Community confronts density at public hearing for Roberts Creek subdivision

A Roberts Creek subdivision proposal that has sparked questions about how to prioritize affordable housing through density while preserving local bylaws was largely supported at a Jan. 14 public hearing.

“What’s at the core of this application, is how far from the centre of a community should lots of a certain size be allowed, and I think that question has already been answered,” said Mark Lebbell, former Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director for Roberts Creek.

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Several of the more than two dozen people who attended the hearing at Roberts Creek Hall spoke in favour of the application, including Lebbell, who also noted the application had generated lots of discussion within the community, and also “its share of hyperbole.”

Located on Toni Road, less than two kilometres from the heart of Roberts Creek via Lower Road, the proposal would see an 8,500-sq.-metre lot split into two 4,250-sq.-metre parcels, with a site-specific provision limiting residential development to a single-family dwelling and a second dwelling with a maximum floor area of 90 sq. metres. Current bylaws require a minimum of 5,000 sq. metres for subdivided lots, with two residential dwellings allowed. 

SCRD staff supported the amendments since they wouldn’t substantially change the character of the neighbourhood and could allow for affordable housing. 

Caitlin Hicks, whose property neighbours the lot, repeated points raised when she spoke against the proposal at an SCRD committee last September, including that the development would detract from the rural character of the neighbourhood and would jeopardize her short-term rental business.

Others argued against “zoning by piecemeal,” and raised concern over a recent change to the OCP meant to encourage affordable housing, with one speaker calling it “the beginning of urbanization.”

Many others, however, threw their support behind the subdivision.

Several speakers, including Lebbell, noted the neighbourhood where Toni Road is situated already contains several smaller lots, and a “quick scan” of the SCRD’s maps shows numerous neighbourhoods further from the community core with lots smaller than in the proposal.

Also in favour of the subdivision was John Gibbs, who sat on the OCP committee that supported a similar subdivision in the area. “My recollection is that there were no objections and that the main difference was that there was no neighbour complaint.” He supported the Toni Road proposal on the basis of “simple fairness.”

Applicant Sarah Jacobs highlighted that she had voluntarily reduced the size of the auxiliary buildings to limit impact, and raised the issue of affordability. “I was looking at keeping land so there would be land for my kids to build on,” she said, adding, “This is not a development looking at putting big houses up.”

Many at the hearing also acknowledged that density in Roberts Creek is increasing, including one speaker who lives in a nearby subdivision. He told directors the property he lives on used to be “all trees and forest,” but supported the proposal since his subdivision, like the one being proposed, is still “beautiful Roberts Creek… It’s just now there’s tons of kids and families and dogs and cats and goats.”

“I think splitting that land in half and putting another family in there … I’m in favour of it. If you wanted to put 14 lots in there and a bunch of condos, I’d be speaking different.”

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