In a split decision, city council narrowly denied a development variance permit application for a six-lot residential project on Woodland Drive.
Local developer MacPine Ltd. and Vancouver-based property owner James Willson had asked for variances on road width, placement of hydro, cable and telephone cables, lighting and storm and sewer drainage.
“This is a hard one,” said Coun. Sue Zacharias before she voted against the application during the regular meeting Tuesday. “I almost feel like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
Zacharais said she is very much pro development and wants to see the city grow and expand, but she would rather see the city invest money to have the property developed to modern standards than make compromises and leave the taxpayers on the hook for the improvements in the future.
Speaking in favour of the application, Coun. Scott Nelson said there is not much developable land inside Williams Lake.
“At the end of the day we have a proposal for a significant investment in our community that’s going to be there for 50 or 100 years,” Nelson said. “I think as a council we need to find the compromises in today’s economy.”
During the public comment period before council voted, electrical contractor Jamie MacKay said it was ludicrous to allow the road width to remain at its present six metres when modern standards require 11.
“If we are going to have more development down Woodland aren’t we just cutting ourselves short here?” McKay asked, noting he did not think the bylaws should be relaxed for six properties.
Echoing MacKay, contractor Tyler Boucher said it is a critical issue.
“It doesn’t make sense that we would be removing ourselves from the bylaws in place when there’s a good reason for them to be there,” Boucher said.
The city received eight letters of support for the application and eight letters opposed.
Mayor Walt Cobb along with councillors Nelson and Laurie Walters voted in favour while councillors Ivan Bonnell, Jason Ryll amd Craig Smith joined Zacharias in being opposed.
The day after the vote, Willson said he felt “totally handcuffed” by the decision.
“It blows my mind. I have been doing development permits and rezoning for 30 years and never had an application rejected.”
Willson said he purchased the property in 2007 from a church and had it rezoned for a 32-unit townhouse development.
“At the time road widening and water never came up,” Willson said. “It went through so easy. It was one of the easiest applications I’ve ever done.”
The city is still interested in developing the property, said the director of development services Leah Hartley.
“It has good access and if the owner is interested we will continue to work with them to pursue other options,” Hartley said.