One of the most long-standing and often tortuous development proposals on Vancouver Island has apparently reached the end of the road.
3L Developments has declared an end to all negotiations, claiming it no longer has any interest in building a residential community in the area northwest of the city of Courtenay.
The development company has been asking the Comox Valley Regional District to amend its Regional Growth Strategy to allow for residential development in the area for more than a decade.
The property package known as Riverwood includes 300 acres of land surrounding the Puntledge River, including Stotan Falls, a once-popular swimming hole.
The development company has repeatedly promised to turn the area surrounding the falls and river into a public park, in exchange for allowing the creation of a 780-unit residential community.
In a statement sent to media from 3L Developments public relations manager Caroline Nestor on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the company said there will be no further development applications filed with the CVRD.
“After 14 years, it has spent a great deal of time and money in this goal and is not willing to do this any longer,” reads the statement. “There is no current development application and 3L has decided that it will not make another application.”
The statement comes on the heels of a petition started by a group of residents, urging the city to annex the land surrounding the Puntledge and turn it into a park. 3L acknowledged the group in its Jan. 12 statement.
“We applaud these residents and wish them success in their efforts to have the property annexed into the City of Courtenay and developed in accordance with the Regional District’s Regional Growth Strategy.”
In the statement, 3L suggests the local governments purchase the land from the developer.
“3L hopes that the Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay, or other public or private party is willing and able to find a way to purchase the property so the public can have its park and access to the falls.”
The statement suggests the property is now for sale, although a follow-up email from The Record inquiring about the asking price for the property had yet to receive a response at the time this article was published.
The total 500-acre property has a 2020 assessed value of $4.22 million.
In the meantime, 3L states due to liability issues public access to Stotan Falls remains prohibited.
“Because there is serious legal liability to the owner in allowing public access, especially as the land becomes an active resource industrial site, public access cannot be allowed,” the company said in its statement.
When asked what an “active resource industrial site” referred to, Nestor would not elaborate.
“Moving forward, because this land is private property we will be using it for our own company purposes,” she said, in response. “No public access will be allowed.”
The CVRD is still hopeful of a resolution in that regard.
“The CVRD is currently in discussion with 3L regarding public access to Stotan Falls,” said CVRD chair Jesse Ketler. “We continue to promote the conservation of natural assets and greenspaces of the Comox Valley for their recreational and watershed protection values. Part of this protection is offered through the Regional Growth Strategy which directs development to occur in existing core settlement areas.”
She added that a purchase of the property is not out of the realm of possibility.
“The CVRD is also undertaking a regional parks feasibility study,” Ketler said. “This is an important first step in confirming community support, and in confirming the ability to raise money to purchase lands for public use and conservation for generations to come.”
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells said he recognizes the public interest in the issue, although it’s currently not in the city’s jurisdiction.
“While Stotan Falls is outside the city of Courtenay, our council understands the significant public interest that surrounds this property,” he said in an email response. “We understand that the CVRD is in discussions with the owner with respect to public access to Stotan Falls and Courtenay supports those efforts. The city will continue looking towards the Comox Valley Regional Growth Strategy and numerous other community master plans that have been developed over many years to guide how we grow into the future.”
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