Prince George Naturalists Club, Nature Trust of British Columbia and area residents oppose proposed subdivision west of lake
A proposed 13-lot subdivision west of Ferguson Lake will be up for discussion at the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors meeting on Thursday.
The proposed development, directly west of the Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve, has garnered opposition from the Prince George Naturalists Club, Nature Trust of British Columbia and area residents. While the Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve is located within Prince George city limits, the 32.4 ha. (80-acre) parcel is located in the regional district, and would be connected to Pilot Mountain Road by a 400-metre access road. A B.C. based developer is looking to rezone the property from Rural 1 to Rural Residential 2, which would decrease the minimum lot size from 15 hectares to 1.6 ha.
The original proposal, which went before the board in October 2020, called for the creation of 13 lots ranging in size from 1.62 hectares (four acres) to 2.96 ha. (7.3 acres). After opposition at a public hearing held on April 8, 2021, the proponent 1216590 B.C. Ltd. (Global Union Investment Group), has revised the project to reduce the impact, Gordon Bliss of Bliss Consulting wrote in a letter to the board. Bliss identified himself as an agent acting on behalf of the proponents.
“The company recognized that their application needed to be relooked at and thus we have come up with an improved option to lessen the impact on surrounding property and the Ferguson Lake reserve. We are proposing a 13 lot bare land strata with each individual lot 2 -2.5 acre in size,” Bliss wrote. “The lots would be serviced by a treatment plant and shared water wells… With this type of development the subdivision only requires one road in and only one creek crossing. This would be a gated community with a portion of the property having a fenced compound for the owners to park their RV’s. Part of the vision is to have walking trails plus greenery, possibility a small park for the strata owners.”
The revised site design includes a 10.12 ha. (25 acre) buffer zone, roughly 251 metres wide, between the development and the nature reserve land. The proponents have agreed to place a restrictive, no-build covenant on the buffer zone area to keep the area in its natural state, Bliss added in an additional letter.
“The purpose of this bare land strata is to create a sense of community within the compound but still have that rural feel to it,” Bliss wrote. “We also believe this will be an affordable community as there will not be any of the large wasteful acreages that are costly to build and maintain on the site.”
In a letter of support, Blackstone Homes general manager Ken Jennings said a shortage of developed lots available for modular homes is restricting the Prince George-based home builder’s business.
“The biggest challenge we are experiencing is the lack of developed property to put the homes,” Jennings wrote. “The percentage of people coming to our lot looking for property to put the homes is increasing every year and is starting to put a damper on our sales due to lack of places to put them. I strongly support anyone that would be developing property for modular homes as it would help enhance the sales and get people into a home and property.”
In a letter of the support for the project, Carrie Nicholson of eXp Realty said she specializes in rural, residential property in the Prince George area, and there is a shortage of affordable, accessible rural housing in the area.
“For years I have been passionate in my belief that Prince George lacks simplified rural living,” Nicholson wrote. “We are in desperate need of rancher bungalow style homes with all the living space on one floor (laundry, etc.), no stairs and an attached or detached garage on a small plot of land.”
LOCAL, PROVINCIAL OPPOSITION TO PROJECT
Ferguson Lake area residents raised concerns about the revised project during a second public hearing on the project, held on Dec. 8, 2021, according to a record of minutes going before the district board on Thursday.
In addition, the regional district has received more than 20 letters regarding the project, many from area residents opposed to the development. Both the Prince George Naturalists Club and Nature Trust of British Columbia wrote letters in opposition to the revised subdivision development
In a letter to the regional district, Carleton MacNaughton a conservation land manager for the Nature Trust of B.C., urged the board to reject the proposed rezoning.
“Despite revisions to the original proposal submitted by the proponent, the proposed project will negatively impact conservation values on adjacent properties. Placing a 13-lot residential subdivision adjacent to an established conservation area is not appropriate. Increased human activity and habitat modification arising from the 13 new residences would result in significant ecological impacts, including reduced usage of adjacent conservation holdings by wildlife, and potential alteration of local hydrology,” MacNaughton wrote. “The placement of a gated residential subdivision between Ferguson Lake and Provincial Crown land to the north and west will impact habitat for moose, black and grizzly bears, and other wildlife, blocking natural movement corridors and potentially leading to higher incidence of human-wildlife conflict.”
In a letter to the district, Prince George Naturalist Club board member Sandra Kinsey said the proposed development could open the door to further development in the area. In 2020, the developer applied for a grant for a 32.2 ha. block of Crown land directly south of the development site.
“A preliminary subdivision plan of the south block requires logging the property to create 14 new lots. If the regional district approves the rezoning of the north block into the 13 bare land strata lots proposed by the owner, this could eventually lead to a private, gated subdivision containing 27 new residential lots next to Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve,” Kinsey wrote. “The club wishes to express extreme concern about the cumulative impacts of the proposed clear-cut logging on the Crown land south of this property. We are also very concerned about the extensive and permanent impact of up to 27 new residential lots on the combined properties that could cause irreparable harm to the Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve.”
Area resident Eric Arsenault said his family remains opposed to the development, despite the changes made. He raised concerns echoed by many of the other letters opposing the project, including concerns about the sewage treatment plant, water quality in the lake, traffic on Pilot Mountain Road and disruption to natural habitat.
“The buffer zone would have a covenant preventing any development, but I doubt that this would stop some folks from creating walking trails to the park, which would, over time, turn into quad, motorbike, and snowmobile trails,” Arsenault wrote. “The subject property has always been a wildlife corridor between Ferguson Lake and the old growth forests surrounding Pilot Mountain. A subdivision, especially if there are fences, would disrupt the movement of wildlife and force them to move through other populated areas which would create negative consequences for both people and wildlife.”
The rezoning will go before the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors on Thursday afternoon for debate on final reading of the bylaw.