A housing development being pitched by Woodsmere Holdings Corporation that would bring a new residential neighbourhood to Tofino continues to inch towards reality.
Tofino’s municipal council unanimously agreed to give first reading to a bylaw amendment last week that would allow a 55-unit, four-storey, apartment building and 24 single family dwellings, each permitted to have a suite, to be built on a 27-acre property at 825 Campbell Street owned by Woodsmere.
The company has brought several applications to develop the property over the past four years and this newest proposal represents a significant reduction in size from Woodsmere’s initial application of 240 apartment units, 108 townhouses, 34 duplexes, 16 stand-alone single family homes and a 48-unit motel that was rejected by council in 2017.
During council’s Jan. 26 regular meeting last week, district planner Peter Thicke explained that Woodsmere’s new scaled-down application was received in November of 2019, but the applicant made some changes that caused a delay.
“This zoning amendment is a fairly significant amendment that would facilitate the creation of a residential neighbourhood on the subject property,” he said.
He said the development’s proposed density is higher than Tofino’s current Official Community Plan would allow, but noted that a current update to that OCP is expected to reduce density restrictions.
“Staff are currently recommending that we continue to move forward with this application, however we may have to hold it until the new OCP is adopted,” he said.
He said the application is supported by Tofino’s Housing Needs Assessment and the project could help fill identified gaps in both year round and seasonal rental accommodations as well as home ownership units “at the lower end of the market.”
“These aren’t intended to be large lots for large estate homes, however they will hopefully provide opportunities for many people here in the district to enter the housing market if they wish,” he said.
He said servicing is likely the largest cause for hesitation with the application as there are concerns over the town’s ability to handle the additional drain on water and sewer resources that the new neighbourhood would bring with it.
“The land use considerations for a development of this size are fairly significant and staff are working through it stage by stage,” he said. “At this point we generally have a lot of support for the actual land use itself however there will be many considerations from a public works and engineering perspective to ensure that we can actually in practical reality facilitate this development.”
He added that traffic impacts could also be a “major concern” and that staff also plans to discuss potential parking concerns with the applicant.
“We want to make sure that the proposed road and the proposed lots are not overwhelmed by cars everywhere, as has happened in other developments within the district for small lots, so that’s one thing we’ll be taking a close look at as we continue to move forward,” he said.
He said the property is located outside Tofino’s tsunami inundation zone and the possibility of a public tsunami evacuation area is being discussed and other amenities are expected to be hashed out and presented to council when the application returns for second reading.
Thicke noted though that Woodsmere’s current application leaves a lot of land leftover on the 27-acre property and the district remains unsure of what the company plans to do with the remaining space. He said district staff are trying to get a handle on what Woodsmere’s future plans might be to get a better understanding of what the layout of the entire property could eventually look like.
Council unanimously agreed to move ahead with first reading for the application, though concerns around the town’s capacity were reiterated.
“This is the creation of a very large new neighbourhood in our small community. The size and impact of such a development is something that does concern me on many levels,” said Coun. Tom Stere. “This is by far the most viable residential development that I’ve seen probably in my time in Tofino, so I am supportive of that.”
He also expressed wariness over the site’s future developments.
“Not having a full understanding of what the applicant may be looking at moving forward on this 27 acre property does pose some concerns,” he said. “It would be nice to have at least an indication of what the intent might be for further development of this property as I can see these same questions around servicing will come up.”
Coun. Duncan McMaster noted the property’s development has long been discussed since the initial application in 2017 and said he was happy to see the current approach the developer is taking.
“I’m glad to see that it’s like a phased development and it’s not going to be developed all at once,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a long road and I’m glad to see that a private developer is stepping forward with what we hope is going to be affordable accommodation.”