North Cowichan’s council stopped a proposal for a large housing development on Ashcroft Road in its tracks on May 2, despite appeals to at least let it go to a public hearing.
The applicant was proposing a 20-lot subdivision, which would have included 16 two-acre lots and four larger ones, on a 52-acre property at the end of Ashcroft Road, adjacent to the Trans Canada Highway.
The proposal called for rezoning the property, which is now zoned agricultural with no allowance for lots smaller than 30 acres, to allow the project.
But staff recommended rejecting the application largely because the official community plan calls for the municipality to prevent urban sprawl into rural areas, and the subdivision would be about four kilometres from the nearest commercial centre.
Speaking for the applicants, Toby Seward, from Seward Developments Inc., asked that council give the proposal its first and second readings to allow it to go to a public hearing to determine how its neighbours feel about it.
He said there is a demand for this type of housing development, only limited municipal services would be required, there is another similar subdivision close by, and the soil is not great on the property so it has limited other uses.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen, the only council member to vote for the proposed project, also said it should be allowed to go to a public hearing.
She said many people are looking for homes on larger properties to raise families and grow their own food.
“I think this would be a good use for the land,” Behnsen said.
“I don’t agree it’s too far from commercial centres because there are roads everywhere, and affordable-housing options could be provided. I can’t think of a better option for the property.”
But Coun. Al Siebring said he concurs with staff’s recommendation.
He said allowing the project would be counter to all the time and effort spent in developing the OCP and its land use and density policies.
“We want to preserve the rural character there,” Siebring said.
“I think there is a better use for that land and someday, we’ll see what that is.”
Councillors Tom Walker and Rob Douglas agreed, stating that the OCP dictates against urban sprawl in rural areas.
“I think allowing a subdivision so far from a commercial centre would be a step backwards,” Douglas said.
Mayor Jon Lefebure said the proponents made the best case they could.
“But there comes a point when council has to walk the walk,” he said.