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Comox Valley Economic Development tackling 'eyesores'
The Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) will take on a new role over the next five years — and that role could help rid the Valley of some well-known eyesores.
CVEDS's five-year strategic plan outlines 19 programs, 14 core and five support, including many ongoing programs such as its Destination Marketing program. But, the plan also includes something brand new to CVEDS, a Land and Development Impact Analysis program, something executive director John Watson says came out of community consultations with industry and community stakeholders.
"What we were hearing was that there's significant parcels and properties within the Valley, within the municipalities, that either could be developed to a greater potential or perhaps aren't being developed at all," says Watson.
"For example, the Palace Theatre site in downtown Courtenay was raised numerous times as a site that might require additional facilitation, programs, a little bit of work and attention, not only by our office, but in this case, the City (of Courtenay) and perhaps a few other regulatory agencies, to get it to the point where it's something that we can promote as a community as needing development."
Part of the program will see CVEDS facilitate discussions with landowners, local government, other regulatory agencies and potential investors and developers about some key sites in the Valley that can be developed.
"The old Field Sawmill site is still sitting there, lands adjacent to the airport; there's opportunities out there, former school district sites," Watson says, as he lists a few examples. CVEDS will also continue to identify sites where it can help facilitate these discussions.
"And we would want to explore the reasons … as to why they're not developing through this program, and then see if we can address some of these reasons and enhance or market or support the process of seeing investment come to these regions," he continues.
Encouraging more uniformity in all Comox Valley local government development review processes is another aspect of the program, including suggesting process improvements from other jurisdictions. Watson adds an important component of the program will be to create a standardized economic and financial impact model.
"That's probably the first step, is to take a look at some of the economic impacts of a particular development application and ensure that we have the information to speak accurately to the economic impacts of a particular development that's occurring in our town," he says.
The economic impact model would not only show financial gains, like increased municipal property taxes and increased jobs from a development, but would also show costs, such as costs for new sewer and water infrastructure if needed, he adds.
According to Watson, economic development groups across the country have similar programs in place.
Though Watson says all the programs in the strategic plan are very important, he adds a couple of areas of interest seemed to resonate strongly with the community.
"I'd say one of the significant ones, stemming from both the urban components and the rural areas, is our agriculture programs, wanting to ensure that these continue," he says, adding the community was also very interested in the Health Services Program.
"There's certainly a role for Economic Development as we move forward in providing support to the discussion and dialogue around the future of health services with the advent of the new hospital and potential redevelopment or redesign of St. Joe's (hospital) — I think these are things that are important to our community to engage in and understand."
The final draft of the five-year strategic plan was completed in April, and CVEDS has now presented it to the four main local governments. The next step will be to create annual tactical plans, and the CVEDS board is expected to set the year one tactical plan goals at its next board meeting, in early October.
To view the strategic plan, visit www.investcomoxvalley.com.