Planning for the future of Agassiz
Some residents aren't happy to learn that they may have more neighbours than they bargained for.
The District of Kent has been working on a revised Official Community Plan since last April, and has engaged with the public through several public forums. However, at Tuesday night's public hearing regarding the upcoming OCP changes, some of the people in attendance said they didn't realize changes were in store for their own neighbourhoods.
Residents along Fooks Road said they didn't realize the OCP would affect their area.
"I have received nothing in the mail to suggest there were changes to be made," Bob Garden said. He said when he and his neighbours bought their homes, they were told nothing else would be built there for "10 to 15 years." He asked council to consider a moratorium on building in that area for the remainder of that timeframe, and asked for a buffer zone to be placed along the west side of Aberdeen Road to ensure continued privacy in the future.
The OCP states the following for the Fooks Road/Key Road Properties: "Recognizing the continued demand for single family land by designating this site in northwest Agassiz that is adjacent to existing residential area as Residential -Reserve for Single Family with some opportunity for commercial use along the Highway 7 frontage properties subject to a comprehensive neighbourhood plan."
Residents from the Woodridge strata on Morrow Road also said they had concerns.
One woman noted that if the area surrounding the strata is zoned multi family residential, the current low-lying bungalows will lose their views, their enjoyment of their yards, and eventual loss in property value.
The public hearing was not a time for discussion between the public and the district staff, so no answers were given to those with concerns. An overview of the entire OCP process was given by Tina Atva from Urban Systems, who has been working with the district over the last year to gauge the public's needs and desires for growth. The OCP is intended to be a guiding document for development until the year 2040, and measures everything from residential growth to farm use, recreational needs and transportation.
One of those needs will be 500-600 new homes by 2040, as the population is expected to grow by 1,200 by then.
John Allen, who has property along the district's Rockwell Drive, has written three letters offering suggestions for the OCP, and read those into the record during the hearing. He stressed the importance of declaring the need for better highways systems through the area, beginning with the now out-of-date Agassiz-Rosedale bridge.
The time has come for a four-lane bridge, he said. The current one doesn't allow for safe pedestrian or bicycling traffic, and traffic bottles up when slow moving farm vehicles need to cross the river.
Another resident noted that bike lanes need to be mentioned prominently when planning for the future. Many children and teens avoid traveling on foot and by bike between Harrison and Agassiz because of the lack of safe bike lanes. And those kids are missing out on recreation, socializing, and possible job opportunities in the busy summer community of Harrison Hot Springs.
There were several comments regarding the designation of the Teacup area as residential reserve, with a mix of single family and multi-family residential uses, as part of a comprehensive neighbourhood plan.
Tom Baldwin said he's "disappointed" in the lack of a solid definition for the area, and was hoping to see it as an agricultural area.
"It's always grown stuff and as the gateway to Agassiz, I think it should continue to grow stuff," Baldwin said.
A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture read a long letter stating that even though Agassiz is doing a lot of innovative things to encourage agriculture, the OCP could be worded stronger. The letter included numerous points for council to consider prior to adopting the plan, including maintaining the Teacup area as farmland, supporting the retention of larger properties for the purpose of farming, retaining the research station, and avoiding a "high potential for conflict" by allowing residential areas that abut ALR land.
Kim Sutherland said they make for "incompatible neighbours" because residential homeowners have high expectations that are disturbed by the realities of farming like dust, noises, and smells.
Not all speakers and letter writers at the hearing were against the OCP.
"I feel when I've had an issue I've been heard," Jonathon Sutton said. "I see a lot of evidence that these kind of comments are being listened to."
The 298-page Official Community Plan draft is available to view online at the District of Kent website. It will be adopted by council at an upcoming meeting.