“This land is an ecosystem, with worth just because it exists.”
What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?
By JEN GROUNDWATER
Look, I’m not into otherizing and demonizing people. Call me naïve, but I think most people are trying to do the right thing in life, based on their own particular way of looking at the world.
It’s human nature to assume, “The way I see things is the way things really are.” But it’s all a question of perspective.
Take a simplistic example: 18 acres of forest. One set of people will see it as “undeveloped.” To them, it’s an opportunity waiting to be grabbed: some empty, unused land that they can turn into a nice neighbourhood with nice homes where a bunch of nice people will live. In the process, they’ll provide income for themselves, their employees, and many different tradespeople, retailers, and other people in the business of real estate.
Seen through the lens of a developer, we should waste no time developing this valuable asset.
Another set of people sees these 18 acres as a critical part of the fight against climate change. Intact forests and mature trees improve air quality, reduce energy costs, sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water cleanliness, and increase property values. This land is an ecosystem, with worth just because it exists. It’s home to many species of animals, plants and other organisms. It belongs to the community.
Seen through the lens of the climate crisis, we should make every effort to safeguard this valuable asset
A QUESTION OF WHAT IS DIRE
On December 7, Comox Council heard from developer Shawn Vincent of Simba Investments and his associate Russ Tibbles. They’re wondering what the holdup is with Simba’s most recent PLR subdivision application for an 18-acre parcel of land on Pritchard Road near Cambridge Road in Comox.
Tibbles said, “The situation is dire.” He said Simba has put in three applications so far and has been waiting for a reply since February 2022 on the third one. The developer is now taking the town to court.
Vincent explained that he was “not here to create friction; we’re trying to follow all the rules, and it’s not happening.” He mentioned several others who have also waited a very long time to replace portions of the woods in Northeast Comox with roads and buildings: Rob Leighton, Bill Toews, Chris Gage and Brian McLean. Vincent said, “We just want to do business.”
It was presented as a simple enough request. But development in 2022 should not be business as usual. When Tibbles said, “The situation is dire,” he was talking about the lack of response to Simba’s application. He seems unaware that the truly dire situation is climate change. We can’t avoid it: we’re in a climate emergency. And it literally gets worse with every new subdivision that goes in where a forest or other natural area used to be.
A particular concern of Russ Tibbles’ was the access trail through the development. Apparently, the town has asked for a 20-metre right-of-way for the trail, and this is a major sticking point. This, said Tibbles, would make the right-of-way the same width as Noel Avenue.
I’ve got to be honest here: that seems a pitifully small green space, compared to the amount of forest that Simba is planning to knock down. Again, perspective. Another way to look at it: 18 acres is 72,843.4 square metres, so a 20-metre strip of greenery doesn’t seem like a terribly huge amount to ask for.
But from Tibbles’ perspective: “It serves no purpose! It wastes valuable residential land…increases the cost of housing, decreases affordability…” and, by forcing Simba to drop another two lots, it adds another $700,000 to the cost of the remaining lots.
Wait, what? Just how much are these properties going to cost, when the lots are that expensive?! We’re clearly not talking about housing that’s affordable in any sense of the word.
So now we’re taking down a forest to build single-family homes that only a tiny percentage of people will be able to afford? And how many homes are we talking about? Forty-eight homes, at last count (the first PLR was for 64 homes). But I digress.
A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW
At the end of the council meeting, Joanne McKechnie of Save Our Forests Team Comox Valley presented Council with almost 400 signatures from citizens asking for stronger protections for Comox’s trees.
Her comment: “The 2011 OCP was approved at a time when the global climate crisis was not quite as dire as it is today. The zoning for development of forested parcels of land in the 2011 OCP no longer reflects what is best to preserve the environment in our community, nor does it reflect the best interests of the community.”
Shawn Vincent wrapped up his pitch by saying, “The conversation tonight is about 20 metres, but it’s not just about that… It’s about how we do business together and right now, it’s not great.”
Interestingly, I agree with him on this point. Just for completely different reasons.
Jen Groundwater is a professional editor and writer and a Comox resident.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
On Merville groundwater extraction it’s deja vu all over again
Regional district staff recommend approving an amended application for groundwater extraction in Merville as a “home occupation,” but rural area directors want more clarity on its legal definition
Merville water bottling issue returns to the CVRD, highlights provincial water policies
The Comox Valley Electoral Areas Service Commission will consider on Monday an amended application for water bottling operations in Merville and draw attention to larger water policy issues in British Columbia
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
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.
Wonderful conversation! Have you received the pre-application consultation notice for the development on the corner of Port Augusta and Comox Ave? If we must have more water consumers in Comox, this is sensible development. A 6-storey mixed use building combination of retail space, underground parking, and 52 residential units for pedestrian-friendly living, on a small footprint on an existing parking lot. Okay, this makes sense.
We need sewer. WE NEED SEWER. Save Kye Bay. “No services without Annexation” Courtenay and Comox say. “Let’s run a sewer line from Comox to CFB Comox to Kye Bay to Point Holmes . . .
And here you are. Annexed into Comox and ripe for developers just as they planned. Good thing we have deep pockets at the RD to supply them with services. Not sure how long Comox Lake will last once the glacier is gone. They’re like arms manufacturers needing wars only smaller scale.
Thank you for the great article. I think what Joanne McKechnie pointed out is very pertinent in these times. I hope the Town of Comox stands firm on the side of the environment and isn’t cowed by the actions of the developers.
Thank you, Jen. Your article is a good starting point for dialogue.
I would like to point out that nothing illustrates better than climate change how the economic status quo isn’t working. The pursuit of short-term profits from development only produces real prosperity if negative consequences are considered and addressed. Governments have to deliberate and even change direction at times in order to serve the long-term public interest.
Excellent points made about affordability and climate change. Great article!
Good article, there are many issues involved here. I understand the developer’s frustration with the timing, and the size of the walkway, roughly 7% of the area to be developed, or about 5 lots. However the green strips and walkways within them are what makes the developed areas more livable and allows safe non-motorized transportation. These things should never be ignored or omitted. What is needed is a plan to ensure the various paths link to create a viable network that can be used for recreation and shopping access. This unfortunately requires an overall conceptual plan that I believe is missing in the planning for development in the city.
Good article. I would like to add a few more points. Not only does taking down the forest cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem which we are slowly but surely taking out bit by bit, but there are also the added environmental stresses of building in this area. Next add the vehicles that would serve the area for the residents and all the daily commuting.
You get the picture, it goes on and on. We need to densify the core, build up not out.
I have seen firsthand, and one of the reasons we moved to the Comox Valley, what happens when an uninformed council bends to developers and condones building out over forests and farmlands.
Most people are pretty creative when posed with an issue. Perhaps we could see some creativity from planners, builders, council, etc..
I have appreciated the increased focus recently on the need for affordable housing… and while any developer can choose to propose a development they wish to pursue … it would be helpful to find ways to incentivize the development of more affordable housing. Affordable housing – really affordable – with access to transportation, schools, grocery stores and playgrounds
And leaving a forest standing so the rest of the beings (birds, mammals, insects, plants) in the Valley also have homes rather than building a subdivision of very upscale would seem… through a climate change lens … to be a better choice for the health of our Valley ecosystem.
There is a need NOW for all of us to attend to the realities right in our own backyards of how our climate is changing. It’s not somewhere else – it’s here! And it means all of us to need to make real changes in how we use the resources at hand.
Another good column. I think the valley appreciates the discussion inspiring content of these columns. Something to talk about over coffee at the A and W.
I’m no tree hugger, but I can’t see a need to knock down that woods, through which I have walked many times.
There are currently almost 400 unsold properties just in the Courtenay/Comox area not including Royston or Cumberland. Many of those more than 30 days on market. There are more being built which are not yet on the market.
Where’s the demand?
Not matter how high-sounding developers try to sound, the single reason for building more homes, is money.
Well written article Jen telling it as it is!
In the past, David Suzuki has written in a similar vein. I still have the CV Record newspaper “ViewPoint” clipping from August 5th, 2020 (pg A10) entitled “Language shapes our relationship with nature” written with contributions from the David Suzuki Foundation.
Oh that we would all become more enlightened!