Monkman Commons Update: How ‘Bout Them Roads?

Lynsey Kitching

The snow started to fall in October, quickly turning fall into winter, something the Triland International Development team for the Monkmon Commons was rolling the dice against when starting development in November in northern BC.

James Rea, owner of the company says, “You don’t normally start projects in October, you start them now. Because we were trying to meet HD’s timeline we agreed to start last fall. You never put houses in until your roads and utilities, but we did that too,” he continues in an honest manner, “This is an example of how not to develop a project.”

Rea continues, “Everybody said, ‘oh you should have been here last year. We didn’t get snow till late in the year, we didn’t get much snow.’ Of course I’m building houses so we’re going to get early snow, a lot of snow and it’s going to stick around till summertime.”

These units have been pre-purchased by HD Mining, and we all know that story.

Since the quick timeline which was initially proposed by HD mining has now slowed substantially, the development has been basically halted in order to slow down and make sure things are done right.

Rea says, “We have to make some repairs to some of the work we did in the wintertime, and we’re just waiting for the frost to thaw. We have to do some re-compaction of the area where it’s soft on Southgate. That was the last area we worked on and it might have been a little bit frozen to backfill. We had heaters, but we still think we might have put some frozen fill back in there, so we have to dig part of it out and re-compact it. We can’t do that until the frost is gone because frost can act like concrete. If you have an excavator you might pull the pipe out as well as the frost. Once it’s unfrozen, then we can dig it out carefully and put it back.”

He continues, “Looks like winter is finally letting go. That will help a lot.”

The development has started to dry up, the court case is just waiting for the verdict and Rea is hopeful work can begin again soon. He says, “It’s started to dry up really nicely on our site even from last week when I was here, it was a muddy mess. Now you can actually walk across the site without sinking into the mud. The good news is we’re almost finished with phase one and as you know HD have had their court challenge with the unions and that’s all finished. They are optimistic they’ll have an answer from the court by April 15.”

So the question looms, what if HD Mining cannot continue with their underground coal mine as it stands? What will happen to the development, will it gather dust?

Rea says no. “When we initially contracted with HD we told them if they don’t need some of the units we’ll help them sell them because the market needs affordable housing. Those are affordable.”

So how much would one of those units cost someone?

Rea replies honestly, “Not sure what HD would sell for, but probably around $200,000 a unit. That’s per level, there are two levels. The lower unit has three bedrooms and the upper unit has two. What is cool about the floor plan is you can install a door on the upstairs it will take you into the back hallway by the stairs, so if it was a family that wanted to live there, they could have a five bedroom house.”

The units themselves weren’t designed for crew housing, they were designed for the community. Rea expands, “When I designed them, I was thinking about the community. That particular home is a great floor plan because a young couple could buy one and live upstairs and rent out the basement. When they have kids, kick the tenants out and they have a five bedroom home. Fast forward 20 years and the kids are off to college, and they want more revenue they can rent out the basement suit, or move to Arizona and rent both floors. They are very versatile floor plans.”

So the timeframe for the roads around the development being fixed up is all dependant on Mother Nature, and hopefully she is ready for some spring.

Rea says they will begin work again by May 15 or June 1 at the latest.

The paving of the roads may not happen until later because Triland potentially has a second phase of the development in the works.

If that phase becomes a reality, the roads will not be paved until both phases are complete; however, all the roads will be leveled and graveled until then.

The reason for this is it is much more cost effective to pave everything at once, rather than small bits at a time, says Rea.