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Council defers decision on Parkland rezoning amid stormwater concerns

Public hearing input asks for upper Gibsons stormwater management review
N.Parkland hearing
During a winter storm in January 2021, signage went up to alert Highway 101 users about road flooding downstream from Gibsons’ Parkland development.

It will be at least mid-October before Gibsons council votes on a rezoning bylaw for the final phase of the Parkland subdivision.

On Oct. 5, a public hearing was held on the proposal to increase density of a lot at Wright Road and Celia Crescent, allowing for 18 cluster-style units, rather than single-family and duplex housing. 

Council deferred debate on the bylaw’s third reading at its regular meeting, which followed that same evening.

The deferral was approved to give council time to consult staff on stormwater concerns that were raised at the hearing. Mayor Bill Beamish said the deferral would also give Coun. Stafford Lumley, who was not in attendance at either event, an opportunity to comment and vote on the matter.

At the hearing, Mary Catharine Anderson requested an immediate halt to further development in the subdivision and in the upper Gibsons industrial area until drainage issues impacting properties in the neighbouring Elphinstone area of the Sunshine Coast Regional District are addressed.

“Just as adequate potable water supply is essential for continued development, so is adequate stormwater drainage,” Anderson wrote in her 21-page submission on the bylaw. 

In that document, Anderson explained that her family’s Pratt Road property and others located at lower elevations south of Parkland, are being negatively impacted by stormwater runoff. She also spoke at the hearing, stating that the town has networked stormwater from areas including Parkland into a seasonal Chaster Creek tributary that runs through those properties. Over the past 10 years, she said, the accumulated drainage has caused that watercourse to flood downstream lands and Highway 101 on several occasions.

The runoff, Anderson said, has carried pollutants including petroleum residues that have damaged her farm property.  In her view, continued high density developments like the one being considered will result in higher stormwater runoff and will make the situation worse.

“This violates the town’s official community plan principles on managing growth in a regional context.”

Beamish said council could not comment on the issues raised by Anderson during the hearing. He provided assurances that the town would respond, after it consults with staff about her concerns. 

In introducing the bylaw at the hearing, Lesley-Anne Staats, Gibson’s director of planning, highlighted that the developer has committed to retain four of the units as rental properties and to a community amenity contribution (CAC) of $56,000.

Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society representative Wanda Selzer spoke in support of the rezoning and the resulting increases to the supply of rental and other housing options. 

There were two other speakers, who expressed concerns about the increased density along with an appreciation of the benefits that the development could bring.

Two-thirds of the 15 written submissions received stated opposition to the rezoning plan. One recognized the need for the more affordable types of accommodation that cluster housing could add, while also pointing out that small lot single and duplex housing, as allowed in the existing zoning, is also in demand.

Concerns were expressed about sustainable community growth, traffic congestion, water supply and fire separation between structures. A member of the public commented that the CAC level was too low when compared to the benefit the developer would receive from the up-zoning.

Written comments also included a suggestion that the town secure a housing agreement for the new development. That submission expressed an interest in seeing more than the four units set out in the proposal secured as long-term rentals and that some be required to be lower-than-market rate rentals.

Suggestions were made that Gibsons put covenants in place to ensure sustainable transportation infrastructure, like e-bike charging stations and car-share parking spots, are built as part of the development. Comments about the need for traffic calming measures within the development and a second road access into the subdivision were also raised as part of the hearing process.

The proposed bylaw would allow five structures containing a mix of two- and three-bedroom units to be built on the 1.12-acre site.

If council provides third reading, it will need approval by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure before adoption by council can be considered.