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Public offers mixed feedback on proposed 117-townhouse development in Sechelt

Neighbours voice opposition, others note economic need for more housing
A rendered image of the proposed development at 5981 Shoal Way.

More than 25 members of the public attended the District of Sechelt hearing for a proposed rezoning at 5981 Shoal Way on Sept. 28.

To accommodate the proposed 117 townhouse units, the Official Community Plan would need to be amended to redesignate the area from infill area number 5 to multifamily mixed residential, Sechelt development planning manager Ian Holl explained. This would increase the density of the area from 35 units per hectare to 45.

A Zoning Bylaw amendment would require changing from RU-1 lowest-complexity rural zone, to residential multiple one (RM-1) zone. This will allow the density to increase to 58 units per hectare. 

If the amendments are adopted, the next steps would include landscape buffering, screening and road improvements.

The hearing was the last opportunity for council to hear public input on the proposed development. The proposal's next step is third reading.

Eleven people spoke on the proposal, with opinions of residents and those speaking to business and economic interests falling on opposite sides of the issue.  

The first member of the public to speak was proponent Gaëtan Royer, CEO and principle of CityState consulting. Royer highlighted that the proposed development is surrounded by amenities such as schools, parks, a church and a daycare, and he stressed the increasing need for affordable housing in Sechelt. “We're really focused on providing that missing middle type of housing,” he said. 

Douglas Dunn, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast, spoke in favour of the proposed development, speaking to the ongoing housing crisis, and projected population increase. “Unless the Coast as a whole and [Sechelt] specifically don't take immediate and concerted efforts to empower developers, nonprofits and private institutions to create new housing, we will see our lovely community start to wither and economically die,” Dunn said. 

Richard Earls, a mortgage broker who lives on the Coast, spoke in favour, saying it has never been more difficult for a young family to get into a home and qualify for a mortgage on the Sunshine Coast. “I do believe that the developers have taken enough engineering and professional steps to determine that this will not be as large of a constraint on the infrastructure as some people may think,” Earls said. 

Community member Dianna Visser spoke against the project, saying that these new units will go to people moving to the Coast, not current residents. She also touched on the recent and recurring water crises the Coast faces.

“I don't understand how we can possibly think about building new developments when we can't even supply water for the people who already live here,” she said. 

Rod Millican, another community member, spoke against the development, with concerns that the significant density increase will lower quality of life, and will also decrease the land value of surrounding neighbourhoods. 

“I'd ask the council and mayor to consider the goodwill of us residents who have lived and served and worked and contributed to the community," said Millican. “We moved here for the quality of life and the zoning. We did our due diligence.”

A  nearby resident, Mike Moran was the next to speak in opposition to the proposal. Leading up to the public hearing, Moran collected 90 signatures of nearby residents who are opposed to the rezoning and development. 

“My understanding is that if community support is not there for a rezoning proposal, it cannot proceed,” Moran said. “I think that this petition demonstrates that at least a local community in general opposes the rezoning and the change to the Official Community Plan.”

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.