“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.” — Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor | George Le Masurier photo
The Week: Strong CV women in charge. What did 3L pay? Plus, CVEDS bungles, Comox raises
This week we’re all about 3L Developments (again), more head-shaking activity from the CV Economic Development Society (again) and ditto (again) for the Comox Town Council.
But first, let’s congratulate Jesse Ketler and Arzeena Hamir on their re-election as chair and co-chair of the Comox Valley Regional District board. Two strong women at the helm. We’re in good hands.
And kudos to another strong woman who joined the CVRD board this week. Courtenay Councillor Melanie McCollum replaced David Frisch as one of the city’s four regional directors.
— Decafnation has received information that back in 2007, 3L Developments Inc. might have paid somewhere around $1.5 million to purchase the four parcels of land totalling nearly 500 acres in what’s being called the Puntledge Triangle.
We have not verified that number, nor have we seen any official documents that list the 2007 sale price.
But for the last 13 years, the company has tried to persuade the regional district to abandon its Regional Growth Strategy and rezone the properties for a dense urban-style subdivision.
Those four parcels today have an assessed value of $4.222 million. We got those numbers directly from the BC Assessment website.
If the sale price is even close to accurate, then 3L has enjoyed a significant increase in value. Of course, it’s nothing near the profit the company would have realized if the regional district had approved a rezoning.
Did 3L ever really plan to develop the property itself? Or, was its end-plan only to get the parcels rezoned, which would have made the land much more valuable, and then flip the parcels to some other developer?
We’ll never know.
Instead, the debate now shifts to whether the regional district should attempt to purchase the property from 3L Developments. Buying the property for parkland and securing public access to Stotan Falls would certainly win popularity points with the general public. But taking on more parkland is expensive.
There’s no indication yet that regional directors have any interest in negotiating a purchase.
And who knows how they feel after hearing company spokesperson Rob Buchan’s sales pitch to them this week. Buchan said 3L prefers to sell the land to the regional district. But, if you don’t buy the property, he intimated the company would clear-cut the trees and turn the site into a gravel pit. We’ll turn your jewel into a blight.
Not exactly a feel-good proposition.
But the company is certainly entitled to do those things. And if their only interest is self-interest, then that’s probably what will happen.
— Does the CV Economic Development Society need to fold its tent? Representatives of the three electoral areas, Courtenay, Comox and the regional district will start seeking an answer to that question on Jan. 19.
Regional directors had planned for the full board to assess the future of CVEDS over the next year. But the Comox Town Council decided unanimously to derail that plan and trigger a quicker statutory service review.
What’s the difference? First, a smaller group will negotiate whether there’s any common ground to save the 32-year-old society; and, second, if Comox doesn’t like the outcome of the review, then they can officially withdraw from the service.
Given the Economic Development Society’s recent missteps, the outcome may already be a foregone conclusion. The directors from Courtenay and Electoral Areas A and B are not happy. While the directors from Comox and Area C would preserve the society in its present form if they could. That’s a 3-2 straight-up vote.
And CVEDS has not helped its chances for survival recently. Consider that:
1) CVEDS staff planned a three-day seafood festival during the second pandemic wave in November without the knowledge of its own board of directors or the CVRD or the Comox Valley Regional District. The North Island Public Health department had to step in and when hoteliers got uncomfortable, the event was shut down.
Bringing in guests and featured chefs from the Lower Mainland and Ontario had the potential to create a COVID super-spreader event.
2) The society’s board of directors have not seen or approved any financial statements for 11 months. This not only contravenes the Societies Act, but it’s also an affront to Comox Valley taxpayers who fund the organization.
3) The society has not held an Annual General Meeting for 17 months. Again, in conflict with the Societies Act.
4) CVEDS signed a new two-year contract with the regional district in late July, and then quickly forgot most of it. The society is already in contravention of the agreement and has missed several contractual deadlines.
And then there’s this:
5) On March 12, the local hotels and assorted other accommodation facilities that voluntarily contribute funds to the Municipal and Regional District Tax program (MRDT) — often called the “hotel tax” — decided at their annual budget meeting to help fund mountain biking in Cumberland.
The MRDT group voted to donate $10,000 per year for three years to support the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) that maintains the biking trails in the Cumberland Forest and organizes events.
The hoteliers also agreed to donate an additional $5,000 per year for three years as prize money for those events to increase participation and potential overnight stays in the Valley.
But several months later, UROC hadn’t received any money. After Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird phoned some of the hoteliers about the funds it was discovered that CVEDS staff had apparently and unilaterally decided to withdraw the donations.
This infuriated the hoteliers because, well, it’s their money and they get to decide how to spend it.
Does this sound like a well-run organization, one that deserves to continue receiving more than a million dollars a year of local taxpayers’ money?
If you have strong feelings about that one way or the other, you might want to let your representative in Comox, Courtenay or the three electoral areas know before Jan. 19.
— Finally, this week, the Comox town councillors think they might be underpaid.
At its Nov. 18 meeting, the council voted to undertake a review of remuneration for the mayor and council. Keep in mind that one of the first things this council did after taking office in 2018 was to vote themselves a 14 percent pay increase.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic. People have lost jobs. Businesses have closed or lost significant profitability. If this second wave of COVID infections continues to surge, the province might impose even more negative economic impacts.
It’s possible this council might be tone-deaf.
But it is true that Comox council salaries are a little below the average of comparable municipalities. Of course, chasing the average just raises the average. You never get there. It’s like a dog chasing its tail.
That said, however, we have no argument with compensating elected officials fairly. The good ones put in long hours.
Maybe it’s just the optics that feel wrong about this. Comox councillors obviously want to raise their salaries early next year because municipal elections loom the following year. And from a political perspective, it’s better if voters forget about two wage hikes during one term in office before the polls open in 2022.
The citizens advisory group that will study and recommend whether Comox councillors deserve a second raise will comprise just three people, including one former councillor. We think a larger, more representative group of Comox taxpayers might be more objective.
And who will choose and appoint this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) neutral group? Why the town’s chief administrative officer, of course, who is employed at the pleasure of the mayor and council.
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The Week: Give us full transparency when paid ‘volunteers’ work with CV students
Faith-based volunteers can contribute positively to the educational experience in our public schools but everyone must be perfectly clear about who they are, what they can and cannot do and school administrators must monitor their activity closely and consistently
What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?
A Comox Valley developer is suing the Town of Comox because his permits to cut down trees and build more single-family homes haven’t been issued as fast as he’s wanted and because the town wants a wider walking trail through the property
The Week: Ken Grant fined by Elections BC and Parksville confronted by development, water issues
Another Comox Councillor was fined by Elections BC for violating BC elections laws, plus Parksville’s water supply is unable to meet provincial requirements for summer water flow in the Englishman River let alone provide water for a proposed 800-unit development
THE WEEK: As Puntledge River goes lower, Colorado drinking recycled wastewater
A serious fall drought has reduced flows in the Puntledge River, shutting down hydroelectric power generation for the first time in 55 years. Meanwhile, many states eye sending treated wastewater to kitchen taps
THE WEEK: Let the people have a larger voice at Comox Valley council meetings
Making it easier for citizens to speak directly to municipal councils might increase public interest in local government, which in turn might encourage more registered voters to actually cast a ballot
The Week: Comox, Cumberland appointments pass, but no word on Courtenay … yet
Cumberland and Comox municipal councils approve their mayor’s annual appointments, but Courtenay was a no show at its inaugural meeting. Is there conflict behind the scenes?
The Week: Valley councils begin new terms, but will Comox ignore voters?
Dr. Jonathan Kerr topped the polls with voters, but will that resonate at the Comox Town Council as it is poised to approve new Mayor Nicole Minions’ appointments and assignments?
THE WEEK: Water supplies are good, fireworks are bad and where Daniel Arbour lives
Despite the long drought this summer, Comox Valley water system supplies have not been threatened; the BC Wildfire Service has banned fireworks this year and clarifying Daniel Arbour’s place of residence
Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it
It was weird. But when the sun rose on Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.
A few random items as the 2022 election comes to a close
Long-time public official Bronco Moncrief dies, Manno Theos hangs out in Greece, and Daniel Arbour reacts to lies about his campaign finances
we really appreciated you exposing those Parasites .May be we can talk McGeorge Le Masurier to do a article on the Regional District of Month Waddington exactly the same crap just a different BUCKET . Why tell the truth when a good Lie will do.
Being new to the area, it is often difficult to access situations because you lack the background it has come through. The thing that always gets my attention is the large number of elected officials in the Comox Valley. Add to that the large number of committees with large boards. Add to that some Non-profit groups. It appears to me that a lot of the groups have become redundant. Is it time for a Comox Valley restructure?
Do we need a CVED? Do we need a Courtenay Recreation Association? Has four local Governments in the Comox Valley become overkill?
If we amalgamated could we hire in some high powered, highly knowledge council to play hardball right back at 3L? Seems to me a by-law stating what needs to be proven present and guarantees that production can produce a sufficient amount of product would put an end to that gravel pit.
Paul has his pet peeves – I have mine. The lack of financial accountability. Are we under Trump administration? Get those numbers in on time for a professional, hired in audit. Would taxpayers like what we see?
First, big thanks to George for this outstanding reporting. Such valuable information for residents and taxpayers.
Second, congratulations to Jesse Ketler, Arzeena Hamir, Melanie McCollum, and taxpayers who care about what the CVRD looks like in the future. Stick to your values and what you know is right for the valley and our environment and we’ll definitely be in good hands.
As for the CVEDS, no question it needs to fold. Sooner the better. Too many problems, rule violations, and examples of poor judgement. Time to move economic planning and development forward on a better foundation.
As for 3L, you can’t blame a developer for trying to make a profit. Unfortunately, this appears to be one bad decision (sale/purchase of the land) followed by a sequence of desperate attempts (now threats) to ensure a ROI. Someone wants their money back. Is this a scenario where the Nature Conservancy of Canada could play a role? Can’t imagine 3L prefers a gravel pit as their local legacy.
Thanks for another great story George. I think most people who follow the increasingly bizarre activities of CVEDS agree that it’s time for it to disappear. Can anyone think of anything positive they’ve created lately?
To me, the worst part is the total lack of transparency and accountability from its director John Watson. Instead of facing the constant criticism and uncertainty directly, he just refuses to engage, avoiding any comment and failing to provide justifications for what he and his staff do. CVEDS is funded with taxpayer money and I’m so tired of the smoke and mirrors games they play. I cannot understand why this is tolerated by the board and/or whomever the board is accountable to.
Yes , George is very professional in his writing.Three important topics , covered well. Only 5 comments from about 70,000 constituents in the CRVD.
It would be nice if some society would buy 3l lands, but it looks like CVRD taxpayers need to male the leap. Who would object?
3L continues to demonstrate that they don’t understand the land they own. For the same reason they can’t get enough ground water for development they won’t find much gravel … bedrock. Just look at Storms Falls. Lots and lots of bedrock!!
There continues to be Four or Five local Governments in the Comox Valley Region. Each has its own set of bylaws, to maintain and administer. Life is good for those employed in secure, decent paying jobs with benefits. The services provided are good. We live a beautiful place, any where within the CVRD.
All is well for those with good incomes or pensions. The question is, are Four or five administrations affordable to the 30 percent or so of low income Comox Valley residents who live here, many working at minimum wage, with no benefits and still have to handle the rent increase that come from local government taxation, which is continually above the rate of inflation?
We do need the best people representing constituents. We have a great place to live, and we need people of vision to maintain this.
Every election, we are fortunate to have more that enough candidates to chose from. Compnensation does not seem to be an issue.
These are difficult time for many who may not see their jobs survive COVID 19.
The timing is not right for a raise.
My two pet peaves, 3L and CVED…both in one article…..
With 3L, it always appears to be the Carrot or the Stick! …stick it to the
With CVED, should never have happened…lots of money wasted there! Visitors centre and highway sign, just to mention two.
The CVRD could have bought this property and put their new offices on it instead of spending how many millions in downtown Courtenay? The resort town that I lived in before moving to the valley voted themselves raises. They felt they had to be paid the same amount of money as the Vancouver mayor and council. The CEO of the municipality was making $250,000. a year. Where does it stop? Hubris and greed. How many governing bodies do we need and how much more do we need to spend on these these governing bodies? Why can we not amalgamate and save money so we can afford to buy parkland? A very informative and well written article.