An international group of companies is proposing a massive housing and tourism development on the outskirts of Ucluelet.
The Onni Group hopes to build a new neighbourhood on a 360-acre parcel of land that was once slated to become an 18-hole golf course and oceanfront resort.
The group purchased the bankrupt Wyndansea golf course development in 2015 and plans to create 450 single-family residences, 600 units of multi-family residential, including triplexes and six-plexes, and 400 units of tourism and commercial accommodations.
The company says 37 per cent of the property will be maintained as parks and open green space.
Residents had a chance to review the company’s plan during a June 19 open house event at the Ucluelet Community Centre where informational signs served as a ‘self-guided tour’ of the company’s intentions.
Participants were encouraged to put sticky notes on each sign expressing their concerns and ideas.
Onni’s signage explained the company plans to move away from the golf course idea and, instead, pursue a “more complete neighbourhood.”
“The proposed concept offers a greater diversity of housing types and focuses residential development in lands of least sensitivity—including lands that have already been disturbed from past clearing and site preparation,” one sign stated.
Another sign promised the company would take a “more modest and phased approached,” prioritizing neighbourhood development while preserving areas for economic development, including an oceanfront lodge, marina, and a “canopy walk” through old growth forest.
The company also assured it would allow Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail to extend through the property.
Coun. Randy Oliwa was thrilled to see a large turnout at the event.
“It’s just been a steady stream of interested community and a diverse group, some people I’ve never even seen in the community to our regular champions of our community,” he said adding he commended Onni for hosting the event. “I think, they’re going to get a really good sense of whether they even should continue down this road or just go another way.”
He added his primary focus on the project will be how housing is prioritized compared to commercial development.
“[Housing] is first for me. I would like to see that done first. That’s definitely the most needed,” he said.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen said the event offered a positive first impression.
“It’s looking like a really nice mix of single-family, multi-family and tourist commercial [developments] and they’re leaving lots and lots of green space and parkland as well,” she said.
Local resident Andy Herridge said he liked the diverse housing options and hopes to see the company take advantage of its scenic landscape to attract activity.
“They have seemed to save some space for green space, which I’m hoping they’ll put into some bike trails or a frisbee golf course so the community can have a place to go and have fun as well as an additional attraction to Ucluelet,” he said adding he also hopes to see alternative energy sources explored. “Hopefully, they can do some smart engineering out there and utilize the wind of Wyndansea and make it a little more affordable hydro-wise.”
Wild Pacific Trail Society president Barbara Schramm said the proposal was a “vast improvement” over the Wyndansea project. She added she is excited to see the trail extended, but is wary of how much space it will be given.
“If you have buildings coming close to the trail, it will not feel like the Wild Pacific Trail. So, that protection of the green space around the trail will be critical,” she said.
Jens Heyduck expressed concern over the project.
He doubted the community has the infrastructure in place to service the new neighbourhood and feared that, once built, it could pull business out of downtown.
“This is a gigantic project and it almost outshines Ucluelet as it is. I really don’t see how we can maintain our little ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ feel, if you like, if we have a gigantic satellite town out there. I’m not too thrilled,” he said.
He said water and sewer infrastructure must be addressed as well as the impact the neighbourhood would have on traffic congestion heading in and out of town.
“If we do address them, so that it is all workable in terms of widening the highway and more roundabouts etc., is Ucluelet going to be the same afterwards or is it going to merge into something bigger that we haven’t really seen,” he said.
He said he moved from Germany and was enamoured with Ucluelet’s small-town feel.
“Newer is not always better. This is a quaint town; that’s why I came here nine years ago,” he said.
“First we saw Tofino and we were repelled and got out of dodge within the same day and found Ucluelet and have stayed ever since. I don’t know if I would have stayed in Ucluelet after this is developed.”
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques said residents should not feel intimidated by the project.
“If this development proceeds, it will take time. A development of this size will probably take 30 years to grow out. We have to be ready for it and we have to be prepared,” she said.
She added Ucluelet is currently investigating Kennedy Lake to expand its water capacity and would be prepared for the influx created by the new development.
She added that, if created, the new housing would make room for a larger tax base and the increased population could lead to new schools and other amenities.
“It’s very positive for Ucluelet. Even if we do double in size, we’ll still be under 4,000 people and that’s a great sized community,” she said “Perhaps we’ll attract optometrists, veterinarians, dentists, those types of things with that little bit of extra community growth that we have.”
St. Jacques expressed support for the project and said the Onni Group is well suited to take it on.
“They are very respectful of Ucluelet and certainly very respectful, I’ve found, of the property itself, because it is a magnificent area and deserves to be done well,” she said.
“They have ideas on things that they’d like to see out there, which are great: housing and trails and lots of parkland…I’m really happy they’re doing it this way. They’re coming to the community and saying, ‘These are our thoughts, but we want to hear from you.’”