Tofino’s municipal council has again turned down a massive proposal from Woodsmere Holding Corp. that would bring 178 apartment units and a 48-room motel to a 27-acre lot at the entrance to town.
Woodsmere’s president Danny Jadresko said that the company conducted a comprehensive housing market evaluation from 2014-2015 that identified a critical shortage of rental housing in Tofino and subsequently purchased a 25-acre lot north of Industrial Way near the Tofino Gas ‘N’ Go.
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He said the site would be developed in a phased approach, with the first phase being 116 purpose-built rental units, followed by a 48-room motel and then a 62 unit apartment or condominium building.
The site, however, is not zoned for any commercial uses, like a motel, and allows for single-family residences, not 178 apartments, and therefore needs council’s approval to move ahead. The application also calls for four-storey apartment buildings, which is higher than the town’s Official Community Plan permits
Woodsmere first presented an application to the district in 2016 and that application was denied by council in 2017. A municipal election has happened since then, bringing three new councillors to the table, though the result was the same as council again rejected the company’s proposal last week.
Prior to denying the application during their Jan. 22 regular meeting, council heard from Jadresko who spoke as a delegation at the start of the meeting and explained why Woodsmere had reapplied.
He said Woodsmere’s primary focus is to “provide rental housing in Tofino” and suggested many residents are currently living in substandard conditions.
“I have personally heard from residents of Tofino living in tents, cars, 15 people living in a single family home or two grown adults living in an 8x10 room with bunk beds,” he said. “This type of housing does not help integrate the occupants and residents into the community. Occupants of inadequate housing are not likely to remain in Tofino, leading to a high turnover for employees and residents…Our proposed development addresses many of the housing problems and we believe the town should be supportive of our application.”
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He added Tofino’s downtown core would benefit from a motel and that Woodsmere would focus on accommodating pedestrians and cyclists.
“We feel that there is a limited supply of newer, reasonably priced, tourist accommodations within the downtown core area, “he said.
He assured each unit would be prohibited from becoming a short term rental.
“Year-round residents contribute to the community’s economical and social well-being. We are not targeting short term transient residents,” he said.
He cited costs as the reason for building four-storeys high and suggested building in Tofino is expensive while the average rental rates are lower than in larger cities.
“The four-storey apartments are a direct result of costs and affordability. The higher we build, the more affordable the building gets,” he said.
He said the 48-unit motel was a means to create financial assistance for the project.
“Without any financial burden to the town of Tofino and the residents, Woodsmere is prepared to undertake all risks and financial burden to develop this proposal,” he said.
He added the project would help lower housing costs.
“In most cases, rental rates are a direct factor of supply and demand. Currently, in Tofino, there’s very limited supply of rental accommodations, which creates a high demand for current rental inventory,” he said. “Most of the rental inventory in Tofino is old and in many cases substandard, however, still being rented at high rental rates. This is a direct factor of limited supply and high demand. Woodsmere is proposing to bring to market 116 brand new, quality built, high standard, purpose built apartment units in phase one.”
Tofino’s Manager of Community Sustainability Aaron Rodgers said the 88-unit per acre density being proposed by Woodsmere is roughly four times higher than what the current Official Community Plan permits and expressed concern over managing the “very large neighbourhood” the proposal would create.
Coun. Duncan McMaster said Tofino residents have been clear that they do not want to see more tourist accommodations developed.
“I definitely won’t support a motel,” he said.
Coun. Dorothy Baert said she was disappointed that the application did not seem to have incorporated any of the changes the community had suggested the first time Woodsmere presented its plan.
“Yes, we do need housing and we are trying in a number of ways to address that, but I don’t think this community is saying, ‘We’ll take whatever’s put on the table at any cost,’” she said.
Both Coun. Tom Stere and Coun. Al Anderson echoed that sentiment.
“This is the second attempt and my reading of the first attempt does not differ much in substance or in spirit with this second application. The community has clearly spoken on many levels,” Stere said.
“I think the community and council both have spoken to this application before and we haven’t seen any sort of movement in any way to address any of the concerns brought forward. So, I hope that any further applications that might come on this property have listened to some of those things and tried to make it a better fit for the OCP and the community,” Anderson added.