Developer de Wit hoping for council buy-in

Zweitse de Wit gets a helping green thumb from local garden coach.

Debbie de Wit (left) speaks with garden coach Harry Sumner about proposed development.

Debbie de Wit (left) speaks with garden coach Harry Sumner about proposed development.

Would-be developer Zweitse de Wit got a helping green thumb for his proposal to develop land in the Agricultural Land Reserve this week.

In a presentation to council recently, de Wit cited the support of garden coach and certified arborist Harry Sumner, who said in a letter to council he sees the proposal by developer Randall Arendt for the property at 760 Berwick Road South as being a social and economic asset for the town.

The comments came as de Wit made his bid to have his proposal included in the official community plan.

In his talk to council, de Wit said he has changed his proposal from how it was presented at a special ‘Big Idea’ session during OCP deliberations, in light of concerns expressed at a number of open houses he has held at his home.

“The main difference from our Big Idea is the input from the open house meetings, to not have only senior housing, but mixed housing,” he said.

“We are requesting a density factor of five dwelling units to the acre, equalling 108 dwelling units, which meets current density, single family guidelines in the current OCP — not the 200 units as stated in the Big Idea.”

De Wit said he has had a difficult time getting any buy-in from council and staff, a situation he hopes will change.

“It seems to be a real struggle, due to past directives, policies and strong personal beliefs, to get staff and some members of council to be open to looking at this opportunity to consider any lands within walking distance of town for development for the betterment of the community,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with staff and council struggling with what has been written a long time ago, as all of this was well intentioned, as is their positions.”

However, he added, while preservation of ALR land for food production is a wonderful objective, the question remains of how that will be done while meeting the housing needs of the community.

“We feel that these objectives and goals can be achieved by looking at all lands that are within walking distance of town that are basically level, and easy walk for aging seniors and families to commute to town,” he said.

“We are proposing to create a community where gardens and homes can be provided in a green sustainable way which will enrich the life style and vibrancy of the community.”

In his letter backing de Wit, Sumner said his plan be “a perfect blending of the concepts for residential and agricultural land use, and certainly reflects current thinking on sustainable communities, growing our own food, the 100-mile diet, and so on.”

Sumner said he inspected the soil at the site, calling it very low in organic matter and in need of extensive amending to make it grow “even the least needy of crops.”

Council made no decisions on the proposal.

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