At its inaugural meeting Tuesday, the Comox Valley Regional District board refused the latest application from 3L Developments to build homes near Stotan Falls in Area C. The board voted in favour of staff working with the company towards securing public access to Stotan Falls, which had been a popular swimming hole until 3L closed its property to the public.
Tuesday’s vote followed the Nov. 16 Electoral Area Services Committee meeting where directors, in a 2-1 vote, turned down the company’s application to subdivide and develop its land to build 780 residential units. Area C director Edwin Grieve voted to “keep the conversation going forward.”
Before calling the question Tuesday, the board listened to a pair of delegates who spoke in favour of 3L’s proposal. Planner Rob Buchan said the company has amended its application to respond to concerns, such as providing a range of affordable housing options.
“Well over half of the housing units would be in the affordable range,” he said. “The proposal is consistent with land use in the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).”
While the proposed settlement node comprises about 25 per cent of the site, Buchan said that 3L intends to give about 65 per cent of its land to the CVRD, the K’ómoks First Nation and community groups. The site would be serviced by publicly owned and operated water and sewer.
3L’s goals are to protect environmental values, to provide public trails and greenways, to provide public access to Stotan Falls, and to provide a north-south road and bike lane through the property.
“None of these goals are served by rejecting the application,” Buchan said. He noted that property owner Dave Dutcyvich would prefer to sell the property to the CVRD, not to log it. “The future of these lands are in your hands. 3L is wanting and willing to work with you to find a future for the lands, which provides for park for the public.”
Comox director Ken Grant, noting a public desire to again use Stotan Falls, asked if there is any middle ground to discuss a solution.
“I’d like to say yes, but time is limited for a solution, and part of that is simply because of the economics of forestry right now,” Buchan said. “Export logs are at an all-time high, and the owner has been at this for about 14 years, and is at the position where he’s going to make a decision.”
Grieve said Area C residents are concerned about urban development north of the Puntledge River.
“We looked at is as the ‘Nanaimo-ization’ of Courtenay,” Grieve said, noting an amended submission showed an expansion area south of the Puntledge to be the focus of the development.
“Because this is an urban-style development, and our hangup here is probably the minimum lot size, have you approached the City of Courtenay with regards to annexing that area which would bring services to that part of Area C?”
“Yes,” Buchan said. “There was no appetite for looking at an annexation at the time. This issue is about timing. It is a designated urban expansion area. The timing is not appealing for the City of Courtenay at this time, which is unfortunate because the cost of not trying to achieve it through a development approval, or purchasing it outright, is significant.”
Courtenay director Wendy Morin asked about resources on the site, namely timber and gravel. According to Buchan, Dutcyvich says the property contains a considerable sum of Douglas fir and cedar. He received an offer this year from a gravel operator because of the high quality gravel.
“Saying no to this park and no to buying it means you’re making the choice to have its natural resources used, logged, dug up and destroyed. That is what you have zoned it for,” Kathleen Pitt, the second of the 3L delegates, said. “Ownership of these lands has privileges, as long as you’re the one making the rules.”
Courtenay director Doug Hillian asked for Pitt’s address, but she would not field questions.