COURTENAY, B.C- Stotan Falls is being closed to the public.
The closure was announced today in a press release from 3L Developments Inc.
According to the announcement from the company, the closure affects all of the Riverwood lands near Courtenay, where 3L has been aiming to develop a new area for housing in the Valley.
The gravel roads in the area will also be closed. No individual access or vehicle access will be allowed through, with the exception of logging trucks that have an agreement with 3L for access.
The move is the latest development in the dispute between the company and the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), which has now gone to court.
Back in October, 3L filed a petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, asking for the district’s denial of an application to amend the area’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) to be set aside.
The district has filed a response to the petition, which disagrees with every point raised by the company. The next appearance is set for this month in Vancouver.
“The reason for the closure is the risk of significant legal liability for any accident that might happen on those lands,” read part of the company’s announcement.
“All landowners are liable for accidents that happen on their land and this piece of land has significant liability due to its extent of riverfront. The owner was willing to take that risk during the past ten years because of his work with the community to try to turn over half of the land into a park, in exchange for reasonable development rights on the remaining lands.”
The announcement goes on to blame the CVRD for the decision, stating that they “clearly have taken a position” that they don’t want the rivers or Stotan Falls to be part of the regional park network, and that they want the area to remain in private hands.
“As such, the land owner is no longer willing to take the liability risk,” read the announcement.
“Closure of the lands will cost the landowner money for fencing and patrols but the risk of problems is
too high around the rivers, and as such, the owner has no option but to close the lands.”
In the announcement, landowner David Dutcyvich expresses regrets for the inconvenience caused by the closure, while hoping “folks will understand”, given the reality of the situation.
It includes a short history of the Riverwood development issue from the company’s perspective, which has been included in full below.
“The story of this project is a difficult one with many surprises. 3L Developments has worked with the local government for over 10 years on a community-based vision for these lands. In the first half decade of discussions, there was significant local government support for expanding Courtenay into this area. It was immediately adjacent the city and served as a key connection to the highway and the new hospital employment centre, and the plan included this significant public park along the riverfronts. The OCP supported it, staff supported it and local politicians supported it. The vision for giving over half of the land to the community in exchange for reasonable development rights was created during that time and was agreed as a win/win for the community and the land owner. However, the highly politicized process of the regional growth strategy around 2010 changed things in a surprising way. The RGS resulted in confusing outcomes, including new town centres being approved twice as far away from Courtenay as this land, and this piece suddenly being declared to be sprawl. 3L followed the directions of local government staff and politicians year after year and patiently waited on many occasions for policy work to be done on many occasions. Following 2010, for inexplicable reasons, the local government violated their own legislation (as determined by the courts) and treated 3L staff in such racist ways that the Human Rights Tribunal was called in (and ruled in 3L’s favour).
The regional district has issued statements denying any racist treatment of 3L staff, which have been covered by the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom in past reports.
After the history section, the announcement carries on to detail regrets of Dutcyvich over the “lost legacy” of the Riverwood lands. According to the statement, he had hoped the land would be a legacy of his commitment to community well-being, after he and his family had enjoyed the land.
“The owner is exhausted and disappointed with where this process has gone and has now accepted that
at this point in time, the local government has clearly stated they want no publicly accessible land in this
area,” read the announcement.
“The land owner is disappointed that the government has shut this door and he wishes to express regret
to all of the families in the region who will not be able to access hundreds of acres of land along the
rivers and the Stotan Falls. He is caught between a rock and a hard place – in having to take on millions of dollars in liability for knowingly allowing public access to these lands and riverfront areas, versus the costs of closing the land. The difference is enormous and the only prudent choice for him and his family is to regretfully choose the latter.”
The announcement ends with a “hope for the future” section.
“Any family who would like to access the rivers or the Falls, or any other land owner who feels that the local government has not been honourable in its behaviour to this landowner, please let the local government know,” read the announcement.
“The local government are no longer listening to any voice associated with this piece of land, but they might listen to others who disagree with the local government’s decisions. Decisions like this can be reversed but only by the local politicians.”
While talking about the need for housing and housing price increases, the announcement ends by promoting the Riverwood lands as a “very feasible option” for providing new housing, parks, and amenities, close to Courtenay.
“Given the land’s proximity to Courtenay and the public value of the riverfront and (Stotan) Falls, it is hoped that in the future, the local government would reconsider its position and reconsider the win/win options that have been envisioned for this land.”
They provided the following statement.
The CVRD feels it is important to restate the following points about 3L’s statements pertaining to the BC Human Rights Tribunal:
- The CVRD received a complaint in January 2014 through the BC Human Rights Tribunal that Director Edwin Grieve, a CVRD Director, had made racist remarks about Kabel Atwall, 3L Development’s representative
- The CVRD entered into a settlement hearing to respond to the allegations
- Director Grieve refutes the claim that he made any such statement
- The CVRD and Kabel Atwall entered a settlement agreement, which included a confidentiality clause and a clause confirming that Director Grieve did not make any such comments
- Generally speaking, decisions to enter settlement agreements are oftentimes made to:
- minimize spending public funds,
- come to terms with the individual who may have been impacted,
- allow the parties to move forward, and
- focus attention on delivering public services,
- as opposed to defending against such claims that could cost taxpayers significantly more money than a settlement agreement’s costs.
- The Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the complaint in May 2014.
As the agreement contained a confidentiality clause, the CVRD intends to uphold the spirit of that clause and not discuss the matter further.