A proposal to develop a mix of uses on 500 acres near Courtenay is back before the Comox Valley Regional District in the latest bid to develop the land.
This time, 3L Developments is saying if needed approvals are not granted for what it says is its final proposal, then its Riverwood land will be logged.
The relationship between 3L, headed by Vancouver Island businessman David Dutcyvich, and the regional district has been fractious over the years as previous development plans failed to win support.
Stotan Falls on the Puntledge River has been closed to swimming in recent years by 3L, which owns the riverbed. For generations, it attracted locals to its hot pools carved out of the rock and to swim in the river. A toll booth was also in place on the nearby road for a time, and 3L and the district andp property owner have faced off in in the courts.Community organizations have formed in opposition to development.
The new development proposal submitted to the district went to the electoral areas services committee, which decided to sent it to other agencies for comment. The comments will inform the district’s board of directors, which will determine whether to take the plan to a public hearing. After a public hearing, the board votes on whether or not to support a proposal.
“The public need a solution on this,” said Rob Buchan, planning consultant and spokesman for 3L Developments.
“They want access and the regional district wants the land. We have to find a way to get to some ‘yes’ on this. I think there’s an enormous public-interest matter here.”
The new scaled-down proposal would cover 118 acres, allow for 335 single-family homes with secondary suites, 110 multi-family units, and include 15,000 square feet of commercial space as a neighbourhood centre, plus allotment gardens, Buchan said.
The developer is offering to contribute land to be used to build 40 affordable housing units.
Housing would be solar-ready and energy efficient, Buchan said.
Under the proposal, 49 per cent of the site would be donated to the regional district for park in the form of forested land, trails, and Stotan Falls, he said. About 100 acres would be dedicated for agriculture use, and the K’omox First Nation would receive 10 acres of land.
Buchan said that water and sewer services would be installed by 3L, which would hand over ownership to the district.
The developer is seeking to locate residential use to the north side of the river, which has been logged. Residential use is at this time slated for the south side.
The south side is unsuitable for development because it is split by B.C. Hydro transmission equipment and its penstock facility, which controls the flow of water, Buchan said. The forested south-side land would instead be part of the park.
The idea is to create a village on the north side of the river, within a rural agricultural area, he said.
To proceed, 3L needs amendments to the district’s regional growth strategy and to two official community plans, and new zoning approvals, Buchan said.
Buchan anticipates the matter will come before the board this fall.
If the board rejects the plan, 3L is prepared to proceed with permitted uses to log the land and extract gravel, he said.
The developer has an export permit for logs and he “would be commencing, he tells me, forthwith,” Buchan said.
Arzeena Hamir, an electoral area director, has not made up her mind on the proposal.
Within the community, “Historically the big issue has just been around conservation of forested land and the impact a development would have on that particular area of the community, which is beloved because Stotan Falls is located right there and it’s a big swim spot for the community,” she said.
Residents know the area for its beauty, forests and the salmon in the river, she said.
The restricted access to the falls is a “big concern for the public,” Hamir said.
The latest proposal has been altered as the developer addressed some of the concerns expressed previously, she said.