As nearly 100 people joined the virtual Halfmoon Bay town hall on April 6, MLA Nicholas Simons assured them “the right people” were looking into complaints surrounding a proposed subdivision development in Halfmoon Bay.
Community association requests court order
On April 1, ahead of the meeting, the Halfmoon Bay Community Association (HBCA) and the Halfmoon Bay Environmental Society (HMES) sent a letter to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) regional director, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board chair Darnelda Siegers, and SCRD chief administrative officer Dean McKinley, requesting they “urgently obtain a court order to stop land development on District Lot 1427 until regulations are adhered to.”
The letter states that residents have submitted complaints about bylaw and regulatory breaches on and around the lot, also known as Bayview Hills, since August 2021.
“The systematic and ongoing development of the land is in clear contravention of an extensive list of regulations, laws and bylaws, and is resulting in damage to downslope properties and public infrastructure,” the letter claims. “... After 8 months of continued violations we are requesting that the SCRD, MoTI, FLRNORD [sic] and other agencies collaborate to commence legal action.”
Linda McMahon, the president of HBCA, said they had not received a response by the time of the meeting, but the SCRD’s Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt pointed out that the board has not had a meeting since the letter was received (the next meeting is scheduled for April 14).
“The Sunshine Coast Regional District certainly appreciates the serious concern for the area residents and it's really important to know that the Sunshine Coast Regional District bylaw officers are actively investigating a number of complaints that have been made in relation to the particular development as mentioned. But in order to preserve the integrity of these investigations, the SCRD cannot provide any further details at this time,” Pratt said. She added that the SCRD is aware of other agencies, including MOTI, investigating complaints. She referred residents to report complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simons said the land in question is private property. While Simons has relayed concerns to his minister colleagues, as for legal action, he said, “It wouldn't be appropriate, in fact, it would be wrong for me to try to influence legal action against or for anyone, as a member of the executive council. Those roles are independent of political interference.”
He acknowledged frustration with not having all the information about investigations, adding, “If there have been infractions, or if there have been occurrences of illegal activity, I'll just say that those questions are being asked and the right authorities are doing the questioning.”
The developer, Alister Toma, declined to be interviewed for this story. Instead, he emailed a response: “Bayview Hills is a one of a kind residential community that many have referred to as the British Properties of the Sunshine Coast. Our team has been working diligently to bring a world class development to the area built with high standards similar to our sold out project in Halfmoon Bay, Cove Beach. Our pre sales campaign experienced an unexpected surge in demand: 60% / 16 parcels pre sold within 7 months is an unprecedented record in the history of the Sunshine Coast and we are proud that most of our pre sales have come from existing Halfmoon Bay residents who are as anxious and excited as us to see this project completed and provide much needed sought after housing to the area. We are constantly collaborating with the district and the province to ensure proper procedure is followed in ushering Bayview Hills to the Sunshine Coast community.”
One of the meeting’s attendees was Christina Eriksen of Coast Home Real Estate, who has worked with the development since November and was a buyer’s agent for the Cove Beach subdivision by the same developers. While she did not have information about the SCRD’s investigation, she said no one would be able to speak about an ongoing investigation. She had not seen a copy of the letter requesting a court order, she told Coast Reporter on April 8.
In an April 6 email to Coast Reporter, SCRD staff confirmed an application for the proposed 26-lot phased subdivision is under review with the SCRD. A concurrent application with MOTI, the approving officer for subdivisions in the regional district, is required. The proposed subdivision is compliant with existing zoning for the site, so it would not require approval from the SCRD board of directors, the email said.
Much of the April 6 meeting’s discussion focused on subdivision developments in Halfmoon Bay, the limitations of regional districts and enforcement, as well as dock applications in Sargeant Bay. This meeting came just two weeks after Pratt hosted a virtual information session on March 23 about subdivision developments in rural areas.
Residents asked how a property owner can subdivide and sell lots without first having the appropriate permits. Pratt responded that a sale is not complete until a subdivision is registered.
Eriksen told Coast Reporter, “I don't think people are well enough informed on how pre-sales development works, because that seems to be the big issue that there were not development permits, but that's very standard for a pre-sales development … As far as actual development goes, all [the developer’s] done at this point is he's marked some of the lots, like staked them, and done the logging. So he's not done anything that's outside of what is allowed at this point in the development.”
As for concerns about Kitchin Creek, Eriksen said a water report showed it’s not a fish-bearing creek, and that the developer had studies and assessments done. “There's one area where the creek was crossed, but the developer hasn't touched the creek,” she said.
But residents, the HBCA and the HBES dispute this.
“It appears quite clear the developer has altered the land and cut down trees within the 30 metres riparian area either side of Kitchin Creek, without first doing the required expert studies and applying for a development permit from SCRD. Heavy equipment has been observed driving through the Creek, logs lain across it, and debris dumped into it, all of which we have been advised is illegal and is being investigated,” Linda McMahon wrote in an email to Coast Reporter.
Stormwater concerns have also been raised by residents. Eriksen pointed to the storm in November that caused road damage, saying “that damage happened all up and down the Coast as well as other places.”
“I've worked for quite a few developments and I see this time and time again as the people who are already established in the neighborhood don't necessarily like to see change or new things coming in. And beyond that, I really think that it's more about being uninformed about how the whole process works,” Eriksen said, adding that “quite a few people from the area have bought lots in the development.”
McMahon also says the residents are not uninformed or against newcomers.
“...as attendees no doubt heard at the Town Hall, the concerns were not at all that we don’t want new neighbours, it's that we want the rules and processes to be followed. We want properties that have been adversely affected by the land clearing to be protected,” McMahon wrote. “Not all our complaints are with the developer, as attendees also no doubt heard at the Town Hall - many of our complaints are with the current system of policies and by-laws, rules and regulations.”
The next SCRD board meeting is scheduled for April 14. In the April 6 email, staff told Coast Reporter the SCRD “is currently formulating a response to the Halfmoon Bay Community Association. The SCRD appreciates the time taken by residents to voice their concerns and staff look forward to continued communication on developments taking place in the community.”