Maple Bay residents appear to be giving a cautious thumbs-up to an innovative residential development planned for the site of the former Quamichan Inn.
Jack Anderson, a planning and design consultant and owner of Nanaimo-based Greenplan, unveiled plans for the Maple Bay Road property at a public meeting Wednesday night.
About 100 people turned out, eager to learn more about what Anderson and owner Tina Pace are hoping to do with the historic property. A fire in 2016 destroyed the venerable Quamichan Inn and Pace acquired the 3.25 acre site a few months ago.
With memories of controversial and disastrous developments such as the original Cliffs over Maple Bay fresh in their minds, residents came loaded with questions for Anderson.
“I really like the concept but I’m paranoid about protecting trees, particularly Garry oaks,” Barbara Stone said. “Will they be protected?”
Anderson assured Stone that the design of the development will allow for about 23 units at the back of the site, well away from Maple Bay Road and the towering oak trees.
“We will cluster the houses away from the road, utilize the existing road so we don’t have to eliminate the trees,” Anderson explained.
“An arborist has identified healthy trees and some not so healthy ones. So, there are a couple of trees that may have to come down. But we will plant three or four trees for every tree we take down.”
Anderson, who says he has a passion for encouraging sustainable housing and specializes in sustainable buildings and green neighbourhoods, suggests the Quamichan development will be precedent-setting in many ways.
“Nothing compares to what we plan to do here,” he told the meeting.
The housing units will average 1,200 square feet in size and should be so energy efficient they “will be off the grid or net-zero” Anderson said.
By utilizing solar panels and geothermal technology, building with Just BioFiber’s Super SSR blocks for the exterior walls and capturing rain water the development will create an environmentally friendly option for housing developments.
“At the outset, there may be slightly more upfront costs, but in the long-term, the cost is controlled and residents may not have a power bill,” Anderson said. “They may not even connect to Hydro.”
Other plans on the drawing board include the planting of fruit and nut trees and other strategies that would allow residents to grow their own food. Homes, with porches out front, will face each other, promoting interaction among residents.
“We need to encourage social interaction,” Anderson said, adding the plan includes a large multi-purpose building that would be used for social gatherings and could include a workshop. Since the homes are relatively small, two guest suites will be built to be used by overnight visitors. “We’re here to listen, to hear comments and make modifications before going to North Cowichan to submit a zoning application.”
The property is currently zoned commercial and the developer will be asking the municipality to change it to a residential zone.