By Cindy Filipenlo
Environmental, landscape and privacy issues were high on the list of concerns for Pemberton residents who opposed the Silverthorne housing development.
On Thursday, May 18 the owners of the land, BC Rail, began clearing the property, bulldozing the brush and trees on the property in hopes of marketing the lot as soon as possible.
A recent application to rezone 3.2 acres was defeated earlier this month. The application to rezone the property to allow for 20 small-lot homes to be built was turned down 3-1 by the VOP council, with Mayor Jordan Sturdy voicing his support after the decision was made. Mayor Sturdy and Councillor David MacKenzie had supported the application, as had village staff.
The other three members of council, Jenne Helmer, Kristen McLeod and Mark Blundell voted against changing the zoning. In preambles before casting their votes they all cited reasons that reflected the concerns of the residents in the immediate area.
Environmental concerns, which led Helmer to suggest that the property be purchased by the village and deemed a protected area, were based on anecdotal evidence. Residents claimed the area was a habitat to birds and a bear, and that the marshy lands acted as a purifying "kidney" for the area.
The land has been an integral part of the Official Community Plan for more than a decade. The defeat of the recent re-zoning application marks the third time re-zoning has been denied. All three attempts met virulent, organized opposition from the residents of Meadow Lanes, a townhouse development that has nine units backing onto the parcel. Residents continue to claim that they purchased their properties under the belief that the adjacent lands were zoned parkland.
On May 16, BC Rail put the village on notice that they were clearing the property in preparation for sale.
BC Rail has contracted with Terrane Construction Ltd. to clear the property.