall, the town’s chief administrative officer said there is significant work that has to go into building the backend of the municipality’s website.

“When you’re looking at those websites that cost $1,000 – you can probably get them cheaper – they’re plug and play. You can’t really change much. We need to build a backbone across all of our different services.”

He explained rather than building one municipal website, eight sites need to be built under one umbrella, and the town will look at grants to pay for part of the costs.

“If you want to get the nice websites you see in other municipalities, this cost is, unfortunately, is what it’s going to cost.”

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Another line item that caught the attention of council was a $20,000 recreation and parks capacity assessment. Wall said the intent of the assessment is both a level of community input and a level of analysis on the types of infrastructure and the demographics to identify under-served age groups in terms of recreation infrastructure.

Coun. Stephanie McGowan said living in Comox on-and-off since she was a teen, she believes there is the same amount for teenagers to do as there was 20 years ago, and suggested a skate park or pump track for kids who aren’t getting rides to organized sports so they can hang out safely.

“I don’t know if we need a $20,000 plan to tell us that.”

Wall said the plan for the assessment is to go out to the community as well as getting a professional to find out what type of infrastructure the community is lacking and needs to be built.

“In the future, we likely won’t have the funds to build a soccer field and a baseball field and some more tennis courts as well as pump track and a skate park. It’s unlikely that we can fund all of those, but council likely will be able to take a look at funding one, maybe two of those. How is it that we get to the point where we get to a skate park or a soccer field? This study will help get to that conclusion. Having said that, if council knows what is needed in the community, this study is not needed, you can simply give us direct us.”

Mayor Russ Arnott agreed with McGowan, but Couns. Ken Grant and Maureen Swift both noted it is important to engage both the community and youth to determine priorities.

Coun. Pat McKenna inquired about the level of community engagement, and Wall explained the intention is to get both a level of community input and a level of analysis. He added it is not meant to be a purely public process, as it would include benchmarking and analysis.

“If they do a scientific analysis, it’s going to come back that we have old people living in Comox, and that we’re catering to an older demographic. I think the intent of this is to create a space for youth,” McKenna noted.

Coun. Alex Bissinger agreed input from high school students is critical, which led to Wall suggesting a motion to change the amount and description for staff to identify through a public process recreation infrastructure for youth in Comox from $20,000 to $10,000.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Budget discussions will continue throughout the spring during strategic planning meetings.

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