Plans have been known about for years and Ladysmith city council has now approved the first step in allowing a bridge to be built across the town’s beloved trail following mounting pressure from a developer.
Extending out from the end of Colonia Drive, the 19-metre long structure estimated at $2.5-million would allow for a collector road across Holland Creek where it would connect to Lot 5 and from there allow for the construction of 38 single family homes.
Holland Creek Local Area Plan, which makes mention of the Colonia Drive extension, was adopted in 2016 while the access easement currently held by Eller has been in place since 2003.
There was some brief confusion around the council table last Monday as to what was being approved after drawings of the proposed bridge in the staff report appeared to differ from preliminary plans originally submitted to the town.
Director of developmental services Felicity Adams explained that there are several steps to come in the process, including the town’s engineering department reviewing the finalized bridge plans.
“This is part of the approvals process but it is not the entire approvals process,” she said. “This report is not about approving the engineering for the bridge. This report is about approving the environmental protection measures for the work in the development permit area.”
A lengthy 50 minute discussion ensued, with Councillors Cal Fradin and Joe Friesenhan eventually voting against granting the development permit.
Developer Bill Eller appeared as a delegate before city council several months ago in May to present his plans for the bridge and obtain approval to start building this summer.
“I need to move this project forward and I’m trying to do my best to make everybody as happy as I can,” Eller said at the time. “I have been encouraging staff to move this forward. I have been communicating everything I’ve been doing with staff. There has been no sense from my perspective that staff was advancing this project.”
Monday’s granting of the development permit is for land alteration, habitat restoration and construction of the road and engineering arch culvert bridge.
A document prepared by Corvidae Environmental Consulting Inc includes measures for such things such as spill protection, habitat restoration and ongoing environmental monitoring during construction.
“This document is the bible for me and my builders,” Eller told council last week. “It’s easier to do the best job first then to try and clean up a mess later.”
However, no tree clearing is allowed to presently take place due to the ongoing threat of wildfires across British Columbia unless authorization is given by the province.
The slope of the proposed bridge will on either side reach upwards of 80 degrees and feature mechanically stabilized (MSE) earth walls to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
“The soil that is removed as a consequence of construction will be the majority of the soil that’s used in the final plantings…so that the outer three feet of the MSE wall will be natural, native soil and that’s what we’ll be installing the plantings in,” said Eller.
There will also be pedestrian underpasses on both sides, with one being wheelchair accessible. The crossing is being designed to accommodate pedestrians as well as cyclists and be just over 22.5 metres wide.
The next step in the process involves finalized plans for the design being presented to the town’s engineering department before coming back to council.
According to the province, any construction would have to take place before Sept. 15 when it would have the lowest risk to fish and wildlife species and habitat in the creek.
Councillor Duck Paterson said he was worried about granting any sort of developmental approval without seeing final plans.
“This is a very high profile, popular trail system and a lot of people are going to be very interested in what is going to happen there,” Paterson said. “I’m having trouble approving something when we’re not seeing everything at this time.”
Friesenhan shared Paterson’s sentiment regarding what they deemed missing pieces of the proposal.
“We wanted to see what one of these bridges look like; I now know what one looks like and in all honesty, I don’t like it,” he said.
“One of the biggest things I don’t like is the maintenance that’s going to be the town’s responsibility after the first couple of years on that type of structure.”
Council passed an amendment requiring a $50,000 bond be held in the event that new landscaping costs are incurred in the first two years of the bridge being constructed.
Eller has also previously donated a portion of parkland that now forms part of the current Holland Creek trail system in exchange for DCC credits.
“When the park was given to the town, Mr. Eller accrued the $177,000 worth of DCC (Development Cost Charges) credits,” explained the town’s CAO Guillermo Ferrero. “What that means is we don’t really have $177,000 in the bank, what we do have is a letter of credit that when the subdivision gets approved, Mr. Eller or whoever builds the subdivision will have a credit for part of the DCCs.”