CVRD directors overlook their Regional Growth Strategy to expedite an application by 3L Developments to amend the RGS that would enable a 740-house project on the Browns and Puntlege rivers near Stotan Falls

BREAKING: In another surprising twist to the 3L Developments  proposal for Stotan Falls, the July 17 Committee of the Whole vote that defeated a motion to consider the issue via the minor amendment process has been overturned. The motion has now passed on a 5-3 simple majority, and it will be recommended to the entire Comox Valley Regional District board later this month that the 3L application for an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy be considered by the minor amendment process. When the full board votes, however, a two-thirds majority will be required.

Here is a statement from the CVRD legislative services team:

“In preparing the minutes for yesterday’s (July 17) Committee of the Whole meeting, Regional District staff considered the issue of whether the Committee’s vote on the process for proceeding with the amendment to the RGS proposed by 3L Development required a two-thirds majority or a simple majority vote for the Committee to recommend to the Board that it proceed as a minor amendment. Having reviewed the Regional District’s Procedure Bylaw, the RGS, and the applicable statutes, staff are of the view that there is an arguable issue as to the required vote. In the circumstances, and as the RGS makes clear that the determination of whether an amendment is a minor amendment must be made by the Board, staff have concluded that it is fair and reasonable to resolve the issue in favour of the applicant and have prepared the Minutes to reflect that the motion to proceed with the amendment as a minor amendment was carried on a simple majority vote of 5 to 3.  By doing so, the matter will properly be on the agenda for the upcoming Board meeting and the Board will be in a position to fulfill its duty to determine, if the amendment is initiated, on a two-thirds majority basis whether the amendment will proceed as a minor amendment or, in default, as a standard amendment”

The original story follows …

For Comox Valley Regional District directors Bob Wells and Rod Nichol, expediency justifies circumventing a requirement of the board’s own Regional Growth Strategy.

Wells and Nichol were two of five directors to vote July 17 in favor of considering a proposal by 3L Developments to change the RGS as a minor amendment, rather than through the standard amendment process.

The two directors joined Larry Jangula, Ken Grant and Bruce Jolliffe to support a motion to proceed via the minor amendment process.

Erik Eriksson, Curtis Scoville and Barbara Price voted against the motion.

It was the second time for directors to vote on the issue. On July 10, they defeated the motion with only Grant and Jangula supporting it.

But the board had voted at that time after hearing incorrect information that a future unanimous vote in the minor amendment process would be required for the proposal to pass first reading. In fact, only a majority vote would be required at first reading.

So when the board’s Committee of the Whole reconvened a week later, on July 17, and voted again after discussing the corrected information and another hour of debate on the matter.

What’s surprising about the vote is that the CVRD’s Regional Growth Strategy clearly states the criteria that a proposed amendment must meet in order to be considered through the minor amendment process.

Area B Director Nichol asked CVRD staff to display section 5.2.3(a) of the RGS, which refers to the “criteria under which a proposed amendment to the RGS may be considered a minor amendment:”

It can be minor, if it is not regionally significant, contributes to the goals and objectives of the RGS, contributes to achieving the general principles in the RGS, and is not directly related to enabling a specific proposed development.

Nichol then went through each criterion and explained why, in his opinion, the 3L proposal did not meet any of them. But he voted in favor anyway.

Wells expressed similar difficulty with the criteria.

After the meeting Wells told Decafnation that he voted in favor of the minor amendment process anyway because he was satisfied the board “could still get a fulsome and meaningful” review of the 3L proposal “equivalent to the standard amendment” process.

Wells said his concern was the timeline for responses from other governments required under the standard amendment process, which “from my experience can be significant, and it seemed very unclear there would be any benefit.”

Nichol said the board has “inherited an issue that should have been decided a long time ago.”

“Yes, it did not meet all the requirements, but I firmly believe we can come up with a decision that conforms with the wishes of the people.”

Director Eriksson, who opposed the minor amendment process, said the 3L Developments proposal for 740 houses at Stotan Falls is a significant change to the Regional Growth Strategy.

“I’ve been critical of the RGS in the past,” he said. “But it reflects the aspirations of the public.”

The mayors of each municipality and the electoral area directors signed a protocol on “managing growth in the Comox Valley” in September of 2006. That lead to the development of the RGS, which was adopted in March 2011.

The Regional Growth Strategy is the culmination of considerable public input, negotiation among elected officials and feedback from local government staff through the board’s Technical Advisory and Steering committees.

But five directors, including Wells and Nichol, ignored that work for the sake of moving along consideration of the 3L Developments proposal a little bit quicker.

And 3L Developments has been trying to get CVRD approval for a long time.

It has been 11 years since 3L Development founder Dave Dutcyvich originally proposed to build a self-contained riverfront community on 550 acres between the Browns and Puntledge rivers, north of Courtenay.

His company has offered to donate 260 acres for a public park that includes access to the popular swimming area known as Stotan Falls.

3L spokesman Kabel Atwall said they have grown weary of the delays that have prevented them from going ahead with their project. Atwall said consulting other regional districts, as a standard amendment process requires, could “spin the whole process out of control.”

Dutcyvich also spoke to the board prior to its vote on July 17.

“There’s a lot of money tied up (in the project), and it has to come to an end some time,” he said. “I don’t want the red tape, I want the red carpet.”

George Le Masurier

DecafNation