Critics of the controversial Ravens Crest development pounced on the proposal at a public meeting that wasn't designed for that purpose.
The Village of Pemberton drew a crowd of 40 to a public meeting in council chambers last Tuesday night about an amendment to its Official Community Plan that would incorporate the Hillside Lands, the first step in permitting development there.
The development planned for the Hillside is a neighbourhood with 60 lots for single-family homes, a 230-unit townhouse development and affordable housing. The neighbourhood would be adjacent to a planned independent private school and a vast agricultural property that is currently used for making hay.
Niki van Kerk, a Pemberton resident and co-organizer with Anna Helmer of the Slow Food Cycle, tried to voice concerns about Ravens Crest development at the public meeting but was quickly told that it wasn't the place for discussing it specifically.
Her concerns surround the alleged speed with which the development is moving through the zoning process. She said she's worried that the OCP amendment is moving through at the same time that the rezoning application is going through the Village. A public hearing is scheduled for the rezoning on October 11.
"It just feels like this amendment wouldn't even have passed yet, yet we're already going to a public hearing about this one," she said. "I'm not so much concerned about this specific project, it's more the process we're going through. I think what I would like is to look at the development closer, what the impact would be."
When it comes to Ravens Crest specifically, van Kerk wonders whether it's a viable development for Pemberton and whether there's demand for housing there.
"I definitely know, living in the Village, there's a lot of vacancy, a lot of rental suites being advertised," she said. "There's a lot of for sale signs, a lot of residential-commercial space. It feels to me like there is a lot of capacity right now that we currently have in the Village boundaries."
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy denied that Ravens Crest was getting swift movement through the Village's zoning process, adding it isn't uncommon to run OCP amendments and rezonings concurrently.
"We have two processes in place," he said. "One is an OCP amendment, which is what the public hearing was. With the people in attendance, I really was trying to direct the conversation to the OCP amendment because that's what we were there to do. It's confusing to people if you're talking about two different proposals."
Other criticisms of the Ravens Crest proposal concerned its possible impact on agricultural land. Located on an agricultural property, parts of the development could end up on land that's located in the Agricultural Land Reserve, where farming is a priority use, although the proponent has said that the land itself is not very farmable.
Jennie Helmer of Helmer's Organic Farm in the Pemberton Meadows has concerns simply about the location of the development next to a farm.
"I think it's putting agricultural land against residential land, and it's proposing to put a lot of people right beside farmland," she said. "Farms are messy, smelly places and people don't like that. They want to let their dogs run, they want to smell nice, clean air, all these things.
"There's a lot of things. People like to look at farms, they're nice to look at but they don't go well with a lot of people living in close proximity."