Laketown Ranch, the site that hosts the popular annual Sunfest Country Music Festival and other events, is looking to add a large residential area and an industrial zone to more than 40 hectares of land it owns adjacent to the festival site.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s electoral area services committee gave the comprehensive project the green light to proceed to the next planning stage, which will include a public hearing, in a 5-3 vote at its meeting on March 16.
Laketown Ranch applied to the Cowichan Valley Regional District for rezoning to build 182 manufactured homes, 50 cabins intended for year-round living, three single-family dwellings to be used as caretaker residences and 122 year-round RV camping sites.
The industrial area would contain a cannabis production facility if the project proceeds.
The cabins and manufactured homes are proposed to be small, between 450-600 sq. ft, on small lots, and hooked up to a privately-owned water and sewer service.
But some directors on the committee had reservations about the project, stating that more time is needed for them and the community to fully understand its many details.
Lori Iannidinardo, director for Cowichan Bay and chair of the board, said she doesn’t feel the district has had a fair chance to adequately review the application.
“I won’t vote for this until I understand all aspects of it,” she said.
A motion to refer the application back to staff to allow time for more research and for directors to visit the site failed in a 5-3 vote.
A staff report, which recommends the CVRD approve the project, said the noise levels during festival events can be managed effectively.
“The number of complaints is low, and those which have been received over time have resulted in changes in practices on-site,” the report said.
“But there has been some feedback that the location of the housing is inappropriate, given that it is outside of a growth containment boundary, and that it is in close proximity to industrial and entertainment uses, which may lead to nuisances for the future residents, in terms of noise, smell, and potentially dust.
However, the report concluded that it is in the public interest to support the application for the rezoning and the amendment to the official community plan, despite having to override the growth management policies of the OCP.
“The benefits to the community far outweigh the negatives, including the construction of up to 235 units of attainable housing to provide a housing alternative for people who are either looking to enter the real estate market or downsize their accommodations, and move a bit closer to the Town of Lake Cowichan, with all of its amenities,” the report said.
The CVRD has received a letter of support for the proposed project from the Cowichan Housing Association.
“The CHA is of the opinion that the proposed form and character of the development at Laketown Ranch allows for much greater attainability and is an appropriate response to the socio-economic conditions that characterize this community,” the letter said.
As well, the project’s proponents have received a letter-of-intent from Habitat for Humanity, the international organization that builds affordable homes for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to qualify for a conventional mortgage, indicating that it is interested in pursuing an organizational partnership with Laketown Ranch in the construction of the manufactured homes if the project proceeds.
Laketown Ranch has also indicated it is willing to make nine units of the manufactured-home units available for affordable housing in perpetuity.
But Alison Nicholson, director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, agreed with Iannidinardo that more time is needed to study the application.
“I feel very strongly that the community has not had adequate time to understand what is being proposed and put it in context of the larger community plan for Youbou,” she said.
Lynne Smith, director for Saltair/Gulf Islands, said the CVRD is currently going through a modernized official community plan process and that’s the opportunity for the community to decide if they want to extend the area’s growth-containment boundaries.
“It’s not for directors to extend growth boundaries, that’s for the community to decide,” she said.
But Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou/Meade Creek where the project is proposed, voted for the project to proceed.
He referred to the staff report’s contention that the project has many more positive aspects than negatives.
“There is going to be a public hearing on this proposal, and the public will have a chance to speak up there,” Kuhn said.
After the vote, Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, who also voted for the project, said he will arrange for a visit to the site by directors.