City council gave the green light to a Sardis development on the headwaters of Luckakuck Creek despite overwhelming opposition from dozens of neighbours.
The battle between area residents and developer Larry Les has lasted months but finally ended Tuesday evening after council approved his downgraded proposal for single family homes on three properties on Dogwood Drive.
Council rezoned the three properties to allow for between 31 and 41 single family homes. Les's first plan for a townhouse development was held at third reading in July. He subsequently pulled that plan and submitted the new one with single family homes.
The issue over Luckakuck Creek dominated the discussion about the proposed development. The creek currently runs north of Stevenson and is home to salamanders, frogs, Salish suckers and both coho and chum salmon.
South of Stevenson there has been a dispute whether or not the creek exists at all. Les says it doesn't and city hall has called it a "wetted depression" or an "ephemeral" waterway. The reality, according to Agassiz biologist Mike Pearson, is that it was once a vibrant creek that has been repeatedly filled in upstream between the source-the Chilliwack River-and the properties in question. Pearson told council on Tuesday that development has been "chewing away at the headwaters of Luckakuck Creek" since the 1950s.
"This is a common phenomenon," he said.
"Fill in the headwaters and it gets a little bit drier down river."
Other neighbours who spoke at council had issues with what the development would do to further diminish the water flow in the creek.
But as council's job is to address the highest and best use of properties, both acting mayor Ken Huttema and most of the rest of council tended to ignore the environmental issues.
"Luckakuck Creek is incidental to this property," Huttema said at one point. "I'd advise that we can stay focused on this property."
Council was presented with a 56-name petition against the development and many neighbours spoke about the natural beauty of Luckakuck Creek and the wildlife in the area.
One neighbour said he moved to his property because of the salmon and that he would move if they disappeared.
Neighbour Rhonda Sexsmith passed around a photo of her grandchildren with a large chum salmon. Another neighbour passed around photos of an owl on her property.
Yet another even paraphrased Joni Mitchell: "Why should we pave paradise and put up a parking lot?" A seemingly exasperated Les addressed council in between long-time residents of the area who also complained that more traffic on Dogwood was too much to take.
Les said he felt alone in council chambers but suggested, in reference to those opposed to his plans, that "louder doesn't make it right."
In the end, all councillors expressed thanks to neighbours who came out to speak but they voted to support the proposal.
Coun. Sue Attrill did so "whole heartedly."
Couns. Ken Popove, Jason Lum, Chuck Stam expressed continued concern with access onto Dogwood as well as Vedder, something that may be further dealt with at development permit stage.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz was not present at the meeting but the Dogwood Drive resident has stepped out of discussions related to the proposal to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.
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