The largest development proposal on Vancouver Island north of the Malahat was unveiled Thursday in Union Bay.
Sporting a new name, Kensington Union Bay Properties unveiled its long-awaited development plans for for the small Comox Valley community at the Kingfisher Spa and Resort on March 1.
The initiative — Union Bay Estates — is an 850-acre real estate and commercial development project that could transform the hamlet into a full-fledged town larger than Ladysmith or Chemainus.
“The project itself is going to be a game-changer for the community,” said Kensington vice-president Brian McMahon. “It’s going to be a game-changer for the Comox Valley as a whole.”
The the multi-phase development, which has been in the works for many years, promises 2,949 residential units featuring multi and single-family residences, as well as both retirement and affordable housing units. When completed, it could increase the population of Union Bay by 7,500–9,000 people. Roughly 1,200 people live there currently.
Alongside the housing provisions, Kensington also aims to bring several commercial and social amenities to Union Bay. At the launch event on Thursday, McMahon mentioned possible provisions for a pharmacy, a walk-in clinic, a movie theatre, hotels, and a bank.
“We’ve had discussions with people who are interested in pursuing these things,” he said.
The company is also donating parcels of land to the Union Bay Improvement District for its new water treatment plant and a fire hall and says it will commit land to School District 71 for a new school.
“If we’ve got 2,949 new homes coming in, there’s going to be the need for a new school again,” he said.
Development 20 years in the making
Previously known as Kensington Island Properties, the company purchased more than 1,000 acres of land in Union Bay in the late 1990s, with the long-term goal of building a golf course, a marina walkway, a water filtration system and housing developments for the community.
But due to several political and regulatory hurdles over the years — as well as a few legal battles — none of the projects have yet been realized.
McMahon says despite the rocky past, the “stars have aligned” this time around. He brought up revisions to the company’s Master Development Agreement with the Comox Valley Regional District, which were approved in December 2017.
“Everything is approved now. Before, we had ongoing hurdles we kept trying to overcome. Everything has improved,” he said.
Before construction of any of the housing units can occur, Kensington will have to supply a wastewater treatment facility in order to service the projects.
“We have to get the wastewater treatment plant up and running before we can sell any homes,” he said. “In order to do that, we need to get the pipes in the ground, we need to get roads built. We were meeting this morning talking about where the pipes are going to go.”
McMahon said the company has applied to the Ministry of Environment to begin work on implementing a wastewater treatment facility.
“That application is in the process,” he said.
McMahon added the goal is to possibly begin construction on homes by summer 2019.
“Before that, there will be roads, pipes put in the ground. There will be all the underground servicing going in,” he said.