Former councillor says Stotan Falls development is an opportunity missed

A former Courtenay city councillor feels the current CVRD board is missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop a potential jewel near Stotan Falls, where a Nanaimo-based developer proposes to create a riverfront community consisting of homes and trails.

Murray Presley likens the vision of 3L Developments to Stanley Park, which the City of Vancouver dedicated as such in the 19th century after securing a lease from the federal government.

“It is the jewel of Vancouver,” said Presley, a former CVRD board member and past-president of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society board.

“Now the Comox Valley has the opportunity to acquire 185 acres of riverfront property on the Puntledge and the Browns rivers amounting to many thousands of feet. It includes Stotan Falls and Bull Island.”

In a 7-3 vote Tuesday, the regional district committee of the whole approved a staff recommendation to not initiate an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw, as requested by 3L. Courtenay directors Starr Winchester, Bill Anglin and Manno Theos opposed the recommendation.

“Unfortunately, the CVRD vote forces the property owner to do a large lot subdivision, and in fact subdivide and sell the valuable riverfront property,” Presley said.

“So instead of the beautiful and much used riverfront property going into public hands in perpetuity, it will be chopped up and sold privately.”

Last year, the board rejected an offer from 3L to purchase the property, saying the proposal is not in sync with the RGS.

The rejection prompted the company to enforce No Trespassing signs and to temporarily block traffic flow on Comox Logging Road by closing two sets of gates on Duncan Bay Main.

A Save Stotan Falls Facebook page appeared shortly thereafter, as did a protest at the falls.

After re-opening the gates, 3L submitted a rezoning application to sell 10-acre parcels on the property. The application no longer included a parkland dedication that was part of the original offer.

The issue has since bogged down in debate about process. The CVRD says it’s being carried out in the public interest but 3L feels the district is not following its own process.

Presley feels the CVRD has lost sight of an opportunity to acquire waterfront parkland at no cost to taxpayers.

“You have to wonder how they can pass up on this opportunity and still be working for the best interest of the Comox Valley,” Presley said. “The only thing we can hope for now is the developer taking the CVRD to court and winning over the way it has been treated, the validity of the RGS and the refusal to allow the public to comment on the development with an RGS amendment proposal.”

Both parties have sought legal advice.

3L solicitors Cox Taylor suggest the CVRD is not following procedures set out in the Local Government Act and in the RGS.


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