James Miner (left) of Sasaki Associates Inc.

James Miner (left) of Sasaki Associates Inc.

Couverdon boundary extension process takes a step forward

The Town of Ladysmith agreed to proceed with an Alternative Approval Process for the proposed boundary extension.

Ladysmith council has accepted the boundary extension proposal submitted by Couverdon Real Estate, triggering an Alternative Approval Process and taking a step closer to bringing about 700 acres of TimberWest land into the town.

At a special council meeting Jan. 28 at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre, council heard a presentation from Bob Smits of the North Oyster Diamond Ratepayers raising concerns about Couverdon’s boundary expansion proposal, and a presentation from Couverdon, the real estate company of TimberWest.

Couverdon and the Town of Ladysmith are brokering a deal whereby Ladysmith would expand city limits to include a 700-acre parcel of land west of the Diamond — stretching from north of Grouhel Road to Malone road — in exchange for Ladysmith gaining title to about 500 acres of TimberWest land adjacent to Stocking and Holland lakes. If everything goes ahead, Couverdon would foot the bill to build roads, install services and subdivide lots in preparation for the sale of parcels beginning in early 2017. TimberWest’s proposal calls for a phased development that includes 1,500 housing units.

Couverdon first introduced the notion of a boundary expansion in 2009, and the company held an open house in July 2011 to gauge public sentiment. Last summer, Couverdon effectively entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Ladysmith, which outlines the expectations and process, explained Frank Limshue, Couverdon’s director of planning and zoning.

Limshue told council that if the boundary expansion is approved and the lands are re-zoned, TimberWest would be looking to develop in phases, and the timetable for all four passes is 30 to 40 years.

In terms of the land use concept, James Miner,  a managing principal with Sasaki Associates Inc., which has been assisting with the project, says Couverdon is looking to set a new standard for development on the Island, as they are looking creatively at housing density, offering trails for walking and biking, and green infrastructure, with higher density closer to town and less density farther away.

In his presentation, Smits urged council to slow down the process to provide more information and include more people in the process.

“Keep in mind every decision you make will have an impact on every jurisdiction around Ladysmith,” he said. “We’d prefer they were done on a regional basis with everyone having some input and not just the Town of Ladysmith; perhaps a Cowichan Valley Regional District committee with representative from Ladysmith, Area G and Area H would be a good start. Given that Couverdon has said this is a long-term development plan, couldn’t we delay this matter to find out exactly what the financial impact, the sustainability cost of this development will be?”

Protecting the watershed is a big piece of this process, as around 700 acres of forest land in the Holland Lake and Stocking Lake watershed would be turned over the community.

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins says the Town has coveted the TimberWest lands around Stocking Lake for some time, and this would mean 95 per cent of the Stocking Lake watershed would be owned by the Town and the CVRD.

Greg Roberts reminded council that not so many years ago, residents volunteered their time to help the Town come up with a vision for Ladysmith, which included keeping a village feel.

“I think expanding to the north is inconsistent with the values that were expressed in those workshops,” he said. “I think the Town would be better served by establishing its vision and ideals and working with TimberWest to manage in a different way in that watershed. Council, I encourage you to not go full speed ahead. There are bigger questions here that need to be looked at before we go down that path.”

At the meeting, council voted to direct staff to proceed with the proposed boundary extension submitted by Couverdon and to sign the proposal for submission to the provincial government.

Council also directed staff to proceed with the Alternative Approval Process for the proposal.

With an Alternative Approval Process, electors can submit an Elector Response Form to indicate that a referendum must be held. If 10 per cent of electors or more submit a form, it will go to a referendum.

If less than 10 per cent of municipal electors submit an Elector Response Form, the boundary extension request will be deemed to have the approval of electors, and the proposal may proceed to the provincial government for consideration.