Not one resident spoke in favour of the proposed rezoning of a 3.5 hectare lot off Dusty Road at a public hearing hosted by the District of Sechelt on July 29.
Many concerns were raised by the 14 residents who spoke, including impacts to existing businesses, added noise and environmental concerns and simply the idea to rezone the property in the first place, which many said was unnecessary.
Mike Anderchek, owner of Deluxe Landscaping, is the former owner of Lot L. He is currently building a new store front in the Sechelt Industrial Park.
He said his business is being negatively impacted by the decisions of the current council, adding he would love the opportunity to purchase or lease the property back to help enhance his development plans.
“The thought of having another business in there negatively affects my business,” he said. “I have been doing business in this community for 20 years. I have 20 employees who have families that could be out of work. What message does that send? I have written documentation and have been dealing with council and staff for seven years over this. I was under the impression that this land would be sold back to me. This is just not a good business decision for me or anyone else.”
Lot L was purchased by the previous council for the location for the new sewage treatment plant. The lot is zoned RR-2 and designated in the official community plan to be used for civic, institutional or utility purposes.
The District is currently using the site to temporarily house its public works department, which had to be relocated last year when the new sewage treatment plant was built at the Ebbtide Road location (where the department used to operate).
The District plans to build a new facility for the parks and public works department on the easterly 1.9 hectares of Lot L in the future, but council also wants to subdivide the remaining 1.6 hectares of the lot into two properties and rezone the entire area to industrial I-7.
If the new zoning is passed, it would allow light industrial, building supply, transportation, warehousing including a terminal, a retail wholesale office, a machine repair shop, a restaurant, retail service of used cars and trucks, an institution and one caretaker dwelling and accessory building.
Rosella Leslie said Lot L is located in a residential area and property owners were told years ago that if this site was to be developed there would be no further impacts with regards to noise or environmental harm.
“A machine shop or light industrial does not fit in this area,” she said. “It would seem prudent to me, given that the land is so close to the waterfront, that any business proposed for that site should be something that would enhance the waterfront and the residential neighbourhood.”
Bruce Milne said he was surprised that a council who got elected because they encouraged a strong business and entrepreneurial attitude would decide to go in this direction.
“You need to step back from the official community plan amendment and zoning because it affects us all and it sends a wrong message to existing business and investment in our town,” Milne said. “I think if you make this decision it will be detrimental and says that the government of the day does not respect the current property rights that exist.”
One other type of business that would be allowed if the rezoning was approved is a medical marijuana production facility.
The notion that such a facility could be built on Lot L riled up many who spoke.
Residents Barry Pruden and Kim Darwin both said that such a facility would bring in the potential for gangs and an unwanted criminal element.
Peter Wooding, president of the East Porpoise Bay Ratepayers Association, said the potential for a medical marijuana facility at that location was the “elephant in the room.”
“There is some feeling that this rezoning is accommodating for a potential medical marijuana facility,” Wooding said. “We want to know a lot more about medical marijuana operations. We don’t want Sechelt to become Surrey. Since this rezoning is maybe connected to an expression of interest to possibly open up a medical marijuana operation, we need to slow down and ensure that all and any business follow the rules.”
Along with the speakers, five written submissions were handed into District staff. A full report from the hearing is expected to go back to council later this month.
© Coast Reporter