Development proposal near popular Comox Valley swimming hole debated at length

A developer's proposal to construct a riverfront community near a popular Comox Valley recreation spot will remain on hold.

A developer’s proposal to construct a riverfront community near Stotan Falls will remain on hold until the regional district board clarifies details about amending the Regional Growth Strategy.

At committee of the whole Tuesday, directors referred to the next meeting a staff recommendation to deny 3L Developments’ application for a standard amendment to the RGS, which addresses land use in the Valley over the next 20 years.

The company hopes to construct homes and develop trails at the confluence of the Puntledge and Browns rivers. The district, however, has said the proposal is not in synch with the RGS. In March, the board rejected an offer to purchase the property for $9 million. The offer included Stotan Falls and Bull Island.

The company then closed two sets of gates on Duncan Bay Main and enforced No Trespassing signs at Stotan Falls, but later reopened the road in hopes of resolving the situation.

The gate closure prompted a protest at the falls to keep the popular swimming hole and hiking area open to the public.

But 3L president David Dutcyvich says he has received phone calls from people who support the project.

“The people of the Valley want this to happen,” Dutcyvich said after Tuesday’s meeting.

The United Steelworkers support the proposal.

“We need change,” Local 1-1937 president Darrel Wong states in a letter to the CVRD. “We need to create steady, long-term jobs for the kids coming out of high school.”

Over the course of a 10- to 15-year buildout, 3L plans to develop 740 lots for single-family homes and patio homes tailored for seniors. The project includes nine kilometres of trails, a parking lot and washrooms, links to public bus routes and a commercial centre that would serve Forbidden Plateau residents.

It would create about 2,500 man years of employment, translating into 150 to 180 jobs and another 80 to 95 indirect jobs, according to company spokesman Kabel Atwall.

Atwall said the recommendation to deny the application appears contrary to the March rejection letter in which CVRD board chair Edwin Grieve outlines three options, one of which is to apply to amend the RGS and go through a public process.

“We’re not here asking for a decision, just let the process unfold,” Atwall said Tuesday.

He noted a flexibility provision in the RGS, referring to the Sage Hills proposal outside the city limits that had employment potential but ultimately failed.

“I think this is one of those instances,” Atwall said. “We believe our proposal can set a positive benchmark for development in the Valley.”

The RGS, adopted two years ago, says 90 per cent of growth in the Valley is to be directed to core settlement areas.

A lack of available lots indicates a changing dynamic in the industry, says Atwall, noting the stalled Kensington and Trilogy proposals. Some directors questioned this statement.

“We’re ready to move forward,” Atwall said.

Cumberland director Roger Kishi has a hard time believing a development this size could be self-sustaining in terms of water and sewer.

While he realizes “change is inevitable,” Grieve feels the project could be a possibility in the future.

“It boils down to process,” he said, noting the ink has not dried on the RGS after about 40 meetings over two years. The process cost about $1 million, he added.

“This is the most important bylaw I would say for the entire Valley. No disrespect to the developers. This might be the best, greenest development, but right now is just not the time.”

Courtenay director Jon Ambler concurred, adding the effort by citizens during the RGS process was “like nothing I’ve seen.

“They entrusted us to look after it,” Ambler said of the document. “In five years we will know the exact value of it. Now is not the time for profound change.”

Fellow Courtenay director Bill Anglin, however, does not see how 3L’s application differs from other amendments, noting a mechanism for change within the RGS.

“We’re not here to say yes or no,” he said. ” We can’t penalize 3L or anyone if we didn’t do our homework.

“They’re asking for what’s in the document,” he added. “Time, to me, is not the ultimate criteria.”

“I’m torn here,” Courtenay director Starr Winchester said. “I’m in favour of process. I would like to hear what the public has to say.”

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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