Residents around the intersection of Old Island Highway and 3rd Avenue are hoping they might finally be able to take down their “No Rezone” signs.
That’s because council quashed WestUrban’s second pitch for developing the property at 292 Island Highway at its March 22 meeting.
WestUrban had proposed a 60-unit apartment complex for the property last year, which spurred a neighbourhood backlash consisting of over 100 letters in opposition to the idea and a very visible sign campaign.
Council deferred the proposal rather than denying it, forcing WestUrban to go back to the drawing board and come back with a new idea without having to start the process over from scratch in terms of paperwork and application fees.
The more modest proposal they brought back to council was a 15-unit townhouse complex. It would still, however, require rezoning the property from Residential One (R-1) to Residential Multiple Two (R-2).
The neighbours, seeing the new proposal, again contacted the city to express their opposition, but were told their previous letters and petitions would not be considered since the developer had made significant changes to the plan.
But Renea Sumner, who started the initial petition and opposition effort against the rezoning, says they never gave up hope.
“I had to have faith in the system and believe that there is a reason these processes are in place and that the right decision would be made,” she says. “There were times when it felt like a done deal, but we encouraged each other not to stop, not to give up, and it was a challenge. It felt kind of like a David and Goliath kind of thing at times, but we just kept at it.”
In fact, they weren’t even watching as the proposal was denied, because they were at City Hall honking their horns again in protest.
“When I got home and found out, I just couldn’t believe it. From listening to the meeting and hearing what they said, I could tell that they actually read our emails, heard our concerns and took them to heart,” Sumner says. “I feel very heard. Not just as a neighbourhood, but as a community.”
Because that’s who they were doing it for, she says.
“I was handed a quote on a little sticky note on the day that WestUrban held their open house on the property,” Sumner says. “Someone just walked up to me and handed me this note that says, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ It’s by Margaret Mead and it’s perfectly fitting.
“We had to believe that we were fighting not just for that property, but for the entire ridge and for what the people of Campbell River want the future of Campbell River to look like and the fact that every person’s investment in this community has value. People spend money on where they live and it’s not right to develop from the bottom up and impact people in that way.”
That echoes the thoughts of Mayor Andy Adams, who says the developers in town need to look at the slope of the community and plan their projects accordingly.
“While we are doing significant infill right now … if you’re doing this type of development, you need to do it from the top down so you are not impacting those who have invested and renovated their homes on the basis of what they currently have.”
As for the neighbours, they’ll be going around and taking down signs for the next little while, but they might just hold onto them. After all, Sumner says, that property is certainly going to become something at some point.
“No matter what happens on that property – and something will happen – hopefully the trees will be preserved,” Sumner says. “There’s a real issue about eagles and migratory birds and we need to make sure they have places to nest. We can’t just keep cutting down all these big Douglas fir trees and expect that the birds will just find somewhere else to go.”