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Open house coming up to hash out Hyphocus housing project in Ucluelet

Paul Rosenau of EKISTICS Town Planning presented the proposal to the town’s council last month
An open house will be held at the UCC on Thursday to discuss a large housing project proposed on Hyphocus Island. (Ucluelet council agenda image)

An open house event is being held this week to gauge feedback on a massive housing development proposal on Ucluelet’s Hyphocus Island.

As was reported in the Westerly News, Paul Rosenau of EKISTICS Town Planning presented the proposal to the town’s municipal council on Dec. 7.

Roseanua explained the plan is for about 300 housing units comprised of roughly 150 apartments, 100 townhouses and a variety of single family homes.

He added a hotel of roughly 20 rooms is also being considered as is commercial units like coffee shops and stores.

Roseanua assured the developer planned to host an open house to collect public input on the proposal and that open house will be held on Thursday, Jan. 18, from 4-8 p.m. at the Ucluelet Community Centre.

Local resident Patricia Sieber heard about Roseanua’s presentation and submitted a letter to the district reviewed by council during their Jan. 9 regular meeting expressing her concerns about the proposed project.

She cited the narrow causeway connecting Hyphocus Island to Ucluelet as a key concern.

“As I drive and walk Helen Road over the causeway and into town, I have often questioned the wisdom of increasing any more density on our island. In many places the road appears to be narrower than is deemed standard in our district,” Sieber wrote.

“When tourists visit our area, I find myself giving way on the shoulders as many drive as if our road is one way traffic. On the causeway this is especially challenging.”

She acknowledged the developer plans to install a more robust bridge as part of the development project, but questioned whether the welcomed upgrade would outweigh the negative impacts of adding so many homes to the island.

“We have wished for a bridge, but some of us are not sure that finally getting a bridge is worth the other consequences,” she wrote.

“Widening Helen Road from the causeway to Marine Drive, will also be a challenge. The bank on the left heading into town is steep and to expand in that direction would be costly in money and the damage to the environment. On the right, those who live there may not be pleased to have the road widened into their driveways.”

She also questioned whether the developer would be willing to pay for all the necessary road upgrades as well as the costs associated with open house and public inputs events regarding the proposal.

“How much staff time will be devoted to working with this developer? Recently we heard that a small daycare and housing project proposed by our Co-Op was withdrawn because of delays partially caused by demands on the District staff in dealing with so many proposals,” she wrote.

She also cited the district’s sewage lagoon as an issue as the site produces a smell that sometimes lurks in the area.

“In reality the existing sewage lagoon may be the major challenge to developing this area into high end tourist and year round accommodation. In their proposal they state that they have engaged an engineering team to assist in resolution of this problem. Their proposal is full of the positive aspects (in their minds),” she said.

Roseanua had mentioned the sewage lagoon issue during his Dec. 7 presentation.

“We do have an engineering company out of Victoria that is actively engaged and working on a study right now to try to help us understand and deal with the odour issue that exists on Hyphocus Island today,” he said.

Sieber suggested the lagoon could become a larger issue than the developer realizes and wondered if the district was being set up for a repeat of the former Wyndansea proposal that was cancelled after the project went bankrupt in 2014.

“Is this a proposal to entice investors and then abandon the project because of problems such as the lagoon. Will the developer then come back to future councils and try to strong arm the District into fixing the lagoon at taxpayer expense?,” Sieber wrote.

She added that she objects to the scale of the Hyphocus Island proposal and asked council to consider taking some time to further investigate potential impacts to the site.

“As a resident of Hyphocus I object to this scale of development for many reasons. Before time and energy are devoted to this project I suggest that we pause and reflect on the history of grand plans made for our town by those who have no interest beyond financial gains made for those who live far from here,” she wrote.

Council accepted Sieber’s letter with no discussion, though Mayor Marilyn McEwen noted the developer’s upcoming open house, the announcement of which was also on council’s Jan. 9 meeting agenda.

“We are looking for your input on how to shape a neighborhood that reflects the values and aspirations of the people who live here,” the announcement reads.

“We want to hear from you about your experiences, insights, creative and visionary ideas to help design a neighborhood that meets the needs of the community and respects the physical and cultural history of the land. Your input will help us shape the future of this unique and beautiful island, where people can live, work, and play in harmony.”

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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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