Saturday, September 15, 2012



The Park Is Mine!

Can balance between development and community be struck in the new Area E OCP?

Staff/Voice photos


Full-time and seasonal residents voice opposition to the new Area E official community plan last Wednesday.


here really wasn’t anyone who looked like Tommy Lee Jones in camo yelling "the park is mine!", nor were there many golf tans either in the crowd of about 75 at an emotionally charged public hearing Wednesday at the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).


The board was looking for input for the fledgling Area E Official Community Plan (OCP) which includes Chilliwack River Valley and Cultus Lake where over 3,000 people live. Not a lot considering the size of the area.


Area E director is David Lamson, who also chaired the meeting. Directors Lloyd Forman, Area A, Bill Dickey, Area D, Dennis Adamson, Area B and city councillors Jason Lum and Ken Popove were also in attendance.


It was almost a complete revolt at the meeting against the OCP from a cross section of Cultus Lake residents and seasonal cottage owners that included self-professed hillbillies, bankers and developers from Area E and elsewhere. References were given throughout the evening of how 98 per cent are against the nearly 2-inch thick document.


The general consensus from residents at the meeting was that there has been little community consultation.


However, the FVRD has conducted a household survey, three open houses, ten advisory planning committee meetings, and has had extensive dialogue with stakeholders.


Home owners bought into the laid back, quite ambiance of the resort lifestyle. But should those people be allowed to block development in the park?


Chilliwack City Councillors Jason Lum and Ken Popove round out the board directors.


Due to flagging interest in golf, Aquadel course owner Dick Whitlam is willing to sell his course to a developer who wants to build high density multi-family units on it. Residents want at least a 9-hole course out of any deal that is made.


The FVRD has a mandate to do what's best for their constituents, so is allowing Aquadel Golf Course fall to into the hands of developers doing what's best for the resort community?


These are some of the questions the FVRD staff and directors will be grappling with. 


The fact that the FVRD board is advised by staff is sometimes overlooked. The bureaucrats who should also fall under the public scrutiny don’t and the directors end up having to take all the heat for recommendations made by staff. What you get sometimes are maverick directors who buck the staff. You also have directors voting on issues that have nothing to do with their own areas.


The FVRD is looking for ways to mine the gold at Cultus Lake, but must somehow balance the concerns of the residents with their objective of lining coffers.


Lamson initially took some heat and cat calls regarding his comments at a previous weekend meeting over what was “best for the community.”


Residents insist they're not NIMBY's (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) and want to see the Park and the Chilliwack River Valley remain as it is without any huge new housing developments or commercial operations. More than one person called the OCP in its present format "immoral".


One speaker said he would rather see an underused golf course than a bankrupt development, citing Garrison Crossing as an example, saying its half-empty. Another suggested a hayfield.


Gwen O'Mahony's letter regarding her concerns was put onto the overhead.


Residents want a rear exit road out the backside of Vedder Mountain, which they say would facilitate a better flow to and from Abbotsford, plus it would provide a way out in case of emergency or a calamity like forest fire, earthquake or mudslide. Another road lessens the chances of being trapped at the lake.


Opening Maple Bay picnic area year-round was floated as well. There was talk about the nutrient load going into the Lake from nearby residential areas and also of sewage issues and buffer overlays.


 The draft proposal can be read here.



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