Lee Creek proposal contentious

Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors are being asked to consider the controversial proposal to amend the official community plan in order to change Lee Creek from rural residential to secondary settlement designation.  - Photo contributed
Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors are being asked to consider the controversial proposal to amend the official community plan in order to change Lee Creek from rural residential to secondary settlement designation.
— image credit: Photo contributed

For or against, the time for public input is over.

Following second reading and a public hearing regarding a bylaw amendment that would change Lee Creek from rural residential designation to secondary settlement in the area’s official community plan, the amendment will go before the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board on May 15.

Once a public hearing has been held, the directors do not consider any further information from the public.

But directors should be well aware of public sentiment.

The public hearing on the contentious issue took place in Scotch Creek April 15 and was attended by not only North Shuswap director Larry Morgan, but directors from South Shuswap, Rural Sicamous and Falkland-Silver Creek-Ranchero.

Also in attendance at the afternoon hearing were CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton and several planning staff.

Some residents continue to be vocal in their opposition and are worried the amendment will open their community up to rampant development.

Lee Creek resident Cathy Hopland is disappointed the meeting was held at 1 p.m. on a weekday, at a time of year when what she estimates as 80 per cent of waterfront property owners are seasonal and unable to attend.

“What was pointed out by a number of people was that the people who are opposed to the bylaw were not necessarily opposed to Gateway not having their problems solved,” she says of a large, stalled development. “Many people feel the secondary settlement designation was pushed through so Gateway could change from shared-interest to strata, which would make it easier to then buy and sell the properties and be able to get mortgages, which is difficult with shared interest.”

Hopland says the other point that was brought up often at the meeting is that the OCP is less than five years old and at the time CSRD hired a consulting firm to do an in-depth study.

“The recommendation was Lee Creek remain rural, with Scotch Creek remaining the source for services,” she says. “The really important thing is Lee Creek was considered to have a very sensitive foreshore, particularly right in front of Cottonwood and Roderick-Haig Brown Park.”

Veronica Bene, another Lee Creek resident, is also opposed to the redesignation.

“If it changes to secondary settlement, they can get their zoning more easily,” she said, noting Lee Creek has very sensitive habitat. “There is a downturn in economy but I think there’s those in the North Shuswap, developers, that are unwilling to accept that. They want to push development.”

North Shuswap Chamber of Commerce president Dave Cunliffe agrees that giving Lee Creek a secondary settlement designation would pave the way for strata development for Gateway, among other projects, but says the move would be good for both property owners and local governments.

“There is little to fear about designating Lee Creek as a secondary settlement area. Infill development can go ahead that has similar densities to the existing community,” Cunliffe wrote in a letter to Morgan, supporting the amendment. “It is a fallacy to suggest that communities can remain static and be healthy. Communities either grow or wither and die.”

But Bene argues that most residents would rather shut the door on large development.

“One of the reasons I am against this is it makes Lee Creek very vulnerable to any kind of development that is allowed under the secondary settlement designation,” she says. “What is wrong with having a rural residential area?”

Morgan, meanwhile, says the CSRD has received quite a few letters and emails for and against, but the information won’t be available until a report is released.

“This has been an issue since before the OCP was finalized four years ago,” he says. “Whatever I say will be used against me and I just think we have the process and we’ll see how it unfolds at the next meeting.”

Morgan notes there are secondary settlement areas throughout the North Shuswap, including Seymour Arm, Magna Bay, Celista and Anglemont, with  Scotch Creek remaining the only primary settlement area.

We have 275 homes in Lee Creek, not including Gateway and Cottonwoods, and they want services such as a firehall; and a firehall is contingent on it being a secondary settlement area,” he says, noting  Magna Bay, Celista and Anglemont are smaller but are also secondary settlement areas.

Morgan was pleased about the “unprecedented attendance by staff and directors” including Rhona Martin, Paul Demenok, Rene Talbot, along with his alternate director Bob Misseghers and two councillors from Chase.

“It’s very unusual; I’ve never seen it before,” he says, agreeing there was angry response from the public, who believed a decision regarding a South Shuswap development was made by a director who had no real knowledge of the project. “Directors and senior staff have to be involved when talking about these critical issues.”


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