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Stotan Falls petition called “trojan horse,” 3L serves notice of logging Jan. 21

Jan 5, 2021 | Government, Latest Feature

By George Le Masurier

It’s a brand new year but the controversy over 3L Developments battle to build a 780-house subdivision in the Puntledge Triangle carries on.

An unknown person or group of people calling themselves the Save Stotan Falls Committee have started a petition to persuade Courtenay City Council to annex the 3L Development property.

At the same time, 3L Developments has sent letters to property owners adjacent to its 500 acres between the Puntledge and Browns rivers notifying them that the company will start logging on Jan. 21.

“Please be advised that the owner of the lands adjacent to your back yards (3L Developments) is currently attempting to sell its lands to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). The purpose of this proposed transaction is to enable the CVRD to establish parkland, trails and public access to the lands and Puntledge River. However, should the CVRD fail to come to an agreement with 3L, we will be commencing with clearing and timber harvesting,” the letter states.

3L President David Dutcyvich signed the letter. He says it will take about one week to complete the land clearing.

The regional district began the process of establishing a regional park service in December that is necessary to fund and maintain large regional parks such as the Puntledge Triangle property or the Bevan Trails recreation area. But it’s unlikely that service will be functional in the next two weeks and able to meet Dutcyvich’s logging deadline.

However, not everyone considers some immediate land clearing of the property a justification for not following due process.

Area A Director Daniel Arbour told Decafnation today that “the property has already been extensively logged, and the owner is within his rights in that regard. Most landowners see themselves as stewards of their lands, but some don’t.”

Grant Gordon, a nearby resident, told Decafnation that the 3L property has already been logged several times. Gordon believes the bigger issue at stake is 3L’s assault on the Regional Growth Strategy and the community’s will to keep rural areas “rural.”

Gordon calls the Save Stotan Falls Committee petition a trojan horse.

“Because it isn’t about Saving Stotan Falls. It’s about moving real estate along the river and changing the Regional Growth Strategy, making room for more single-family housing to the detriment of more fiscally responsible infilling of existing municipal areas,” Gordon told Decafnation today.

“There is no way that more people living closer to those falls is going to be good for Stotan Falls through annexation,” he said. “If people want to Save Stotan Falls then they should lobby their provincial government to get back control of the riverways granted to the E&N Railway in 1879.”

Gordon is urging people not to sign the petition, which is also up on the Change.org website.

He said the petition may be well-intentioned, “but it basically demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the RGS and if it was successful it would condemn any natural component of Stotan Falls due to destruction. It would also set back the infilling initiatives of other developers that are occurring now due to the restrictions created by the RGS.”

Decafnation reached out to Dave Mellin, a retired Courtenay business person, who has made presentations to the regional district board and Courtenay council about saving Stotan Falls. We asked if he was behind the petition.

He declined to comment for this story.

The petition reads, “Please read and sign this petition and join us in convincing Courtenay City Council to annex the 3L Development Lands into the City of Courtenay, dramatically reducing the size of the development and saving the 300 acres around Stotan Falls for generations to come! This land will be donated to the community and is worth $14 million- $16 million dollars!

“This key addition to the Puntledge River Greenway offers recreation access for swimming, hiking, mountain biking, walking, fishing, salmon enhancement, white water kayaking, palaeontology, and bird watching just to name a few.

“This would make Stotan Falls the fourth largest park in the Comox Valley. This aligns with a major goal of the 20-year Regional Growth Strategy for the Comox Valley…”to protect, steward and enhance the health of the natural environment and ecological connections”. – that we ALL share.”

A lively discussion on various social media pages speculates that the anonymous petition organizers may be working on behalf of 3L, as their latest attempt to push the Riverwood subdivision through local governments.

If the petition is presented to the City of Courtenay, the venue of the debate will shift from the regional district to City Council but the arguments may remain the same: amend the Regional Growth Strategy or not.

Area A Director Arbour says Courtenay councillors will have to consider the broader implications.

“Annexing the lands into the City of Courtenay may risk more urban sprawl and a threat to agricultural and forestry lands. All the jurisdictions would still have to come together to consider the implications on the Regional Growth Strategy,” he said. “Courtenay would also have to consider how this fits in relation to their new OCP, which appears to favour densification.”

In a comment on Facebook, another nearby resident, Lisa Benard Christensen said, “That petition has little to do with saving the falls. From the comments of the people signing. I would think they do not know what they are asking for. They do not understand what it means for Courtenay to annex the lands. That annexation would come at a huge cost.

“We would be telling developers we don’t hold to our hard-won long term plans, that we don’t mind urban sprawl long before areas that are easier to provide transit and services to are infilled.

“It would take away from the rural feel of the area, allowing a concentrated block of 1000+ families and their guests and pets to take it over.

“Anyone that thinks that tiny falls recreation area could withstand that influx let alone still have room for the nostalgic outsiders to enjoy it is kidding themselves.

“This petition is basically a Trojan horse. A flashy statement meant to appeal to people’s nostalgia and their frustration at being denied access. It encourages a snap decision, hoping they don’t read too much into what annexation would actually do to the area.

“The best way to save the falls is to hold strong to our RGS and not allow this urban sprawl to occur. The price is too high. Don’t believe the illusion, research fully before you sign anything. Much is at stake here.”

Area C Director Edwin Grieve said the regional district is looking into resurrecting the regional parks service that was never rescinded but has been on mothballs for 25 years. 

“Everything moves at the laborious “speed of government” so it all takes time but, once the parks service bylaw is active, it is possible for the CVRD to go to the Municipal Financial Authority and borrow money at a very low-interest rate over an extended period against that,” he told Decafnation.

“Dave (Mellin) and the boys are correct in realizing that any development south of the Puntledge River would be in Courtenay’s settlement expansion area and it clearly says in the RGS that “services would be extended through annexation into the Municipality,” he said. “Once the land is out of the Electoral Area, the 4-hectare minimum lot size and many more restrictive regulations could cease to apply.”

This article has been updated to include Director Grieve’s comments and to correct that he referred to Dave Mellin.

 

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