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The Week: buzzing about city annexation (don’t bet on it) and 3L logging (yeah, probably)
There was a lot of buzz last week about 3L Developments on-going attempt to subvert the Regional Growth Strategy in order to build 780 new houses in the Puntledge Triangle. But 3L itself generated only some of that buzz.
A group of 12 people called the Save Stotan Falls Committee triggered most of the chatter. It sprung from a full-page “advertorial” they placed in the Comox Valley Record that suggested a forward-thinking Courtenay Council would annex 3L’s property into the city. This would save millions of dollars. Increased tax revenue for Courtenay. Free land for K’omoks First Nation. Save Stotan Falls. Preserve forests.
They stopped only slightly short of guaranteeing world peace.
But the group did not mention that 3L has recently hinted at dedicating a large chunk of their land to a future convention centre — disguised as an agriplex, whatever that really means. Or that certain members of the anonymous group have promoted the centre as their personal legacy to the Comox Valley.
It’s possible that two separate purposes have aligned: If 3L gets annexed, then the good old boys get some land for their convention centre. And both are using the preservation of easy access to Stotan Falls as cover for their true intentions.
To make the scheme work, they have practically exalted the swimming hole to sacred status. It’s become a shine that commands reverence to which all else should be sacrificed. No matter that maybe five percent of the local population goes there in any given year.
So the ad created some buzz. There were rumours of a counter-petition and possibly another ad refuting the Save Stotan Falls Committee ad.
But this is all wild-eyed speculation because annexation is off the table for now.
3L Developments has not applied to the city for annexation. It would have been rejected if they had. City planners are not accepting applications for annexation at least until the current Official Community Plan review winds up.
And when the city finally formalizes a new OCP sometime next year, the smart money will bet against annexation under its new terms.
Now, the other buzz last week was about 3L sending a letter to property owners adjacent to their land. The letters said that unless the regional district reached a deal with the company to purchase the land by Jan. 21, 3L would start cutting down trees.
Reaching a multi-million dollar purchase agreement takes time. And when you’re dealing with a government that is slow-moving by nature, the two- or three-week deadline was a fantasy. More likely a PR tactic.
The company may well follow through and do some perimeter logging in a week or so, but that doesn’t preclude any eventual purchase agreement.
The letters, the full-page ad and the petition flashed brightly for a few days. But we’re back to reality now.
— Sometime next week, the Comox Valley Regional District board will gather with a special mediator and listen to Comox directors complain about how they don’t like what’s happening to the Economic Development Society (EDS).
After a similar session last fall failed to pull directors into a common vision for the society’s future role, the Town of Comox asked for a formal service review. This is a legislated process to air grievances and seek resolutions. It’s also a required step before a participant such as the town can pull out of the service.
There’s no telling how long the service review might take. During the October session, it became clear that the Comox and Area C directors had one view and the rest of the board had another. There appeared to be little common ground.
Courtenay and Area A and B directors take a broader view of what constitutes economic development. For example, they see that providing affordable housing and accessible child care helps businesses attract and retain employees.
They realize that helping small local businesses create effective and competitive online sales platforms will sustain them beyond the pandemic. They believe that maintaining and expanding mountain bike infrastructure benefits businesses across the whole community.
Comox resists these new efforts. They want the EDS to help them fund a marina expansion and keep throwing the Seafood Festival party.
It may even be more personal than that. Everyone but the Comox directors think the town has benefited from EDS activities more than everyone else and to an extent that is out of proportion to their financial investment. If the EDS moves in the direction preferred by the board majority, Comox will no longer be the centre of attention.
So, it’s possible that at the end of the service review Comox will pick up its marbles and go home. Comox might choose to follow Cumberland’s lead and set up its own Economic Development office.
In our opinion, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. If each municipality had its own economic development officer and the electoral areas had their own at the regional district, they could all focus precisely on what each area needs and wants. Once a month, the four ED officers could all get together to explore ways of working together.
Or, maybe the directors will find common ground during next week’s service review. But don’t bet on it.
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