The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection

The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection

George Le Masurier photo

The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection


This week we’re thinking about COVID in the Comox Valley, vaccines and an Island bubble. But we haven’t forgotten about 3L Developments and the Economic Development Society or how Area C Director Edwin Grieve weaves a common thread between those two controversial issues. Plus we’re having a random thought about religious zealots

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry delivered a sobering report yesterday along with new orders restricting travel and social gatherings and making it mandatory to wear masks in all public and retail indoor spaces.

Henry was reacting to the sharp rise in new COVID infections across the province, which has occurred primarily because people have let down their guard. It’s evident right here in the Comox Valley.

Before these news orders, if you walked into any local store, big or small, you could have been surrounded by people without masks. If you had peeked inside any gym or recreation centre, you might have seen people huffing and puffing without masks, sometimes where spin bikes were located in common areas.

And, good heavens, what was Comox Valley Economic Development Officer John Watson thinking when he planned a three-day Seafood Festival for last weekend? Bringing in chefs from the Lower Mainland and Ontario?

Thank goodness the North Island medical health officer stepped in and the saner minds of local hoteliers helped kill that reckless plan.


Now that the Comox Valley Regional District has rejected the idea of amending the Regional Growth Strategy — for a third time* — what will become of the 500 acres in the Puntledge Triangle that encompasses Stotan Falls? There are many possibilities.

The first option is, of course, the possibility that 3L could develop the property according to its current RU-20 zoning, which it is free to do. But a 50-acre minimum lot size won’t have wide market appeal.

Another option, one that many people fear, is that 3L will log the property and turn it into a gravel pit.

Owner Dave Dutcyvich has threatened to do this if the CVRD refuses to amend the Regional Growth Strategy to permit a high density subdivision. And he would presumably continue to deny public access to Stotan Falls and withdraw his offer of parkland.

But it’s dubious whether there is enough gravel in the ground to make such an endeavour feasible. And it wouldn’t be the first time the property has been logged.

Supporters of the company’s plan argue that maintaining access to a swimming hole used a few months of the year and the acquisition of another regional park are worth the price of giving in to 3L.

3L’s opponents and others disagree. They believe that undermining the crux of the Regional Growth Strategy would open up the floodgates for a line-up of developers just waiting for the precedent that might return us to the good old days of uncontrolled growth on less expensive rural land.

They think it’s more important to save the principle of urban containment that is embodied in the RGS.

However, 3L has more options. After a one-year waiting period, the company could try to find another local jurisdiction willing to support the idea of amending the Regional Growth Strategy. The Town of Comox, perhaps. Or the City of Courtenay.

3L could also try to convince the City of Courtenay to annex the portion of the property south of the Puntledge River. This area is closer to the city’s current boundaries and was identified by 3L — in an after-the-fact revision of their latest application — as a potential site for its Riverwood development.

But that option faces its own difficulties. While the property is identified as a future settlement expansion area, the city could not annex any piece of it without providing satisfactory servicing. Convincing the Courtenay Council to take on more long-term infrastructure debt to extend water and sewer lines seems like a long-shot.

3L probably made a mistake by not putting their revised version on the table first. It might have gotten a better reception, though not necessarily a favourable one. But flaunting essentially the same old plan that regional directors had previously rejected wasn’t a winning strategy.


In an interesting twist to this story, it was Area C Director Edwin Grieve who split with his two colleagues on the Electoral Areas Services Commission and opposed the rejection of 3L’s application.

Grieve previously opposed the company’s original application two years ago, so why would he support the application now? Especially after 3L made trouble for him over an incident they could never prove?

Grieve says it’s because he, like many others, wants the CVRD to acquire more parkland, which 3L tantalizingly dangles as a possibility, and that he want the public to always have access to Stotan Falls.

But it is curious that the company’s last-minute-but-too-late development plan revision included space for an “agriplex.” Grieve has been a champion of the original “agriplex” idea — Read: convention centre — on ALR land at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.

The non-profit entity that manages the exhibition grounds had proposed a small facility that would actually benefit the local agricultural industry. But then, a few people with special interests jumped on (stomped on?) that plan and repackaged it as a big arena for monster truck shows and country music concerts.

Given the current CVRD board, building an arena on ALR land in a flood plain probably wasn’t going anywhere. So, was 3L throwing out an enticement for Grieve to argue for consideration of the company’s revised plan? Or, was it just a coincidence?


But why would an “agriplex” appeal to Grieve? It could be tied to Grieve’s staunch support of the CV Economic Development Society even though Area C receives few if any direct benefits from the society’s activities.

Before Grieve was elected, Area C was represented on the regional board by Barry Minaker. And Minaker had the radical thought nearly a decade ago that his constituents — Area C taxpayers — weren’t getting their money’s worth from the Economic Development Society.

So Minaker floated the idea of withdrawing Area C from the service, as Hornby and Denman islands and Cumberland have done. But some other local interests didn’t want to see this happen and they helped Grieve challenge Minaker at the ballot box.

As it turns out, some of those same interests are also behind the push for an “agriplex.” There’s nothing nefarious about that. But it is an interesting connection.

— When do you know that a person has really cracked up? Just wondering, because this week American televangelist Pat Robertson prayed publicly for Satan to stop making people believe Joe Biden won the election. On the other hand, maybe this is just the average intelligence level of people who voted for Trump.


* The CVRD rejected 3L Development’ first application to amend the RGS, but were told by the courts to reconsider. They did and rejected it again. Now, the regional district has rejected the company’s application for a third time.



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The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

An orange day-lily (Latin name: hemerocallis fulva)  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral


Decafnation readers sent last week’s articles viral about the resignation of the Comox Valley Hospital’s remaining two pathologists and the troubling story of Shirley Brown, whose cancer diagnosis was delayed almost two months because of the shortage of pathologists at the Campbell River Hospital.

And it would have been even longer except that Shirley’s husband is Dr. Paul Brown, a 40-year physician who knew the system and who to call.

As Shirley’s story showed, it’s not just that long periods of uncertainty cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, although that’s bad enough, but delays can cause significant unfavourable modification in how doctors are able to treat their patients.

There is no doubt that a shortage of healthcare services available on the North Island can and will have tragic consequences.

People all over Vancouver Island are reading these stories because they realize that what happened to Shirley Brown could also happen to them. And that sad scenario becomes more likely as Island Health continues to take health care services from our hospitals and give them to private doctor corporations in Victoria.

Now that the NDP appears to have won a majority government, will our two North Island MLAs have the decency (backbone?) to intervene on behalf of their constituents?

This week’s top story reports on a recent two-day workshop where regional district directors initiated discussions about the future of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. Although directors haven’t yet taken an official vote to start exploring other — read: better — options, this movement is long overdue.

Part of the problem is evident in the list of economic strategies that regional directors want CVEDS to consider for their 2021 work plan. The list includes topics such as child care, arts and culture, the green retrofit industry, communal workspaces and more.

For too long, social and environmental values have been foreign to the old CVEDS mindset.

The shift in emphasis has upset many of the CVEDS own board of directors and especially because the regional directors have taken such an active role in setting CVEDS priorities. Three CVEDS directors have resigned recently — Bruce Turner, Justin Rigsby and Brian Yip.

But the CVRD has always had the contractual authority to set CVEDS’ priorities and direct its work plan. Previous regional directors just never chose to exercise it.

Perhaps if the CVRD had provided more meaningful oversight a long time ago, and if the CVEDS board had been more in tune with shifting community values, and if the staff had not soured some relationships within various business sectors, then maybe the political rancour over reforming the organization might not have needed to reach this point.

Not had enough politics? How about throwing your hat in the ring for the Comox Valley school board? There’s a position open in Electoral Area C after Ian Hargreaves recently resigned in a huff.

You have until Nov. 6 to pick up a nomination package at the school board offices in Courtenay.

Did British Columbia voters really elect an NDP majority government? The election night tally seems to indicate so, and everyone assumes the mail-in ballots will follow that trend.

But there are 11,500 uncounted mail-ballots in the Courtenay-Comox riding and the NDP leads the BC Liberals by about 3,000. That feels like an insurmountable margin. But it’s not yet guaranteed.

Decafnation asked a few people how they saw the preliminary results. We pointed out that the NDP appears to have gained an additional 10 percent of the total vote in the Courtenay-Comox riding, while the BC Liberals lost about six percent and the Greens gained about three percent.

BC Liberal Party candidate Brennan Day hinted that he would have a lot to say about the general tone of this campaign from Vancouver. But he was “going to reserve comment until the votes are counted.”

Dave Mills, the manager of organizing programs at the Dogwood Initiative, believes that COVID dominated voters’ perspectives. “It governed … the perception of what issues generally are most important – how the pandemic is managed.”

Mills thinks that the voters who had the capacity and felt confident enough to turn out at the polls on Election Day would be the same people “who appreciate Horgan’s centrist vision.”

Delores Broten, editor and publisher of The Watershed Sentinel, said she was waiting for the final count, “but overall, I think Bonnie Henry just got elected.”

And she credited the local Green Party for the scramble they went through to do as well as they did in a month. Candidate Gillian Anderson wasn’t even nominated until a week into the short campaign.

“So if I were the greens I would not be disappointed,” she said. “Maybe also ask the question the other way around: What happened to crushing the Greens so they would lose all their seats and just go away? They came second in several ridings which I don’t think has happened before.”

Speaking of Dr. Bonnie Henry, we’re thankful for the new guidelines to keep household gatherings down to a Safe Six, and that she expects people to wear masks in all public places. Henry stopped short of making mask-wearing a mandate. But based on our local experience, it might become necessary.

Every day, we see people in stores without masks. Just this week, the front door greeter at a prominent grocery store in the Comox business district offered a mask to a male shopper. He not only refused but did so emphatically.

Finally, a Decafnation reader wrote to us about the large, beautiful Brugmansia suaveolens plant displayed at the main Comox intersection.

“One reason the plant is banned (in many cities) is because, in small amounts, it’s hallucinogenic(!) – that is, people are reckless enough to eat it to try to get high. Perhaps wise not to mention that and encourage anyone!”

Holy Moly, if we let that get out, all the stoners from Eastern Canada will be camping on Comox Avenue in their VW buses. Shades of The Great Mushroom Rush of 1985 on Headquarters Road.










While physical distancing isn’t required within your household or your “safe six,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:


Keep a safe physical distance.
Gather in well-ventilated areas.
Clean surfaces that people often touch. 
Wash hands frequently and do not touch your face.
Limit time together indoors.
Go outdoors as much as possible.
Do not serve food buffet style.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has made no recommendation about the use of masks at private gatherings. 
But she said this week that she expects people towear masks in all indoor public places.




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