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Sage Hills continuing with plans for project

Sage Hills is still planning to forge ahead with building a state-of-the-art, sustainable community in the Comox Valley, once the Regional Growth Strategy process is finalized.

The RGS — a government-mandated land-use document — has yet to reach third reading by the district board. Elected officials hope the process can be solved by way of non-binding mediation.

“If there’s no issues and it doesn’t take too long, then we’re going to go ahead,” said David Russell, president of Sage Hills Development.

“It’s a huge investment we’re talking about, so we’re being a little bit prudent here on how we proceed. And it (RGS) does affect how we proceed. That’s the reason we’ve kept a low profile while that process has been going on. But the commitment remains. It looks very positive from my point of view.”

The project is proposed for a 2,083-acre parcel at the northwest side of Royston. The plan includes residences, commercial property, a University Canada West campus, a private kindergarten to Grade 12 school and a sports academy. A proposed ice sheet would be available to the public at night and selected weekends, thereby relieving some of the pressure on wait lists for hockey times.

“We’re a big believer in the downtowns of the three municipalities,” Russell said. “We don’t want to see the highway become a commercial strip at each of the interchanges. We’d rather see strong downtowns. We’re going to limit our commercial to local development, and encourage our customers to go to the downtown part of the region.”

Sage Hills is based in Victoria but Russell said the company plans to set up shop in the Comox Valley once the project gets moving.

The parcel borders the Trent River, where Sage Hills would like to create a regional park, and where the Courtenay & District Museum provides tours.

“We’ve been talking to the museum about doing programs with them,” Russell said. “And of course we have an agreement with the First Nations.”

The company hopes to open with about 600 K-12 students and 250 first-year university students. It plans to buy from local food producers to stock the school cafeterias.

The sports academy, Russell added, is “part of the K-12 experience,” with a half-day each of sports and classroom time.

The only other similar development is the IMG Academies campus in Bradenton, Fla.

“There’s nothing else in the world like this,” Russell said. “Our team includes people who set up Bradenton … The kids come from about 50 countries.”

Most students end up with sports scholarships.

But first things first. Such as securing development and building permits.

“We’re looking at an investment in diversification,” Russell said, noting the public has expressed little opposition about the proposal. “We’ll start with probably about 700 employees...and we want to be good corporate citizens.”

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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