ALC rejects bid for rental units at Buffalo Creek school

A proposal to develop more rental units at the former Buffalo Creek school site has been denied by the Agricultural Land Commission.

The application to rezone the 5.87-acre property at 5282 Canim-Hendrix Lake Rd. to multi-family residential had been given third reading by the Cariboo Regional District earlier this year, but needed ALC approval before it could be adopted.

In a decision published earlier this year, the ALC panel states the proposed development of the property would be “inappropriate on ALR land that could be utilized for agricultural purposes.”

“The Panel finds… additional residences on ALR land should be associated with the need for farm labour to reside on a property that is being actively farmed. As the property currently has no agricultural activity, the Panel does not support the proposed residential development,” the report states.

CRD Chair and area director for Forest Grove-Canim Lake Margo Wagner said last week she was in support of the ALC decision despite voting in favour of the rezoning at previous board meetings.

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She cited the “very contentious” public hearing that saw concerns from neighbouring residents. Concerns included trespassing tenants and the overall impact on neighbourhood safety and property values that more renters would bring.

“This property is really not designed for what they wanted to use it for,” Wagner said at the Dec. 10 CRD board meeting.

Wagner later told the Free Press that she hopes “that we can work towards a mutually beneficial way of resolving the zoning issue,” for the unique property.

CRD manager of planning services Nigel Whitehead said via email that the future of the property and any subsequent rezoning applications will depend on what the owner wants to do.

“They have a number of options available to them, including making a request for reconsideration to the ALC,” Whitehead said via email, noting that any rezoning would still be subject to ALC approval.

Owner Russell Couchman told the Free Press he is working with a consultant to determine if they should appeal the decision and is in “no immediate panic” to resolve the zoning issue.

Couchman – who purchased the property earlier this year when the application was already in progress – said he has no plans to add to the existing buildings, which currently house six rental units. Had the rezoning been approved, it would have allowed him to create two more rental units within the buildings.

“We weren’t planning to expand the footprint in any way,” Couchman said, noting that the property had previously been approved for non-farm use, just not multi-family residential.

“We were just going to keep going with what the previous owners had started.”

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