An application to develop a riverfront community near the popular Stotan Falls swimming hole will remain on hold until the regional district board adopts a fees and charges bylaw pertaining to the Regional Growth Strategy.
At committee of the whole proceedings Tuesday, district staff recommended denying an application from 3L Developments to amend the RGS, which the board adopted more than two years ago after extensive public consultation, that generally did not support urban residential development in rural areas. However, directors debated at length another recommendation to delay standard amendments to the RGS to 2016, in conjunction with the first five-year review process of the document.
Several board members questioned the RGS amendment process. Comox director Tom Grant feels 3L has followed the process by applying for a standard amendment, but suggests the district does not like the language in the application. He was not speaking for or against 3L but about following a process initiated by the board.
“I don’t think we’re being fair here,” Grant said.
Courtenay director Starr Winchester is concerned the board is setting itself up for a legal battle because it had told 3L to apply but is now discussing the possibility of not considering applications until 2016.
“It’s ludicrous if we can change the RGS on a whim,” she said. “What kind of a document is that?”
Area B director Jim Gillis feels it would be a mistake to move quickly and to consider a standard amendment before conducting a five-review of the RGS.
Courtenay director Bill Anglin suggests projects such as 3L’s should flourish or fail on their own merits, but Gillis feels the RGS should be allowed to mature before dealing with standard amendments.
A tie vote defeated a recommendation to only consider standard amendments by 2016. Winchester, Grant, Anglin and Courtenay directors Jon Ambler and Manno Theos opposed the recommendation. Gillis, Comox director Patti Fletcher, Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule, Area A director Bruce Jolliffe and Area C director Edwin Grieve were in favour.
3L hopes to construct homes and develop trails at the confluence of the Puntledge and Browns rivers. The board had rejected an offer to purchase the property, after which the company closed two sets of gates on Duncan Bay Main and enforced No Trespassing signs at Stotan Falls. It has re-opened the road in an effort to resolve the situation.
“There seems to be a disconnect from what we originally proposed,” company spokesman Kabel Atwall said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Our hope is we can at least get the fees and charges bylaw put together, then we can flesh out our application. We’re not asking for a decision, we just want the process underway.”