Kensington Island Properties has been trying to undergo a huge development project in Union Bay for 20 years. File photo.

Revised master development agreement gives green light to Union Bay development projects

The Union Bay Improvement District trustees will discuss the approved amendments on Dec. 14.

A defining chapter was written in one of the Comox Valley’s longest standing development sagas earlier this week.

On Dec. 12, the Comox Valley Regional District board of directors approved several amendments to the 2010 Master Development Agreement between the CVRD and developer Kensington Island Properties (KIP), paving the way for the company’s multiple developments to move forward.

After a 15-minute presentation on the new agreement and five minutes of discussion, the board approved the amendments unanimously.

The revised Master Development Agreement (MDA) suggests optimism that KIP can soon begin work on some of its long-awaited development projects in Union Bay.

“The revisions allow for the project to start immediately,” said Ann MacDonald, the CVRD’s senior manager of planning and development services.

Development 20 years in the making:

KIP bought more than 1,000 acres of land in Union Bay in the late 1990s. The company’s goal was to construct a golf course, over 2,000 housing units, a care facility for seniors, a marina walkway, and a network of parks and trails.

The company also committed to providing a water filtration system to the Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) and land for a new fire hall.

Two decades later, however, none of the projects have been realized. The company has faced years of political and regulatory hurdles, as well as a few legal battles.

The original Master Development Agreement between KIP and the CVRD was signed in 2010. Development appeared to take a major step forward the following year, when a $1.7-million water infrastructure agreement was ratified between KIP and UBID to construct a water filtration plant. The plant would provide a way for Union Bay to comply with Island Health-mandated 4-3-2-1 water quality treatment objectives.

But that agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2014, before the water filtration project had been started. A new water agreement between KIP and UBID was ratified on Oct. 12, 2017.

In a Dec. 14 statement, KIP vice-president Brian McMahon said he was very pleased to see the revised MDA approved by the regional district.

“Kensington Island Properties is going to breathe new life into the Union Bay community and region,” he said. “The new amenities, infrastructure and affordable housing units are going to make Union Bay great place to live.”

Changes reflect new circumstances in Union Bay

The amendments to the MDA include several revisions to the 2010 agreement.

  • It provides permission for development to occur in multiple phases and approves the recent water agreement between KIP and UBID for each phase.
  • It removes the regional district as the approval authority for KIP and UBID’s water agreement. It recognizes UBID as an autonomous level of government with the mandate of providing water services.
  • It provides upfront community amenities from KIP, including a commitment that 16 per cent of the area plan will be dedicated parks and trails. It also specifies which part of the area plan that will be.
  • It slightly changes the area plan that was privy to the 2010 MDA. Kensington Island Properties recently subdivided a small portion of its land in Union Bay and transferred it to the provincial government. This portion was taken out of the area plan.
  • It slightly changes the timeline and terms of the 30 affordable housing units that are proposed for the community.
  • It includes a $250,000 cash contribution from KIP to the CVRD’s Homelessness Supports Services by the end of 2017.
  • It specifies a one-hectare lot for the construction of a new Union Bay fire hall, to be located directly north of Washer Road.
  • It removes a density bonusing provision that previously provided for triple the density within the zoning in exchange for affordable housing multi-family lots.
  • It donates a 1.62-hectare parcel to UBID for the new water treatment facility. The land will be subdivided under section 99 of B.C.’s Land Titles Act.

Board directors’ responses:

Before the recommendations were voted on, CVRD board directors said they were pleased the parties had come to another agreement, seven years after the first MDA was signed.

Comox director Ken Grant mentioned how the ordeal had gone on “forever and ever.” He suggested the CVRD review its approach to large development initiatives and use an independent consultant — as he said is done in Comox — to help streamline the process in the future.

“Back when this started, gas was about 46 cents a litre,” he said. “Twenty years is just far too long and no one will go through this process if it is that onerous.”

Area C director Edwin Grieve acknowledged how long such initiatives can take to do diligently and applauded the efforts of KIP and the CVRD’s staff in coming to an agreement.

“I think we’ve struck a good balance and I see this as being a chance for that community to really heal, move forward, and get on with what could be one of the best developments in the Comox Valley,” he said.

“I think Union Bay could be like another ‘Sydney by the Sea.’ There is some real possibility to build a real stellar community there.”

According to the CVRD, Kensington Island Properties will also provide sewage treatment infrastructure for the development, which could be expanded to provide wastewater service to some of the surrounding areas.

UBID brought up the amended Master Development Agreement at its board meeting on Dec. 14.

“It’s a good week because [we have an agreement] and everything is in place,” said UBID chief administrative officer Gord Mason at that meeting.

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