Union Bay landowners should protect their services and investments.
Since 1996, when the original development of Kensington Properties was vetoed by the regional district board, the area has been slowly deteriorating.
The loss of the school operations in 2006 caused many young families to move closer to Courtenay. Some seniors have also moved closer to the services they require.
In the 1996 proposal, sewer and water upgrades were to be provided by the developer — very similarly to what has been proposed by the present development. Imagine, Union Bay could already have the major infrastructure situations addressed.
Then in 2006, the community had the opportunity of restructuring into a municipality. This would have resulted in the community being granted a $4.5-million investment by the Province for infrastructure upgrades, which would have again been an opportunity to have a new fire hall and upgraded water services.
But a campaign of naysayers resulted in another lost opportunity.
Union Bay has been faced with many political groups or individuals who have migrated to the area and then wanted to shut the door behind them.
Unfortunately, the lack of growth and development is jeopardizing the funding to address the infrastructure requirements necessary for providing updated fire protection and water services to the residents of Union Bay. These missed opportunities result in landowners footing the costs through increased annual taxes.
As far back as 1983, the triangle property on McLeod Road above the tracks was purchased for the development of a new fire hall. At the time the design and construction of the hall was estimated to be $180,000. It is 28 years later and we are still without a new fire hall.
In 2008, Work Safe BC provided detailed requirements for meeting the safety regulations to upgrade and continue to operate the existing fire hall. In addition to the costly repairs, it was noted that the existing fire hall is not seismically sound and the walls are constructed of lacquered wood with no fire barriers.
In the event of a natural disaster or a fire at the hall, the community’s only fire rescue facility would be the first casualty.
Many Union Bay landowners have been led to believe that the Kensington Island Properties development will provide a new fire hall. This is certainly not the case!
Through their master development agreement with the regional district, KIP has agreed to provide up to three acres of suitable property on which to build a new fire hall; but there is no proposal for the developer to build the facility. This will be up to the taxpayers.
The former school property at 5539 S. Island Highway was purchased in 2007 using fire department reserve funds as a down payment with the anticipation of constructing the fire hall on that property.
A proposed budget of $2 million (this included the existing mortgage of $500,000) was proposed in 2009 for the construction and upgrading of equipment to address the outstanding requirements of Work Safe BC. Once again, this was turned down as being too expensive for the tastes of Union Bay.
It is too late for Band-Aid solutions to the existing fire hall. It is time for Union Bay to wake up and embrace the opportunity of moving forward in a sustainable way to protect its assets and investment in the community.