“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.
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