With a majority of voices expressing their concern over the proposed Lorne Hotel project, more than 100 people attended a public hearing for the development Tuesday evening at the Comox Community Centre.
The hearing was held in accordance to Comox zoning bylaw amendment No. 1791 and Comox phased development agreement authorization bylaw No. 1792 – to establish a phased development agreement between the developer and the town for the provision of amenities for the development at 1770 Comox Ave.
Those against the development noted generally they are not against the idea of the project, rather, the design – especially the proposed height of five storeys.
“A five-storey building on the busiest corner in Comox just doesn’t make sense,” noted Barb Tribe, whose grandmother owned and operated the Lorne Hotel for 30 years.
“We need a building, we need a pub, but not a five-storey monstrosity that doesn’t reflect Comox. We want a new building, but we don’t want this building.”
Last fall, rezoning and development permit applications were given first and second reading by council for a five-storey, mixed-use building. The project would feature a pub/bistro on the first floor, and a variety of condos from 700 to 1,500 square feet on the remaining floors. In late-November, the town hosted a public open house for the proposed development where residents came out in droves to view the latest architectural drawings and asked questions of project manager Shawn Vincent and architect Harry Whitfield.
As a result of feedback and comments from the open house, Vincent addressed council in early-April of the latest design changes for the commercial/residential building.
Vincent said he considered the public’s request for more of a marine/heritage feel, and changes to the design included stain colour, larger timber posts, chain or polished stainless cable on the patio, more glass added to the pub/bistro side and an artist mural about the historic Lorne on the Port Augusta side of the building.
For those opposed to the project Tuesday, the changes were not enough.
Resident Frank Young said while he admires the adjustments, he still believes the “lipstick application” will not render the building acceptable for the town.
Judy Johnson questioned the height of the development.
“Why do people think bigger equals better?”
She noted Vincent’s response to the public’s concerns seemed to focus on minor details rather than “the monstrous size.
“Courtenay has plenty of that; Courtenay is the business hub. We want an asset rather than an eyesore.”
A smaller group of supporters of the project expressed their approval, and noted the building will bring much-needed energy to the town’s downtown core.
Real estate agent and Comox resident Derek Costantino said while the project may be unpopular with some, residents must understand how difficult it is to attract investment dollars to the community.
“Time does not stand still … I don’t feel we’re losing anything; we’re going to gain a significant project we can be proud of.”
He added he took issue with the perception that downtown businesses are thriving, and noted in his experience, it’s the exact opposite.
“We’re creating densification, and it adds money downtown. We’ve got small business owners – not big box stores – and we need people downtown.”
Twenty-year Comox resident Bob Olsen echoed Costantino’s view, and added no view corridor would be blocked, and the development would bring more business to the downtown.
“There’s no damage at all to having the building built there.”
Both owner George Kacavenda and developer Vincent addressed council at the meeting, and noted they look forward to moving ahead and clarified details.
Council will vote on third reading of the project at the May 20 council meeting.