With tension thick in the boardroom, with accusations of lies and corruption, slander flying back and forth, and despite 3L Developments’ last-minute tactic through Mano Theos to salvage their Riverwood subdivision, the application to amend the Regional Growth Strategy failed on a 6-4 vote
It took a dramatic three-hour board meeting fraught with accusations of lies, corruption and slander, unruly citizens standing and shouting from the gallery, several points of order and a last-minute, desperate power play, but the Comox Valley Regional District finally denied, with a 6-4 vote, an application by 3L Developments to amend the Regional Growth Strategy in their favor.
The tension was already thick in the cramped CVRD boardroom when Kathleen Pitt stepped to the podium to speak in favor of the 3L application, and then her animosity toward the board took the atmosphere to a whole other level.
Pitt attacked the board for fumbling 3L’s bid to build about 1,000 houses in the Puntledge River triangle, near Stotan Falls, suggesting there were “back room deals” and said directors told “lies” and insinuated widespread “corruption” at the CVRD.
When Pitt referenced a human rights violation by a director not at the board table, Cumberland Director Gwyn Sproule called for a “point of order,” suggesting the comments crossed over into slander. Area A Director and Board Chair Bruce Joliffe paused the meeting and Pitt eventually apologized.
But the dramatics were just getting underway.
Speaking against the 3L application, Lisa Christensen accused 3L of bullying and other nefarious tactics to force the CVRD into approving their Riverwood subdivision. That caused a man in the gallery to stand, point at the speaker and shout, “This isn’t slander?”
Joliffe stopped the meeting again to tell everyone to “calm down.” The man grabbed his coat and left the room, and not long after that Pitt also left with other 3L supporters.
The board eventually got down to business and the gallery quieted down, temporarily.
On the table were reports from the CVRD Technical Advisory Committee and the 3L Steering Committee that both recommended the board deny the 3L application at first reading. You can read the reports here or here.
But 3L had also asked the board to postpone first reading and extend the timeframe for considering their application by around six months. Company spokesperson Mark Holland said the company had applied in 2014 when certain studies on traffic and environmental concerns weren’t required as they are in 2017. 3L has not completed these studies.
That’s when Alternate Area C Director Curtis Scoville brought a sharp focus to the board discussion.
Scoville said it sounded like the board was discussing two separate issues: one, the application by 3L to amend the RGS to create a new settlement node; and, two, a desire by some directors to review and update the RGS.
“Shouldn’t we treat these two separately?” he asked.
Alana Mullaly, the CVRD’s Manager of Planning Services, responded that the key difference between Scoville’s two issues was that an RGS document would be reviewed when the board felt key principles were no longer valid, that it’s goals weren’t current or that the community no longer shared a value expressed in the RGS.
But, she said, the CVRD’s Regional Growth Strategy is the only RGS in the province that allows applications for amendment from a private third party, such as 3L. In the other regional districts, only a member municipality — for example, Comox, Cumberland or Courtenay — could apply to amend an RGS.
Comox Director Barbara Price then made a motion to approve the staff recommendation to deny the 3L application.
But before the board finishing discussing the motion and called for a vote, Courtenay Director Mano Theos suddenly announced he had “new information from the applicant.”
That surprised everyone because it was the first indication from Theos that he had such information. He was seated directly in front of the 3L owner and representatives, about three feet away.
Theos asked the board to allow 3L spokesperson Mark Holland, a Vancouver urban planner hired by the company just days before the meeting, to speak.
Holland told the board that if it proceeded to a vote on first reading, as per Price’s motion, without first considering 3L’s request for a postponement and extension, then 3L would withdraw its application entirely. He said the company didn’t want to be judged on 2017 requirements when they had applied in 2014.
The gallery, which by that time comprised mostly 3L opponents, rose back to life with rumblings of delight: “Perfect, withdraw,” and “exactly what we want.”
After much more discussion, Erik Eriksson voted with Larry Jangula, Mano Theos and Ken Grant to oppose the motion, but the six other directors voted in favor.
3L Developments can still reapply to amend the RGS, but they have a narrow window to do so.
The CVRD is itself in the process of amending the Regional Growth Strategy to no longer allow private party applications to amend the document. That will bring the Valley’s RGS in line with the province’s other regional districts.
That amendment could pass as early as next month.George Le Masurier