Woman standing as she addresses people in large hall

Rezoning meeting for Treedom on Cortes Island

The rezoning meeting for an additional three homes on the Treedom Ventures property, at 1062 Seascape Road, in Mansons Landing Landing, was held Thursday. This would bring the total number of home sites on this 82 acre property to 8, with an additional cabin. Between 25 and 30 people attended the in-person component of the meeting and an unknown number attended through the internet or by phone.

Trail in the conservation covenant – courtesy The Land Conservancy of B.C. press release

Four First Nations were contacted about this development. The Homalco First Nation had no objection, and the Klahoose, Tla’amin and K’omoks Nations did not respond. 

The property was purchased by a limited partnership in 1999 and is currently divided into three segments:

Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson chaired the rezoning meeting at Mansons Hall and the other three member of the SRD’s Electoral Areas Services Committee attended virtually. 

Two of the land partners spoke. 

“I first came to Cortes in 1998 and I very quickly met people who moved around every year: unable to find stable housing, much less buy property. That hasn’t changed,” began Amy Robertson.

She pointed out that while the land is currently zoned for five houses and a cabin, the official community plan drafted in 2012 proposed it be zoned for eight houses. This is the zoning density they are applying for. 

“My land partners and I share in the stewardship of this mostly forested lot. We are guided by a 35 page agreement that helps us navigate living with each other and in harmony with the land,” explained Robertson. “We would like the opportunity to welcome three more families to join us and share the responsibilities that come with land stewardship.”

Mary Clare Preston and her husband, Bill Wheeler, moved to Cortes Island in 1995. They originally rented a one bedroom dwelling on the property.

“Much of the land available for purchase at the time was financially out of our reach. Treedom gave us a way to become co-owners of the Treedom land and start developing some equity as land owners – which was kind of our wildest dreams!” she explained. 

People at the rezoning meeting – courtesy Cortes Community Radio

The only speaker opposed to the proposed zoning change was John Drew, who pointed out that this was valuable property. If the zoning is changed from residential to community land ownership, as proposed, the home owners will be taxed at a lower rate.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” he said. “I wonder if the community is in the position to support, or fund, another three building sites on this property.”

Martha Abelson, speaking as island Realtor pointed out that there are currently only four listings on Cortes Island, three with houses for sale, the lowest priced at 1.2 million.

‘I want to say that I am in general supportive of this application, she said.”

Making three home sites available would be a contribution to the housing shortage on Cortes. However, she lives across the road and is concerned about the noise coming from the existing woodworking shop on the property.

Martha also is concerned with the “Permitted Uses” listed in the CLS By-law in particular 2a: Retail and 2b: Sawmills including planer mills.Retail would permit any kind of store except Gas Stations.I am opposed to the location of a Sawmill or Planer mill on the property.  

“This is a Residential neighbourhood.” She said.

Director Anderson pointed out that this is the second time that a group of people have applied for community land ownership zoning on Cortes Island. The first was Everwood, adjacent to Tiber Bay and the Treedom partnership took that bylaw, with no changes, and applied for it.  

People moving about in Mansons Hall – Photo courtesy Cortes Community Radio

The following six Cortes residents spoke in favour of the proposed zoning amendment: 

Sadhu Johnston – “I really appreciate the conservation covenants on the land, my family enjoy the paths and beach. Here on Cortes we do have a bit of a housing crisis. You look at what is for sale and there is really nothing at all that is entry level. I really applaud the current owners for making these lots available …”

As regards a suggestion that road access be required, he said the development and land covenants were already a major contribution to the community. Johnston added that he did not think a road would add value. 

De Clarke – “If you have been involved with a local business in the last few years and have attempted a hiring of any kind, then you know the extreme challenge of trying to hire into a community where there is no stable housing that you can offer to your employees …”

She applauded the covenants on the property and the fact the partnership was seeking to bring new members into their fellowship, rather than sell “the land for profit.” 

Cory Dow – “I’ve rented on Cortes for the last 13 years and I would like to support the excellent statements made by De Clarke and Sadhu Johnston about the importance of the opportunity for working class island residents. Residents who make the services and amenities of this island happen: like Hollyhock, the Natural Food Co-op, Gorge Marina store or the post office. These are also people who sit on boards, support these organizations and help make a vibrant community here …”

Wayne Roberts – “I would like to speak in favour of the development, the property owners have demonstrated great community spirit by doing the covenants that they have …” 

In reference to the earlier comment about taxation, he added that three more lots will definitely add to the tax base.

Regional Director Noba Anderson (standing at back) addressing people at the Oct 28th rezoning meeting in Mansons Hall – Photo courtesy Cortes Community Radio

Don Tennant – “The people at Treeland have been really good stewards of the land. I think any development that they do is likely to continue to be in view of protecting  the environment. As far as the taxation situation is concerned, I imagine that would have something to do with the land conservancy being taxed at a lower rate …” 

He also said there was no need for a new public road, or widening the existing road, as delivery and fire trucks can already access the property. It would simply require cutting down trees. 

Steve Brady – “This is something we’ve been wanting to support since we’ve been there. Higher density: greater opportunity for affordable housing; greater opportunity for increased food security …” 

Regional Directors Jim Abram and Brenda Leigh both had questions about the proposed rezoning, which were answered by Director Anderson and you can listen to in the podcast. 

Top photo credit: Amy Robertson addressing people at the Oct 28th Treeland rezoning meeting at Mansons Hall – Photo courtesy Cortes Community Radio

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