Plan for development near Stotan Falls 'didn't mesh from the get-go'

The chair of the regional district board says a developer's plan to a create a riverfront community near Stotan Falls does not jibe with the Regional Growth Strategy.

"It was unfortunate," Edwin Grieve said of 3L Developments' plan to construct homes and develop trails at the confluence of the Puntledge and Browns rivers. The proposal had also included a parkland dedication.

"When you look at the map of the Regional Growth Strategy, you can see we're trying to direct growth in the core areas, closer to servicing and close to transportation. This just basically didn't fit, and it wasn't supported either by the municipalities or by the residents of Area C. The idea was to keep urban sprawl on the south side of the Puntledge River."

The Province had mandated the board to develop an RGS for the Valley in 2008 when Grieve was first elected to the CVRD board. At that time, there was a moratorium on development until the board could develop a long-range plan. A mediator helped hammer out a final draft of the document that guides growth over the next 20 years.

Early in the process, Grieve notes, it was decided that Settlement Expansion Areas would be contained to the periphery of municipalities, enabling growth to occur next to servicing and transportation.

"Basically, this developer's idea didn't mesh from the get-go," Grieve said. "It was certainly nothing personal."

Because the RGS is reviewed every five years, 3L can apply for an amendment to consider the proposal.

The company has said it offered to donate the land to the CVRD. However, to Grieve's knowledge, 3L has not filed a formal application.

The company is now offering to sell the land for $9 million, with 3L possibly "carrying a portion of the purchase price," as stated in a letter to the district. The offer includes Stotan Falls and Bull Island. This week, the CVRD committee of the whole directed staff to look into the matter and report back at a future meeting.

3L plans to close Stotan Falls and surrounding trails indefinitely due to liability issues. Trail users could sue the company in case of an accident, spokesman Kabel Atwall said in a recent interview.

Grieve suggests an arrangement could be worked out, mindful of public desire to keep the falls open.

"I remain hopeful that we can work with 3L Developments to come up with something that would guarantee public access to this recreation area," he said.

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