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Planned Stoney Hill road would give safe access to Maple Bay Peninsula area
A long-awaited road into Maple Bay's remote Stoney Hill subdivision could be a reality by next year, North Cowichan's mayor says.
But opponents to the planned 7.3-kilometre gravel road, reaching 73 properties — spanning Bird's Eye Cove and Sansum Narrows — say the road will destroy wildlife habitat and their cherished, secluded lifestyle.
Council is considering a bylaw that would remove the land from its forest reserve to build the Maple Bay Peninsula road, costing up to $2.5 million.
The project has the petitioned agreement of 46 of the 73 landowners, more than half of the required signatures. The road would see all 73 owners pay about $1,700 a year for 25 years to retire a $2-million loan arranged by council.
Residents would also save about $500 in annual fees to cross private property at Bird's Eye Cove Farm.
Council's $500,000 share would be bankrolled by sales of road-cleared timber, plus proceeds from selling two of six public lots in Stoney Hill, Lefebure said.
"There's no intention to raise taxes to pay for this road," he said of the planned local area service.
In addition to helping residents better access their properties, the public road would also allow better access to municipal forest lands, plus decommissioning and tree-planting of various side roads. Police, fire trucks and ambulances would benefit from a good Stoney Hill road too.
But the mayor realized not everyone will be happy.
"Council always has to make difficult decisions, that's why we have a petition process. It comes down to weighting the wishes of the majority, and wishes of the minority."
Icel Dobell, a 1 1/2-year resident near the Paddy's Mile Stone side, is gathering signatures as a Road Less Travelled Committee member in an attempt to block the roadbuilding.
"Why the hurry?" she asked of council's drive to build a road she is concerned will impact habitat, and open more development.
"What can be developed? The municipal forest?" asked Wendy MacPherson, a five-year Fairweather subdivision resident and project supporter. "The zoning here is for five-acre lots, minimum."
But Dobell feared road talks held in private, partly due to a long-running legal case involving a property owner and council.
"No one knows what's going on out here; it's all hidden away. Some people just want to make money.
"This gives us an an opportunity like no other to study a relatively untouched coastal wilderness," she said, urging council to delay the road, and strike a task force to study its impacts.
Opponent have until 2 p.m. Dec. 14 to gather 2,150 North Cowichan residents' signatures (10% of the municipality's population) on official electoral-response forms, and hand the paperwork to staff.
Gaining those signatures would force council to scrap the road plan, or stage a pricey referendum about the bylaw, Mayor Jon Lefebure explained, pegging the vote tab at about $50,000.
Given all green lights, the road would start near the current Bird Eye Cove Farm gate.
"Part of the whole process involves buying right-of-way from the farm," Lefebure noted.
MacPherson signalled respect for Stoney Hill's nature, but said council should have built a proper road years ago when it developed the subdivision.
"It's still not a road," she said, citing blind corners and pot holes. "It's not a safe road to travel."
The new road — part of that suit's mediated settlement — would also give access to the region's Sansum Point Park, she explained.
"It's been a long process to something that has the majority of property owners' support. Some aren't happy, but this is our best answer to issues we're facing out here."