Desert Hills Developments has taken another baby step towards growing up in Oliver.
Last week Town council opened the door to first and second reading to amend the Official Community Plan, which will eventually see 165 multi-family residential dwelling units constructed on the hillside west of the cemetery (in the Rockcliffe area).
The developers (a numbered company) want to change the land use designation from agricultural to a mix of medium density residential (town homes and condos) and tourist commercial. A small neighbourhood commercial component is proposed, with a potential for a boutique winery, an art studio, and other agri-tourism amenities.
The vacant 8.3 hectare property is adjacent to agricultural land and residential development.
Local government consultant Stephanie Johnson from Urban Systems Ltd. said a buffering system would be required to mitigate the impacts of the development.
She noted that two public open houses were held in 2011. One of the areas of concern raised at that time was the potential impact on local traffic volumes.
Johnson said the development would be accessed from the intersection of Fairview Road and Princess Place. A previous traffic study indicates that Desert Hills would only have a minor impact on existing traffic levels, Johnson said.
She noted the property is within an environmental development permit area, so a permit would be required. She also stated that fire hazards would be mitigated by the use of sprinklers and fire-resistant building materials.
Councillor Linda Larson said her only concerns pertain to whether the Town has enough water and sewer capacity to accommodate the development. Johnson said both water and sewer infrastructure would require upgrading.
Water councillor Rick Machial questioned whether the Town has enough water to service 165 dwelling units, and if upgrades are needed, who’s going to pay for them?
Councillor Jack Bennest wanted some assurance that all residents in the neighbourhood would be properly notified of the developer’s plans.
A public hearing will be scheduled at a later date.
Ed Grifone from CTQ Consultants (representing the developers) expressed some concern about the project being subjected to further delays by the Town.
“I hope we’re not taking steps backwards again. What are we delaying for?”
Mayor Ron Hovanes said some of the new people on council were not involved in the proposal when the previous council looked at it.
During question period, councillors were asked what they thought of the proposal.
Maureen Doerr said she welcomes any type of development in Oliver, but noted there is still a lot that council doesn’t know about the project.
Larson said she doesn’t disapprove of the developer’s plan, but since four out of five councillors were not involved in the discussions last year, they need to catch up on a lot of paperwork.
Bennest said he sees the proposal as a positive thing for Oliver, noting the vacant property has been a scar on the landscape for some time. His initial concern is the proximity to farming practices.
Councillor Dave Mattes said the Town welcomes developers, and the project in question looks very positive. “We have the right council and the staff to make sure we do the right thing.”
Hovanes said he feels positive about Desert Hills, noting the developers are looking to make better use of the property. He also said the neighbourhood/commercial component makes sense by getting more cars off the road.