Proponents at a recent public hearing defended their bid for a subdivision in a neighbourhood tucked into forestlands above the highway in Halfmoon Bay.
Amendments to the Halfmoon Bay Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw are needed for the Secret Cove Heights Development to move forward in its current form.
Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors, who will be voting on whether to approve the amendments, have been divided on the proposal and opted for a public hearing to gather more public input.
At the July 21 hearing, staff repeated their recommendation for directors to drop the amendments, describing them as “inappropriate” for the location and inconsistent with the OCP and other SCRD policies.
Through the amendments, the applicant is seeking to subdivide about 19 hectares at the end of Stephen’s Way into 15 one-hectare lots and institute site-specific provisions for lot coverage, number of home-based business employees and building size.
The intent is to combine “rural residential land and the work from home mindset,” according to the development website.
To achieve this the OCP designation would have to change from Resource to Rural Residential, while zoning amendments would allow the minimum parcel size to shrink to one hectare from the current minimum size of four hectares.
Secret Cove Heights Development co-owner Keith Biddlecombe described his and his family’s work since 2006 to develop the neighbourhood, including their decision in 2017 to find a more “innovative” development strategy after the parcel lingered on the market for more than five years with no offers.
Biddlecombe said it has been “quite shocking” how long the process to gain approval for their changes has taken.
His wife, Janice Biddlecombe, said she was “quite taken aback by the unwillingness of the area planning commission to see the value of what we’re trying to propose.”
The Halfmoon Bay Advisory Planning Commission does not support the amendments.
She also noted a “lack of continuity” because of planning staff turnover has “made it very challenging for us as local property owners to continue with this project.”
Applicant Nicole Huska, who spoke several times, described Stephen’s Way as the ideal location for the subdivision, which could function as “test subject” for future land use planning.
Sechelt resident Jesse Waldorf also supported the amendments. “As a former director of the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce, I think that the majority of the businesses on the Sunshine Coast would be in favour of this,” he said.
Some private residents objected, however.
One neighbour – the first to speak at the hearing – said she was “in complete disagreement” because of its location and agreed with statements from others who submitted letters opposing the amendments. She also noted it conflicts with her goals to establish a retreat in the area. “We’ve made a permanent life change to come here and this proposal is completely opposite of what we’re trying to do,” she said.
Concerns were also raised about fire risk and the viability of wells in the area and the risk of arsenic contamination.
Elise Rudland, who was a member of the OCP advisory group, spoke against the application. She noted the surrounding lands are subject to logging and the current subdivision is inappropriately located.
“This is really a resource area. It is probably a mistake in having had the subdivision in there but we have inherited from the past,” she said.
Following the hearing, the board will consider third reading and possible adoption.