A public hearing in Harrison Hot Springs Monday night ran 90 minutes and attracted dozens of residents, packing both council chambers and the front lobby of the Village office.
The hearing was set to hear public comment about two proposed changes to the Official Community Plan in regards to resource lands, prior to third reading of the amended bylaw later that night.
Council is considering adding a portion of text and amending the future designation map in the OCP. The text would be included in the resource land section, and read: “Resource land designations will be reviewed and amended to respond to current information or changing conditions.”
The map would see a strip of land owned by Kingma Brothers Development changed from resource land to low density residential. The portion in question is the eight acre portion of that title that runs along the forested and hilly side of Rockwell Drive. While one house could currently be built on the land, the change would allow up to three homes.
The proposed amendment was set in motion as part of the owner’s plans to subdivide a large title of land, purchased in 2009. That land is a series of parcels that are each ‘hooked’ to each other. Ryan Anderson from OTG Developments was at the meeting on behalf of his client, the Kingma Bros. He said the change is necessary to be able to deal with other lands that are currently hooked to the property.
He alluded to ongoing discussions with an undisclosed organization to turn part of the land owned by Kingma into a conservancy area. Removing the eight acre parcel would make those discussions smoother, he said.
“The way we look at this is housekeeping,” Anderson said of the process, and said that the Kingma brothers do not have plans to build on the eight acre site at the moment.
Residents who attended the meeting voiced concerns that ran the gamut from real estate marketability, to future parkland development, to liabilities of local government.
Many residents said the wording of the new text was “ambiguous” and are worried that the addition of the words will remove protection for all resource lands, and give council the authority to make such changes without community input.
Andre Isakov, the Village’s manager of planning and community services, responded to those concerns in the meeting by saying the text isn’t necessary to proceed with the map amendment.
He suggested to council that they could opt to leave out the text amendment. However, at the regular meeting held later that night, council gave the text amendment a third reading, with Coun. Zoltan Kiss opposed.
He also made a motion to refer the issue to the next council meeting.
“There is a lot of material here,” he said, adding that he would like “time to read it and digest it.”
That motion did not receive a second, and died.
Coun. Sonja Reyerse said she was in full support of development, in order to help pay for roads and other infrastructure.
“I don’t want this held up,” she said.
Coun. Allan Jackson also showed support for the amendment, for slightly different reasons.
“This is a rational proposal made to us, and I think we have to go ahead and see our vision,” he said, referring to the hopes of turning other land owned by the Kingmas into a conservancy.
“If this all happens, my duty on this council be fulfilled,” he said. “This is just one step in completing the puzzle (of creating preserved parkland in the east sector).”
Some residents at the public hearing said they would consider donating their own money to an effort to buy back the piece of land along Rockwell Drive, to leave it as it is.
Anderson answered that the owner would be willing to sell, “for less than has been suggested.”
But he also added that the plans on that land would include making the area — which includes a piece of a popular hiking trail — safer for those who hike along it.
A date for adoption was not set at the meeting, other than to say it would be at an upcoming meeting.