Since 2005, the ISLA volunteer boards have worked to find a way to get affordable home ownership housing on the land donated by the Weiss family. We could all envision the Beulah Creek Village project – but finding a way to fund it and make it happen has been a challenge.
We finally felt we had made a huge step forward last November 2016 when, with the help of Peter Wardle, we submitted plans for Phase 1 of a 30-lot bare land strata subdivision to MOTI (Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure).
Then, in February 2017, we received notification from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) that our application as it was structured would trigger the requirement to conform to the regulations of a CPCN, (Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience). This is administered through the Water Comptroller’s office at the BC Utilities branch.
Not knowing exactly what a CPCN entailed and how much it would cost, Katherine Ronan and Bernhard Weiss launched an in-depth investigation. They contacted government agencies, land developers, civil engineers and land surveyors for information and guidance on this legislation. Few had experience with CPCNs and those who had, warned us that it was extremely onerous, time consuming and expensive. It would require that we form a new corporation (a water utility), build the system to municipal standards, file multiple reports annually and post several very hefty bonds.
The approving officer at the Ministry Of Transportation and Infrastructuere (MOTI) confirmed this and added that a CPCN makes any subdivision of less than 100 (market value) lots financially unviable.
We needed to find a way around this dilemma. In June, we met with the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) to seek assistance finding a solution and to request financial support. The Regional District flatly told us that they refuse to be involved in any way with a private water utility corporation and, instead, recommended that we drill 30 separate wells – one per lot – a solution we felt was both unacceptable and environmentally insensitive.
By the beginning of the summer we were extremely disheartened but decided to make one last ditch effort to find a developer with experience working in rural areas where there was no municipal water or services. Chris LeFevre was our man. He met with us at Beulah Creek in July and was impressed with both the property and with the work the board had done to date. He confirmed that doing a bare land strata subdivision requiring a CPCN would make the project unfeasible financially and encouraged us to focus on a project that did not require subdivision.
We then met with Bernhard Weiss to discuss the CPCN quandary and he concurred that a bare land strata subdivision was out of the question and that, for now, a rental project was the most feasible solution. He and his wife Christa agreed to remove the stipulation from the covenant that, “at any one time only 1/3 of the units could be rentals.”
This opened the door for us to begin discussions with BC Housing. In August 2017, we invited Malcolm McNaughton, the BC Housing Director of Regional Development for Vancouver Island, to visit Hornby. He was enthusiastic about the property and the state of development. He was confident that BC Housing would consider facilitating a mortgage for both the servicing of the land as well as for building up to 20 rental units. He suggested a rental model similar to Elder Housing, which is considered an ideal self-sustaining project.
And here we are now – embarking on an application with BCHousing. We will keep you posted.
(Karen Brown, September 2017)