Applications stuck between the former and new OCP are causing issues. Developers have addressed that their applications are years old and were quoted a 6-12 month approval time. Due to delays with staff, applications were overdue, and now have to adhere to the new OCP terms and conditions. Residents in Quamichan Lake are standing firm on the ‘not in my backyard’ viewpoint as they’ve addressed the council several times to urge them to honor the new OCP and deny all building permits. The voice of the Quamichan Lake Association seems to be largely just Tarn Place residents.
Councillors Manhas, and Findlay support development.
Councillor Caljouw leans with Manhas and Findlay but is a wild card.
Councillor’s Justice, Toporowski, Istace, and mayor Douglas mostly stay firm on the new OCP.
Developers Insight – (Indian Cres)
While personally, I am not a developer, I could put myself in the mindset of one when considering an investment of time and resources. Councillor Justice referred to the development of Indian Cres as ‘seriously misaligned’ with the new OCP.
The Indian Cres development will be for 15 homes, on a strata lot.
The above image is the area surrounding the proposed development. As you can easily see, there are a lot of single-family residences around the area, as well as an existing condo complex across the street.
Whether you support this development or not is actually not the concern, it’s the mindset of the councilors that comes into question. The former OCP permitted development directly to the lake, which in the above image is the green flatted area at the top of the image. The new boundary is literally on Indian Cres. Meaning they moved the boundary a couple of feet outside of the potential building site.
Later in the meeting, Councillor Justice stated it’s a 40-minute walk to the nearest grocery store, which doesn’t align with the 15-minute agenda of the community plan. For the record, it’s 3 kilometers to Save On and Superstore. Which is a 13-minute bike ride.
His words of ‘seriously misaligned’ seem to refer to the 13-minute bike ride to the grocery store, as well as the urban containment boundary being about 2 feet outside of the designated location.
If I were a developer considering bringing my business into the valley, understanding that the council considers proposals to be seriously misaligned in a situation like this would give me zero confidence in North Cowichan being a place where my business could thrive, or even survive.
Councillor Justice – Strongly opposed, passionately against any development.
Councillor Toporowski – Strongly opposed with cultural viewpoints.
Councillor Istace – Very strongly opposed with multiple rezoning concerns.
Mayor Douglas – Strongly opposed, to honor the new OCP.
Councillor Manhas – Support development, outlined hypocrisy.
Councillor Findlay – Support development, housing crisis, honor good faith.
Councillor Caljouw – Support development, we need housing.
Opinions and thoughts
We had the opportunity a few months ago to hear from a number of developers in the Cowichan valley. The most occurring feedback, something just felt wrong with the permit application process. People felt as though applications were being held back or delayed without justification. I believe we’re seeing the result of this now and it fills in the larger picture, there is a strong case to suggest that’s exactly what happened.
When the local council was pressured into admitting a climate crisis in 2019 it came with several conditions. One of those conditions is the climate lens, which was put on every policy and decision the council processed moving forward. The OCP was pulled and completely redesigned with seemingly no concern over budget or impact on existing processes. The climate lens was, and is, all that matters. As a result, we heard over 300 permits were sitting in the hopper waiting for review and approval, a process that never happened. That is until the new OCP was adopted in 2022. Now that backlog of permits has an entirely new set of rules to adhere to, leaving hopeful developers to sit on those properties and their fees for the bulk of 4-5 years.
Even though the vast majority of North Cowichan residents have placed the housing and homelessness issue as their #1 concern, nothing can apparently leapfrog itself above the climate lens. As long as the climate lens runs the OCP, it’s going to be housing, taxes, and your prosperity second, third, and wherever else it fits as long as it comes second to the climate lens.