Public blocked indefinitely from Stotan Falls and surrounding trails
Stotan Falls and surrounding trails will be inaccessible to the public indefinitely at the discretion of the property owner, which plans to develop a riverfront community at the confluence of the Puntledge and Browns rivers.
Of its 385 acres, 3L Developments plans to dedicate 215 acres as parkland or greenspace upon project completion. The community plan includes 618 lots for single-family homes, nine acres for patio homes tailored for seniors, nine additional kilometres of trails, links to public bus routes and a commercial centre.
3L bought the property several years ago from Comox Timber and Hancock. The company spent nearly $800,000 on a development plan that included traffic and environmental studies, says spokesman Kabel Atwall. An economic impact analysis determined the project would be worth $171 million and create 1,200 man years of work.
"We're having conversations with the regional district as we're going forward, and at no point was it ever said, 'Stop'," Atwall said, noting letters of encouragement from the CVRD and positive feedback from the public.
However, he said the Regional Growth Strategy process was a stumbling block, despite the parkland dedication.
"Once the Regional Growth Strategy came along, it just got slammed right down. And never explained to us why one edition of the Regional Growth Strategy had us in there as a future area and the other one excluded us totally."
Regardless, Atwall said 3L plans to move forward with the project, which he estimates to be a 10- to 20-year buildout.
The company has offered to sell the property to the regional district. At one point it was prepared to donate the land, but Atwall said the CVRD declined the offer.
3L has also arranged to give the property to the K'ómoks First Nation as treaty settlement lands — which according to Atwall concerns the CVRD because it does not fit with the RGS.
The KFN has no comment yet as newly elected Chief Rob Everson is being briefed on this and other issues.
"I don't know what the regional district's gaining by objecting to this other than the fact they're losing opportunities to people who utilize these lands," Atwall said. "If it's developed under the final treaty, then there's no requirement for the band to dedicate the lands as park. They will utilize them themselves as open space, and they will be privately owned."
The original plan included washrooms and parking areas at the falls.
For the time being, 3L will cut off trails and access to Stotan Falls. Atwall notes liability issues concerning trail users, who could sue the company in case of an accident.
Comox Logging Road and Duncan Bay Main will remain open even during development.
The CVRD did not return calls. In a news release, the district refuted 3L's claim that it would close access to Stotan Falls, and to trails along the Puntledge and Browns rivers, because of RGS policies.
“The land owned by 3L Developments is private land and the owner is free to make whatever choices it wishes about public access to that land,” CVRD board chair Edwin Grieve said. “But to suggest that the intention to restrict access is related to CVRD policies or actions is unfortunate and untrue.”
The 'Puntledge triangle' has been identified as an important recreation area by the CVRD, which said it has been proactive in acquiring new park properties and rights of way to support public trails in this area.