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Concerns developing over new neighbourhood proposal in Ucluelet

Discourse around Hyphocus Island heats up as residents weigh the pros and cons at open house
Ucluelet’s director of community planning Bruce Greig looks over an information board alongside Pieter Timmermans and Barbara Schramm. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Discourse around the development of Hyphocus Island is heating up as residents weigh the pros and cons of a massive development being proposed.

The Island’s southern end, dubbed Lot 543, was purchased by MayWind Developments in 2022 and the company plans to build a new neighbourhood of roughly 300 units, comprising about 100 rental apartments, 150 townhouses and duplexes as well as a mix of single family homes on the approximately 34-acre site.

A hotel is also being proposed for the site’s southern end.

The company hosted a well-attended open house at the Ucluelet Community Centre on Jan. 18 where representatives from MayWind as well as architecture and land development partner EKISTICS presented information about the proposal and responded to questions from residents.

“This is an opportunity to help create a new neighbourhood that respects the natural and cultural values of the island, while providing a variety of housing options in a complete neighbourhood,” read the first of roughly 15 informational boards set up at the event.

Another board defined affordable housing as “spending 30 per cent of 80 per cent of the median income on housing” and defined attainable housing as “spending 30 per cent of 130 per cent of the median income on housing.”

The board pointed to Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan, which calls for targeting developments that offer a minimum of 75 per cent of new developments to be attainable by Ucluelet resident households.

As part of the project, the company is proposing to upgrade the area’s roads and trails and address an existing odour issue caused by the district’s sewage lagoons being located nearby.

The developer is also proposing to preserve 20 - 30 per cent of the land as open space and to “protect the unique environmental character including the forested shoreline, elevated views and rugged coastline,” according to the presentation.

“A significant area of the site is to be retained and enriched as open space to preserve the site’s inherent beauty and vegetated character,” a board read. “The expansion of the Safe Harbour Trail is also proposed around the perimeter of the site to enhance connectivity and allow people to enjoy the rugged coastline and natural landscape.”

The causeway connecting the island to Ucluelet is also slated for an upgrade, according to the developer.

Ucluelet mayor Marilyn McEwen told the Westerly News during the open house event that she was not surprised to see such a large turnout and was happy to see so many residents getting their questions about the project answered.

“I think that there’s a lot of interest in this project because of the density and the number of doors. They’re talking 300 new doors, which is going to increase the population of our town quite dramatically as you can imagine,” she said. “I think people are wanting to come here and see what it’s all about because the initial response just to the drawing, it looks so massive compared to what we already have, so it’s really important that people get their questions answered and get some knowledge of the plan.”

She added several representatives of the development were on hand to answer questions and information boards spanned the room.

“I think it’s important for developers to host open houses for the public so that they can get feedback from the public as well as answer any questions they may have,” she said.

“I’ve heard some of the people repeating numerous explanations of why build around a sewage lagoon and how to mitigate the smell and it’s just important for people to get their questions answered and to really understand the importance of the concept and the affordability element as well. It’s going to fill in a missing gap in our housing crisis, although not right away, but I think they plan to start construction in 2025.”

Project manager for Maywind Developments Tony Liang told the Westerly he was excited to see so many people at the event and that the feedback will help shape the project into something Ucluelet residents want to have in their community.

“We’re trying to have a better understanding from the locals. I want to hear what they need and what the housing problem means to them. That really helps us to get a better understanding and to move on our project,” he said. “We’re trying to get ideas and thoughts they might have…I’m very excited and I hope we can have some better ideas and we especially want to hear what the local people are thinking and what their needs are. That really helps us to improve our project.”

He noted the project is still in its initial stages, with no formal rezoning application submitted.

“We will gather all the information and we’ll have a meeting together with our team and we will continue to work on objectives and any issues that come up before we submit our formal application,” he said. “We’re happy to keep listening and happy to answer anything the best we can.”

He added residents can find information about the project, including traffic and archaeological studies, online at

A timeline displayed on one of the boards suggests the rezoning and OCP amendment application is expected to be submitted this year with construction on the project beginning in 2025.

“Things can happen, so there’s no guarantee, but we’re trying to have that timeline happen,” Liang said.

Hyphocus Island is within the traditional territory of Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ and the presentation acknowledged that Hyphocus Island was used by Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ for fishing, shelter and burial.

“The land holds remnants of its past, with identified archaeological sites dating back thousands of years,” a board read.

In an emailed statement to the Westerly News after the meeting, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government President Charles McCarthy said he appreciated the developers reaching out and working with the First Nation.

“Ekistics Design and Planning Team respectfully approached the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government for initial land and archeological assessment [for Hyphocus Island], which was completed by a small Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ ground crew, under the direction of the Department of Culture, Language and Heritage’s Archaeological and Cultural Consultant. Traditional Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ sites are and will remain under archaeological protection,” McCarthy wrote.

“With housing needs in addition to density being a topic of concern for Ucluelet residents, we trust required resources and availability of services to the community will be considered by the District, Mayor, and Council for this project, all greenlight projects, and prospects of further development along the narrow peninsula.”

He added the First Nation is committed to a continued partnership with the District of Ucluelet.

“While we raise the question of potential height allotments for proposed buildings and visual impact of Hyphocus (huumaniš) from hitac̓u, our priorities will always be preservation of archeological sites, environmental considerations of the land, and the health of the harbour, within our ḥaḥuułi (traditional territory),” he wrote. “We acknowledge our continued partnership with the District of Ucluelet and appreciate Ekistics, MayWind for working with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government.”

Residents cycled through the various information boards at the open house and asked questions to the developer’s representatives as the size of the project brought heavy interest.

Ed Chernis told the Westerly he came to the event with no preconceived notions about the project, but to “see what it was all about.”

“I’m just curious to see how they’re going to manage to get more homes in here that are supposedly affordable and deal with issues like the sewage lagoon, the terrain, and if it’s going to change or alter the marine environment at all,” he said.

Dennis Morgan said he lives near the proposed development and has questions about the impact to traffic in the area.

“Any increase in traffic would go right by my house and right there, given the kid-density around us, that’s problematic,” Morgan told the Westerly.

He noted the significant size of the project and questioned if Hyphocus could accommodate such a large influx of residents.

“I think the density of this project is pretty crazy. It’s a first responder nightmare getting in and out of there if anything significant happens, for the people as well as the responders. I think it’s too dense,” he said.

“We need housing but not at any cost. Like everywhere in the world apparently, we need to find opportunities for housing for more people, so you’ve got to build houses; you’ve got to build places for people to live. I don’t think it has to be this. This seems too dense. They have a target for affordability and attainability, but I’m not sure if that’s going to work in a subdivision like this…I think it needs a revamp.”

Kristi Udell also lives near Hyphocus and shared Morgan’s concerns around traffic.

“It’s going to increase traffic to a residential area, which we have all come to know and love to have our children be able to play on the street,” Udell told the Westerly. “It needs a lot of work before it’s approved…I’m not entirely sure yet what I’d like to see, but I know that traffic is going to increase and you’re going to displace a lot of wildlife with this development and it worries me.”

Jessica Leblanc said she hopes to see more engagement with residents about the proposal.

“I’m really invested in better understanding what’s happening in our community and the solutions that are being proposed to some of the larger issues at hand that are affecting all of us as our social ecosystem and our environmental ecosystem,” Leblanc told the Westerly.

“What I would really love is to have a larger presentation with the developers and the community members beyond simply these beautiful presented diagrams…I think an add-on could be taking these comments that people are making and suggestions and concerns and then how do we now open up a dialogue and a conversation with community members to address them?”

Coun. Mark Maftei said the event was a great opportunity to have casual conversations with residents as well as the developers about the project.

He told the Westerly he had met with the developers and has been impressed with their proactive listening to local concerns.

“I feel like they’re giving a lot of careful consideration and they have demonstrated an interest in bringing forth something that the community really wants, so I’ve got to respect that,” he said. “Personally, as a resident, this isn’t a project that I’m particularly excited to see. I think it’s the type of growth that we’ve sort of suffered from. I’m not convinced that this is going to solve any of our problems and I feel like it might exacerbate them, so I’m extremely cautiously optimistic, but that’s why I’m here: to learn more about it.”

He suggested a large addition of market housing could be the wrong kind of growth and the location of the development could bring negative impacts to the shoreline.

“As someone who spends a lot of my time on the water coming in and out of the harbour, seeing this natural landscape is something that I really value,” he said. “I know that it’s zoned for certain uses and that’s where our sewage ponds are, but I’m a little bit worried about what greets coming people coming into Ucluelet and the safe harbour from the water is a whole suite of largely unaffordable housing.”

He questioned whether the development would help solve Ucluelet’s current housing crisis.

“I think what we need right now is affordable and attainable housing,” he said. “Those are terms that get thrown around a lot, but for me the bottom line as a councillor and as a citizen when I talk about affordable or attainable housing, it’s housing that the people who live and work here can afford, not what meets some government metric that works out to way, way more than your typical Ucluelet salary could ever qualify for a mortgage on.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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