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Bear Mountain redesign meets friction from residents
Bear Mountain Holdings plan to remove nine holes of golf to make way for low-density housing is meeting some resistance from residents, but the company maintains it’s the only viable choice for the Langford community.
In November 2012 executives of the resort and residential community unveiled plans to turn 36-holes of golf to 27 to accommodate a new development plan moving away from a 2006 apartment-heavy design.
In response, more than 300 residents of Bear Mountain have come together to form the Bear Mountain Community Association, which is opposed to the plan and spearheading a campaign to stop a rezoning application with the City of Langford.
The association objects to the removal of the golf holes, as well as the lowidensity housing-focused plan now put forward.
“We absolutely object to the proposal that Bear Mountain Land Holdings just put forth,” said Reneé Olson, spokesperson for the association. “We’re concerned about the hundreds of millions of dollars that we have as homeowners up here, that it’s going to be a negative effect on our asset.”
The association’s unofficial leader, real estate agent Brad MacLaren, said he believes poor sales in the community is a matter of inadequate marketing, rather than a bad plan. He disagrees that a high-density focused development can’t succeed.
“That’s a load of hogwash,” MacLaren said. “They’re just not looking at the bigger picture. What we need is a developer, someone who is going to be here long term, who is going to see the value of this community and build it accordingly.”
The group has gone door-to-door petitioning residents to drum up support.
Through letter writing, petitioning and participation in the eventual public hearing, the association hopes to convince Langford council to reject the rezoning application.
For their part, executives of Bear Mountain maintain that the new plan is the best way forward. CEO Gary Cowan said it is stalled development that is putting property values at risk and that the new design is the right move.
“We feel very strongly that this sets up Bear Mountain for long-term success and will lift the cloud that is hovering over Bear Mountain and has been since 2010,” Cowan said.
With sales stalled, half-finished infrastructure and a commercial village lacking tenants, executives believe a change in approach is the answer.
The plan still incorporates apartments, but in more low-rise buildings, and with more of an emphasis on low density, single family dwellings.
New public spaces would be introduced, including an eight-kilometre looped trail, to make up for the loss of the golf holes. About half the land freed up from taking out the golf holes would be used for park areas. CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. planner Gwyn Symmons expressed that this will add value to the community, which he said is currently lacking in public green space.
“Nobody likes to take out golf courses … It’s not something we do lightly. But it’s not a black and white issue here, there’s actually some good reasons why we’re doing this,” Symmons said. “I think there’s anxiety about change … what we’re trying to communicate is we think this change will be really positive for the residents up here.”
“We really believe that this proposed plan does a number of good things for Bear Mountain,” Cowan said. “It aligns the development with the market trends we’re faced with today, it’s going to enhance the lifestyle elements of the whole community and it’s going to provide certainty for everyone going forward, including existing homeowners.”
Langford councillor and planning and zoning committee chair Denise Blackwell said the city has received about 100 letters in opposition to the rezoning application. The matter is currently in staff’s hands, as they assess the application and work on a report that will later go to committee. There is no word yet on when that will happen.
Blackwell said she has no opinion on the matter yet, but if the plan involves losing green space she said council will likely reject the rezoning.