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Silverthorne proposal draws standing room crowd

Neighbours oppose small-lot neighbourhood in Pemberton

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More than 50 people attended the April 25 public hearing on the re-zoning of the proposed Silverthorne housing development. Developer Cam McIvor has proposed that the 3.2-acre parcel of land located behind the Meadow Lanes townhouse complex on Prospect Street be the site of the community’s first Smart Growth neighbourhood.

The proposed development complies with the Smart Growth principles of efficient use of existing infrastructure. Being within two blocks of the town’s commercial area, Silverthorne residents could easily take advantage of existing amenities.

The land is currently zoned for single family residential (RS-1). McIvor has applied to have the land rezoned for small lot residential (RS-2). This would mean the creation of 20 lots, approximately 4,000 square feet each. Covenants on the lots would restrict the size of the non-suited homes to between 1,700 and 2,100 sq. ft. in size.

Sheena Fraser, deputy clerk for the Village of Pemberton (VOP), reported that the village office has received 83 submissions in response to the proposed zoning change. Twenty-three submissions, including one with 35 signatures, were in opposition; 59 were in support.

VOP planner Michael Rosen noted that the change would introduce a new product to the market. He also noted that the developer was prepared to pay fees beyond developer cost charges (DCCs) to see the subdivision go ahead. These additional fees would go to offset recreational amenity costs.

"Our goal was to provide a new small lot development with a lot of continuity to it," McIvor said. "A small community within our community of Pemberton."

The developer pointed out the since the mid-’90s the land has been defined as a primary area for development in the Official Community Plan (OCP).

"We will be contributing $120,000 in DCCs and $2.25 million in labour," said McIvor.

The audience, made up primarily of area residents in opposition to the project, appeared unmoved by Rosen and McIvor’s statements.

More than a dozen residents of the Meadows Lane townhouse complex and adjacent Prospect Street homes spoke up against the project. Their reasons for opposing the project varied, from the impact a new development would have on an already saturated housing market that had driven prices down to the fact that the project’s playground, a tot lot, would create "nonstop screaming and yelling two-feet from my house."

Other concerns raised included: increased parking, more traffic, unit profiles, blocked views, adding to flood plane construction, enforceability of restrictive covenants, noise, environmental impact (residents say there is one bear and numerous bird species on the property) and whether or not the change constituted a breach of promise by the village. Others voiced the opinion that it looked like a "zoning grab".

Rosen, who has served as the community’s planning consultant for 20 years, explained that for as long as the village had title on the land it had been zoned residential.

Those supporting the development included life-long Pemberton residents Garth Phare and Bob Menzel.

Phare provided a history of Meadows Lane, pointing out that the property had once consisted of a half dozen cabins that provided affordable housing for kids just moving out on their own.

"Many kids picked up their herb for Friday night there. Every year in April one of the guys would throw a match in the field. The fire would fly into town," Phare said. "There are people who would say Meadows Lane should have stayed and never changed."

Phare noted that the townhouse development came at a time when the community needed that kind of housing inventory and with it the new faces and vitality it would bring to the community.

"It’s a good product, people need it. There are people willing to buy one. We aren’t dealing with a zoning issue. This is not a zoning grab. This piece of property is zoned residential. This is a density issue," he said.

He pointed out that without development, amenities like street lighting and sidewalks simply aren’t possible in a small town with a limited budget.

Menzel, whose 30-acre property is adjacent to the development, also supports the project.

"I have two kids who, with a little bit of help, could live there. It’s better than something 30 or 40 years old," he said.

He also pointed out that the development would get rid of a big fire hazard by razing of the grassy field.

The bylaw amendment is scheduled for third reading at the next VOP council meeting, May 2 at 7 p.m. All submissions, in support or opposition of Silverthorne, will be available for viewing at the village office effective April 28.

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