Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | May 3, 2011

Bamberton Revisited

For what seems like decades now, an equal number of developers have paraded their concept of how the Bamberton Property should be redeveloped from the old cement works to a modern day city. With each new idea came a fresh Regional rejection and the most recent attempt on the part of  Three Point Properties has proven no different.

The fact remains, new homes won’t be rising at Bamberton site soon, but if Plan B is worth waiting for, you may expect to see new industrial-commercial premises built at the former cement plant property south of Mill Bay.

After several years of studies and review, the electoral area services committee of the Cowichan Valley Regional District has rejected Three Point Properties’ rezoning application for 3,000 new homes to be built over the next 25 years on the 2½ square miles of hillside below the Trans-Canada Highway.

Ross Tennant, Three Point’s development manager, says it was a disappointment, but “I guess you have to play the hand you’re dealt.”

Three Point will proceed with maximizing industrial uses on the 60 acres along the central waterfront. He points out that “for a century Bamberton has been a driving force” for industry, but has been dormant for the past 30 years. Present industrial lands have been zoned that way since the cement plant operated, but just 25 acres are used for industry now — cement transfer, liquid asphalt storage, heavy equipment, and marine uses.

Tennant says Three Point will ask the CVRD to approve relocating the 60-acre industrial “footprint” away from steeper slopes. Terraced sites could be carved out of the slope, but would be visually intrusive, especially from the other side of Saanich Inlet, he says.

At the same time, the company wants to move ahead on a 40-acre industrial park site located beside the Trans-Canada Highway at Mill Bay Road. This project hopes to lure innovative environment-related businesses.

Three Point has spent $25 million on remediating the site and wants to recover those costs, Tennant says.

Almost half of the Bamberton site was designated for park and open space, but that has now joined the housing component on the shelf. Most of the land is zoned F1 for forestry operations, although Tennant thinks cutting timber there is unlikely.

“You want to be really careful about how you approach it and we would be.… To have an organized forestry operation there is not in anyone’s interest,” Tennant says.

Nothing is planned for those timberlands. “We’ve just agreed to park it for the foreseeable future.” Tennant hopes at a future date, the community would support a housing development at Bamberton.

Brian Harrison, CVRD director for Mill Bay, told CFAX news the development at Bamberton would add between 7,000 and 10,000 new people, too many for Mill Bay, which has 4,700 residents now.

“Over a period of time, it’s going to put stress and strain on everything from recreation facilities to parks to shopping centres to everything and we wanted to get all that clarified. It was felt that the amenities that were being offered were not sufficient,” Harrison said in the CFAX interview.

He said the number of homes to be built over more than two decades would be too much for the small unincorporated community, which now sees several dozen new homes a year.

But given forecast population pressure and demographic trends, “I think the supply [of lots] may not be as large as they think it is,” Tennant says


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