Ucluelet council made decisions on a trio of major development proposals during their latest regular meeting on Aug. 17.
Lot 16 at Marine Drive, a major housing development proposal across from Big Beach was inched forward, a recommendation to change ONNI Group lands (formerly Wyndansea) to a rural designation was given second reading a sent to Public Hearing, and an application from The Cabins to build 13 short-term rental units at Terrace Beach was approved.
Lot 16 Marine Drive
After listening to feedback from residents during the Aug. 10 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, applicant NORED Developments, changed their original proposal. To start, they reduced the height and density of the proposed rental apartment building to three storeys instead of four. They increased the minimum setback of the townhomes from 10-metres to 15-metres and they donated 3000-sqft of land to be used for a park.
“To ease some of the concerns brought up at the special meeting regarding the density and growth, this is not a 2-year project and more than likely a 5-7 year project with what we feel this absorption rate on the lot sales will be. So, the growth will be phased in over a period of time. The apartment alone will likely take 2—3 years from design approval to construction completion,” reads a letter from applicant Cody Dreger of NORED Developments.
Coun. Rachelle Cole said after speaking with the applicant, she believes that one day they would like to move to Ucluelet and join the community.
“I think at this point it’s a win-win-win, and the alternative of more short-term rentals is what keeps me up at night,” said Cole.
Coun. Jennifer Hoar spoke about sustainability.
“We need more density. It is in fact more sustainable to have denser developments,” said Hoar. “I know we are small town, but we have a lot of people who desperately need housing and that is what I am hearing every day.”
Council unanimously approved second reading of the amended zoning amendment to incorporate the changes proposed by the applicant and referred the amended application to Sept. 7 public hearing.
Onni Signature Circle lots
At an April regular council meeting, council passed a motion downzone the Onni Wyndansea lands to a rural residential zoning designation until a comprehensive plan has been developed for this area. Onni lands current Comprehensive Development Zone established in 2005 allows for a mix of residential and vacation rental on the Signature Circle lots whereas the rural designation would permit a maximum of one family dwelling per lot and no vacation rentals.
Onni Wyndansea Holdings Ltd sent a letter dated June 8, 2021 expressing their objections to the rural zoning designation and on July 29, 2021, Onni submitted 29 separate building permit applications; one for each of their Signature Circle lots.
During the Aug. 17 meeting, council voted to withhold building permits for 30 days for the Signature Circle lots, to enable district staff to further review the application. Council went on to vote the rural zoning designation to second reading and referred it to a Sept. 7 Public Hearing.
A district staff report to council notes that: “Correspondence from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirms that intersection improvements to ensure safety are necessary where the (Onni) lands are accessed from the Peninsula Highway via Florencia Drive. Until a comprehensive development plan is approved, and the highway connection to these lands has been resolved, reducing the allowable density of uses would lessen the potential for negative impacts from traffic or other activities.”
The Cabins at Terrace Beach
On Aug. 17, Ucluelet council granted development variances permits for 13 new vacation rental units on Terrace Beach. One of the variances granted includes reducing the minimum setback of 30-metres from a watercourse to 8-metres in order to accommodate the northern most four units by a creek. (The Design Centre rendering)
Despite an outcry of opposition from Ucluelet residents, mayor and council approved a controversial application from Lougheed Enterprises (The Cabins) to build 13, 1,048 sq.ft. rental suites on the old Peninsula Road property by Terrace Beach.
The proposed rental suites are located adjacent to a Midden as well as a recognized Cultural Heritage Site. As part of the development proposal, the owner of the Cabins at Terrace Beach has offered to transfer the Midden parcel of land back the Ucluelet First Nation.
Ucluelet First Nation president Charles McCarthy sent a letter to the district and to the developer expressing his government’s support for The Cabins proposal and a second letter confirming the Ucluelet First Nation’s favour for working with the District of Ucluelet to build a trail at the Cultural Heritage Site.
Coun. Jennifer Hoar was the lone Ucluelet council member to vote in opposition of the vacation rental development. Hoar also made a recommendation that a qualified consulting arborist be onsite as a condition of the development permit to ensure the long-term health of the trees.
Ucluelet resident and business owner Jens Heyduck voiced concerns about the density and the community/environmental impact of the new rental suites.
“The proposed development with its level of density requiring a reduction of setbacks is outdated even before it started. Three years in the making, it fails to factor in the new kind of tourist emerging from this pandemic. There is a clear desire for sustainability and low-impact tourism developments,” said Heyduck.
“How are 80 plus people in immediate proximity to this smallish beach supporting the character of this area to both locals and visitors alike?” he asked.
In response, Ian Kennington, who spoke on behalf of the developer, pointed out that with its current zoning, they could build something more than 10-times the size of what they are proposing.
“I think we are already proposing a low-density solution here. With the ability to build a Black Rock style hotel there, we’ve worked very, very hard to keep that density low,” said Kennington.
In rebuttal, Heyduck asked why the property was zoned tourist commercial to begin with.
“The zoning is from the 1990s. Times have moved on. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” said Heyduck.
Council was presented an opportunity to seek further public engagement at a later date, but opted to move ahead with their decision to approve the requested development variance permits.
A message to The Cabins owner Ron Clayton was not returned.