COURTENAY, B.C- In the interest of getting more information about local municipal leader’s views on the potential housing development near Stotan Falls in the Comox Valley, the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom reached out to every candidate declared for the 2018 municipal elections to ask where they stood.
The question asked was the following “Are you in favour of the 3L project going ahead? Why or why not?”
Their responses have been broken down by electoral area, and included in full. Some candidates were not able to get back to us by the time of publication, and their responses will be added to this article as they become available.
Courtenay Mayoral Candidates
“I think all of us have to keep an open mind on this. There is a process going ahead that we agreed to, as the proposed amendment process. There might be, if that amendment process goes one way, then there might be the rezoning. Until then, because we’ve agreed to the process, it is contingent to all of us to keep an open mind on the issue.”
“Personally, I don’t think it’s a great location. It’s a beautiful location, but because of the topography of the area, I would not be in favour of that particular project. I’m certainly in favour of more development being done in the regional district, on property that was so suited, but I think that the location of that particular property is a long ways from any servicing, whether that be transportation, or water/sewer, and the idea of going that far out of the grid to service a small piece of property, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’m not in favour of it, no.”
“I think that it’s a vague question to ask municipal politicians because it is actually going to be voted on and decided by the three area directors. To bring this on the municipal level was actually quite unfair. But if we were to look at it, my thoughts on it is that is very loud and clear that we have a very huge shortage of housing lots in this area. In fact, there are no more than 24 individual lots apparently available at any time right now to build on. This shortage has caused a huge increase in the price of lots, and it’s causing an increase in the price of homes that families have to pay for. In addition, there has been a huge outcry of support for the river parkway, and the fact that I’d say every person that has grown up in this Valley, every young person, has fond memories of going out there and recreationing in that area. So, the fact that the developer would give all that area as park, and develop it, and put in washrooms and trails, I cant see it as being a necessarily a downer.
“I think right now the 3L project in and of itself is challenging to move forward. There are certainly some opportunities that it provides but I don’t think from the feedback I’ve gotten from the folks that you know, necessarily the park is a reason to move forward unto itself. There is certainly need, when I look at the affordable housing side of things: there’s need for more properties, more development but I don’t know that this particular development is going to provide the kind of housing that’s required. So, that’s where my challenge is. I am still talking with folks at 3L, still talking with people out in the community and looking to see what options we have to move forward.”
Courtenay Council Candidates
“I do respect the process currently under way and am always cautious about pre-judging an issue I may have to consider in more detail and vote on at some point. However, I believe we need to respect the principles and the spirit of the Regional Growth Strategy, which limits such development to identified settlement nodes. I also support smart growth and infill development utilizing existing infrastructure, and am wary of private utility systems. Additionally, I recognize the importance of preserving our rural areas. As such, if voting today, I would say no to 3L.”
“3L project is a very complicated issue, I don’t think that is a simply “yes or no” answer I can give. Stotan Falls has been a destination for Comox Valley families and visitors for generation. It is a beautiful place and it would be a shame to lose this. With that being said, 3L has agreed to the creation of park which would guarantee that this feature remain accessible for the valley, perhaps even improved. My understanding is that they (3L) are looking for self-sufficient sewer and water system, which I don’t have that kind of knowledge to vision it yet.
Gathering all the information that I could find from different resources: media, CVRD web posted, public hearing or open house reports; lot of discussions re: RGS amendment, sewer, water, environment, transportation, infrastructure that need to be covered. More consultations, public hearings and open houses to come, more discussions are on the road. The need for housing is great, and the development could ease the demand. Is that even possible to achieve both? There must be a reasonable solution, best for residents, the economy resources, and be sustainable. What is the harm in thoughtful discussion?”
“I am in favour of getting the parkland and if it takes the allowing of a subdivision in some form so be it. Just to be clear in my opinion the ability to get the park is the most important issue here, not the allowing of some sort of subdivision. We are been given the once in a lifetime ability to acquire a beautiful, strategically located park at zero cost to the taxpayers. If the developer is frustrated in their project they have the ability to subdivide the property into larger lots without the normal 5% park allotment The park and access would be lost to private ownership for ever. I would point out that at this time due process is still with the CVRD and would only be a City of Courtenay item if Courtenay was approached by the Developer for a boundary extension and inclusion. I will be back in the Comox Valley on the 7th after my holidays, a holiday arranged long before I decided to run for council. I have signs going up, brochures being printed, plan to attend the October 16th all candidates meeting and have been watching Facebook and the local news to keep in touch with what is happening in Courtenay.”
“I have a great deal of respect for our Regional Growth Strategy. Having said that, I am also concerned that the Courts agreed not once, but twice that 3L Developments were denied due process. I believe we need more information, which would be forthcoming if this application proceeded to 2nd reading. Once all that information has been received, I will make an informed decision.”
“In terms of what’s on the table, at the board, with the amendment to create a new settlement node, I’m not in favour of that. I’m not in favour of changing the Regional Growth Strategy to do that.”
“I think in it’s current format, it doesn’t do enough to address integrating well with city infrastructure. That includes water, sewer, and the traffic issues that it’s going to cause. So I think we need to encourage developers to develop, but I think we need to make sure that they do it so that it ties in well with our existing infrastructure, and compliments what we’ve already got. I think we need to send them back to the drawing board, and see if we can work with them to come up with a project that works well for everybody in the community.”
He also believed calling the project a “new settlement node” was short sighted, with infrastructure responsibility falling on Courtenay.
“I think if we’re going to proceed, we should look at it as extension of the City of Courtenay, and not an additional settlement node. That long term doesn’t make sense.”
“I am (in favour). The Stotan Falls area, the fossil grounds and the browns river area along the river has been a pretty important part of the community for years. It’s been a major tourist draw, and I think that we desperately need to get that park. If it comes along with the thousand or so extra houses, than the tax revenue that they will generate I believe is even better. The property itself used to be Crown land, and it was Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government that gave Timberwest freehold rights to that property, and then they put it up for sale. Our regional district or the city didn’t buy that property, 3L did. So it is actually their private property, and they can do whatever they want to do with it. I think it’s in both interests that they get rid of that liability, of having people in the river. I think it’s a win-win situation. 3L sort of got the jump on us, on acquiring the property, and now we need to work with them to make the best of the situation.”
“I am not in favour the project going ahead, and the reason is that I don’t believe that the Regional Growth Strategy should be amended by developer pressure. I think that if we as a community want to amend the regional growth strategy, that should come from citizens, and not from an individual land owner pressuring the regional government to adhere to his priorities, or their priorities.”
“I am in favour of continued development in the Comox Valley, but I’m in favour of development based on smart growth principles. These smart growth principles include efficient use of our existing infrastructure, like roads and sewer, water lines, and those existing business and cultural centres that we already have. I’m also in favour of transportation, which allows people of all ages and abilities to travel safely. More specifically, I think we should be focusing on infill development, especially rental housing, and reinvesting in our existing infrastructure. In short, I want to focus on conserving our natural ecosystems, in order to grow a community that has values that we hold most important. I don’t sit on the Regional District at this point, although I may in the future if I get re-elected, in which case that question will be put to me, but having to keep an open mind I can’t really say yes or no, but I can tell you what my values are, and with what kind of lens I would be looking at the project.”
“We have a debate that’s still to occur, so I wouldn’t be able to say right now yes or no. I would be able to wait and find out what people have to say during the debate, but from my perspective I heard the people at the public hearing, I’ve seen the issue for a few years on the table, and I believe there are many good merits with moving forward. Also, there is a park involved, that if we move forward in the right way that we can protect that park area and we could actually see many, many years of quality protection of that park. But there is a lot of debate ahead still, and we’re going to hear different points of view, and I’m always open minded to hearing all points of views before I make my final determination.”
I don’t have all the facts yet. I did go to that meeting last week, there was a presenter, I’m not sure if it included everything that I need to know, and so I don’t think I can actually adequately comment at this time. We were told that there were two options. One that was 3L would develop privarely with no access, and the other option was having 1100 homes, with half of it being park. I don’t know if that is the whole story or not.
“Ok personally, I would like to see a little bit more of it. I’m a little bit worried about it drawing on all the water, taking water from the watershed. I don’t know if it needs to draw from city water or what has to happen, but I’d like to see a little bit more, get a little bit more information on it that way. So having said that, right now I’m a little neutral on it. I can’t say I’m for or against it. I really want to see a little bit more information of what could actually happen with that out there, ‘cause I would love to see the park out there. I wouldn’t want that to be taken away from the people.”
“I’m in favour of maintaining the Regional Growth Strategy, respecting the Regional Growth Strategy and I wouldn’t support this variation upon it. To me, it comes down to trusting the vision of the Regional Growth Strategy. A lot of skilled professionals examined the best practices out there. They’ve worked with governments, they’ve worked with the community, they’ve come up with a clear comprehensive long-term plan for everyone and I think we should stick with that plan. And the planners, it’s not like they didn’t realise growth wasn’t going to happen. They envisioned back when they wrote the documents, which was past 2011, they envisioned a 50% growth in population over the next 20 years so they were aware that we would need more housing in the valley and they came up with a clear plan for putting it together. I just think that we need to ensure that all citizens and developers can rely on a single clear, consistent plan and that’s why I support maintaining the RGS and not varying it.”
“Yeah, I am for development but I’m only for development if it’s appropriate for the city right now, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for the city right now. I think it’s too soon. And as long as they follow the rules of the process, I think that yes, I don’t see a problem with it. I just think that it, it – there’s lots of questions still, I really think there’s a lot of grey areas. I think that it’s just too soon for them to be planning – not too soon for them to be planning a development – but too soon for them to be making a decision that they’re going have to go through… I’m just running for council, I think it needs to go through the CVRD, and then just go with it, as the decision they made.”
“I am opposed to the 3L development. The development is in violation of the Regional Growth Strategy, Official Community Plan, Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy, and Climate Change.
The Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy states:
A Global Vision for Sustainability
We stand at a critical moment in earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. – from the earth charter
The Regional Growth Strategy states:
2.3 Major Trends
4. Working with the environment. Over the past 150 years, the functioning of the local natural systems in the Comox Valley has been impacted by a variety of land development decisions. The growth strategy can be a powerful tool for achieving the goal of understanding and working with the local ecological features and natural systems at a regional scale, identifying principles for conservation and providing guidance and direction on how to implement conservation strategies through official community plans and other means. Protecting our waterways and wetlands ensures clean water for fish and adequate supplies for homes, businesses and agriculture and aquaculture. Encouraging interest in, and personal responsibility for, the natural systems around us helps public health by drawing residents and visitors to go walking or hiking while promoting environmental well-being. Finally, the local natural beauty and environment attracts tourists from around the globe.
9. A response to climate change is required. Countries around the world have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 80 percent by 2050 and the G8 has recently set out an ambitious target to restrict increases in global temperatures to two degrees. The Province of British Columbia has created the most ambitious policy framework within North America for actually achieving GHG reductions and combating climate change. The framework requires that local governments monitor and reduce emissions related to transportation, energy consumption by buildings, land use change and solid waste. At a local level, we are beginning to plan for a carbon shift that will see reliance on oil and non-renewable, polluting resources decline as the economy focuses on clean and renewable energy sources. This will have a significant impact on the communities we build, the buildings we construct and the transportation investments we make. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, there must also be plans in place to mitigate the current and growing effects of climate change.
GOAL 2: ECOSYSTEMS, NATURAL AREAS AND PARKS
2A-9: The RGS supports the implementation of local government parks and greenways plans and policies to establish a network of interconnected local and electoral area parks and greenways in order to protect recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat and natural ecosystem functions.
Objective 2-B: Frame environmental protection and policies around the principles of precaution, connectivity and restoration.
In order to address the loss and fragmentation of sensitive ecosystems, a set of overarching, guiding principles for growth management and land-use practices is needed. The following principles are to be considered in regards to specific development proposals which significantly impact sensitive ecosystems. Collectively applied, they will help maintain the region‟s biodiversity.
Precaution: Where the environmental outcomes of a specific development proposal will significantly impact sensitive ecosystems err on the side of caution and require documentation as to impact, mitigation and restoration or limit the action to avoid significant impact.
Connectivity: recognize the issue of connectivity in regards to potential impacts on the integrity and functionality of sensitive ecosystems.
Restoration: where cost effective, consider the restoration or creation of natural systems to provide sustainable environmental services (e.g. storm water ponds for improving water quality; tree cover for capturing carbon and reducing GHG emission.
Thank you for your participation and time in maintaining our healthy community. You can view my campaign website at kosky.ca and you can view my Facebook campaign page at @KiyoshiKoskyCourtenayCouncil. You will find the rest of my platform on my website.”
Town of Comox Candidates
“Today, I would vote no on Stotan Falls because it seems the majority of the people don’t want it. If I get elected, any elected official has a sacred duty to vote with the majority. If indeed that’s the case with Stotan Falls, I would vote no if the majority of people say no because it’s the residents who should decide on a zoning change, or a regional plan change. It shouldn’t be up to me, it should be up to the residents. But the much bigger issue that I’m far more concerned about than any one development project is our broken development process in the valley. It is not keeping pace with growth pressure and affordable housing needs, and the relationship with those things with well-paid jobs, a healthy local economy and all the good things that we need development to consider when planning for the health and welfare of our entire community 20 to 30 years down the road. We need an OCP and a regional plan that has that bigger picture thinking. That is successful channeling most development projects, like, 90 percent of development projects, into land that doesn’t require zoning changes.
“I think it’s an interesting concept. I believe it’s important to go to second reading, because it’ll bring more awareness to that (project) and allow people to look at it further. It’ll be up to the regional directors to take the pros and cons and make a decision on it. I think it has some interesting ideas to it and I think it’s worth exploring further.”
“This is definitely a huge issue. The Regional District is currently implementing an extensive consultation plan which will allow the public to make their opinions known. It is a question of whether or not the community wishes to amend the Growth Strategy to allow for the settlement node proposed by 3L. I would encourage everyone to get involved and have their voices heard. This is a spectacular, world-renowned place that deserves full community participation during the consultation phase, before the Comox Valley Regional District makes their decision to allow the settlement node.”
“The Stotan Falls issue at the regional district is not a development at this point. The issue is a Regional Growth Strategy amendment. 3L has claimed that they were denied due process and the courts agreed with them. This decision was appealed and they again found that 3L were correct. I believe that this amendment or any other should be given due process. A robust public consultation process was agreed to by the regional district board. We as elected officials are supposed to remain open-minded. Once the public process is completed, the information gathered, and the staff has reported to the board, a decision can be made.”
“It is hard to respond when I haven’t seen any specific proposal. I attended the open house at the Filberg Centre last week and I will say that it is a travesty to think that a section of the river and falls could be privately owned.”
“I can really see how the Comox Valley is changing, and our growth is inevitable. I am pro-development in the right areas and for the right purpose. After attending the jointly hosted CVRD & 3L Open House and reading further on the matter, I am against the proposal. There are too many unknowns with amending the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for this specific development. The biggest challenges to overcome is the environmental impact and the privatization of water. The precedent that would be set by changing the RGS and sourcing out our utilities requires further research. A lot of great questions were raised at the open house. It is a complicated matter but when it comes to the environment and taxpayers’ dollars, we have to err on the side of caution.”
“I’m just bringing myself up to speed on the complexity of the issue and from what I’ve seen it has some interesting proposals and also certain challenges with many aspects that stray from the goals outlined in the Regional Growth Strategy. I would be interested in seeing a more thorough/official proposal. I understand it is coming up for 2nd reading at the CVRD and think it at least deserves more public input.”
Comox Valley Regional District Candidates
Daniel Arbour, Area A
My answer will probably seem a little bit mitigated. Coming from Hornby Island, I’m actually fairly new to this issue of 3L, and I’ve been focusing my campaign mostly on Area A issues. I’ve been following the debate the last couple days around Stotan Falls, and I don’t think that any changes to the regional growth plan should be taken lightly, otherwise it might raise the question of why we have a regional growth plan. The debate around the minor versus the major, versus the standard amendment, I would have to look at that, I think I’d have to consult with staff, and other board members to understand the full history, including how they got to the Supreme Court, so again it’s not a file I’ve been close to. My principal is that the regional growth plan seems to favour densification in certain areas, and try to avoid urban sprawl in others. I think we would need to look at that principal and any amendment, that would need to be well-supported and well argued. That’s as far as I can take it. I can’t really take a position right now, because I feel like I would have to do the homework that is needed to arrive at an informed decision.
Jim Elliot, Area A
“I believe that we really need figure out servicing when we are going to be approving these large developments that are outside areas that have servicing available. Things like water and sewer, of course. I’ve never really agreed with large rezoning applications until there is a plan in place to provide those services.”
Arzeena Hamir, Area B
“I’m currently a farmer out here in Courtenay, and I am not in favour of the 3L settlement for a number of reasons. I do not take changing the Regional Growth Strategy lightly. We planned on keeping our community contained so that we wouldn’t be impacting the natural resources around us: forests and rivers, and this 3L development runs against that, so I’m not in favour of an amendment. It’s not a fire smart community, and if you look at how the province was burning this year, putting a thousand people in the middle of nowhere, far away from any type of fire services is just not prudent planning. So for those major reasons, and a number of minor ones, I’m not in favour of the 3L development.”
Edwin Grieve, Area C
“Well, I’ll never get to talk about 3L, but I’ll talk about the Regional Growth Strategy, having been through that with over a two year period of time with all the open houses and all the workshops around that. The decision was smart growth and to wrap all urban development to the city centres which are already serviced, which was also a way more sustainable way of dealing with roads, and that would leave the rural areas rural.”
Jay Oddleifson, Area C
“At this point there is no development project. No development application has been received at the CVRD planning department, nor can one be submitted under the current Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). The current issue is to consider whether to amend the RGS or not, whether to add a new settlement node or not, and that public consultation process is underway, with another open house and public hearing to come.The RGS is there to protect values held dear in the valley and Area C -farming, wildlife, emergency services, transportation, economic development -the list is long. I will maintain an objective and unbiased perspective until the reports are done, the public consultation process is completed, and then support the intent of the RGS. I’m in favour of doing things and getting things done, but this does not mean doing anything, anywhere. 3L will have to demonstrate, in a compelling way, why an additional settlement node is needed at this time. Until then an unbiased process is their due.”
Village of Cumberland Candidates
“As far as the project moving forward, I do support due process, and they need to go through the process. But I do not support the actual proposal that’s been put forward by 3L. I was part of the board at the time in discussions with the RGS, and we had a plan and I think that we need to follow that plan: the Regional Growth Strategy. I just want to make sure that it’s understood that I certainly do support anybody going forward with the proposal, but I do not support what they want to accomplish.”
“That’s a very interesting question; I’ve been in the Valley for 37 years. I don’t think it’s a step in the right direction, so no.”
Village Council Candidates
“Well, I’m in favour of what’s been agreed to in the Regional Growth Strategy, very much like the NOCP for our municipality, there’s been a lot of input and public feedback into the Regional Growth Strategy, so I think that needs to be supported. I know that our rep in the regional district Gwyn Sproule has been trying to get funds for updating the Regional Growth Strategy: that hasn’t been supported by other members on the regional district. I think it’s important to uphold that document and… as of now, that doesn’t support the 3L development. It’s pretty clear that most governments are trying to centralize their services and that’s the most efficient form of growth: is to use the infrastructure that’s already existing. So yeah, having new developments outside of your city centre is not a new form of how to grow a municipality.”
“The 3L project is, it’s a really complex thing. First of all, it’s not in the Village of Cumberland where I’m running. My sense is and from my understanding, the majority of the people around the area are opposed to it. Not opposing it, because it’s kind of demoting, the urban sprawl and I’m not a big fan of that at all. Going forward, if I do have the privilege of running for council for the Village of Cumberland, my decision on the 3L project would… it’s so big, I think I would have to spend a lot of time reaching out to the people who are voting me in, to the people that I work for. And it’s my understanding that at this point, the majority of them are opposed to it. And for that reason, at this time, I’m really not a big fan of 3L. What I would like to it is: I’ve paid close attention to the issues inside Cumberland. I understand that we do have a rep on the regional district, and it does affect the people in our village. But I really… I would find out that the people of Cumberland and the people around the area are strong supporters of it, then I would definitely have to look at that as well because at the end of the day, we do work for the people.”
“Well, I believe that they are entitled to go through with the process of seeking an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy. I think every developer has that right. I support their right to go through the process, but I don’t support the project itself because it just doesn’t meet the, I guess, the goals of the Regional Growth Strategy.”
Gwyn Sproule, Cumberland candidate and current representative for the village on the CVRD board
“Absolutely not, and that was publicly expressed at the meeting where it was decided whether it was going to be a minor or a standard amendment. You probably understand that was the first step. So with a minor (amendment), it would’ve been you know, quite a simple process. But luckily, the board did vote in favour of it being a standard, which means it has to go through a full review. Almost… pretty much the same review as it took to put together the Regional Growth Strategy. And it was three to two years almost of public consultation to arrive at the principles and policies of the Regional Growth Strategy, and this one was talked about at the time – the 3L project – but it was deemed beyond the limits of infrastructure and that wasn’t where… that was decided that growth wasn’t going to be directed there. So it’s hard to see why this is why come back or why it keeps coming back because it was quite clear, from the many people of all parts of the Comox Valley, that this was not sustainable growth. I think that the thing is, if they are to get the rezoning that they are seeking, it would detract from the areas where growth has been recommended to occur, which is Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland. It detracts from the energy that would be put into business in those places.”
“I am not in favour of amending the RGS document to allow for dense development in that area, no. I think the RGS supports smart growth principles and we shouldn’t weaken it because we are being pressured by developers.”
“I don’t support the 3L project going forward in Cumberland. We’re supporting gentrification, but I don’t think the urban sprawl is working out for the Comox Valley. You know, I think the Regional Growth Strategy is a document that took a long time to build, and I don’t think that just because a big developer comes knocking you need to open it up.”
“With respect to 3L, I believe the Regional Growth Strategy is the real question here. I fully support anyone coming forward with Development Proposals that fall within the approved strategies. The overall growth of the Comox Valley has to be planned and to approve development that will stretch the resources like public transportation, or other public services and infrastructure at near or over capacity concerns me. I say let the process play out and based on the existing board approved plan it should be defeated.”