North Rivers gets extra year to finish development

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

Kelowna-based North Rivers Developments has been granted an extra year to finish construction at Lot 1, Plan 33844 on Willow Drive here in Tumbler Ridge.

The property was rezoned in 2012 to allow for residential, multi-family developments, and construction started last year on the property.

In a letter to the District asking to have the current two year covenant removed, Guy Jean of North Rivers says “the constant personnel changes at City Hall have created extensive delays in construction, which has extended our construction schedule.”

District CAO doesn’t think that’s the only reason. “They’re pointing fingers at the District, but that’s only part of the problem.”

Elliott has talked to Jean and says, while he doesn’t want to speak for Jean, he knows the developer has had a tough few months, including losing his business partner and suffering through the impacts of the mine closure. He proposed giving the developer a two-year extension, but council decided to only offer one year from the end of the current covenant, which is January 4, 2015.

The first building of the development went up last year, but since then, very little work has been done on the property. Elliott says that, after receiving the letter, he discussed an extension to the covenant rather than removing it. “I talked to him about it, and he agreed to it verbally. If we take this to him and he says ‘no this isn’t what I wanted,’ then the project dead in the water. He only has until later this calendar year to finish it. The ball is firmly in his course.”

One of the biggest issues facing the development has been how to get both storm and sanitation sewers put into the property.

According to Elliott, they were able to get all the other sewers brought into the property—water, cable, electrical—from Willow Drive, but the developer wasn’t able to hook up sewer from that side. “Because where the lines are located has the water line far too close to the sewer line. They would not be able to meet the requirements for Northern Health and the Building Code to keep those two apart.

For the last few months, says Elliott, they’ve been “haggling” over how to get the sewer lines into the property.

“We are in the process of finalizing purchase agreement for sliver of property between property that developer owns and Cottonwood,” says Elliott. “The property that they are purchasing will just about reach Steeprock sign, but it won’t affect the sign itself.”

Elliott says that, once the Purchase/Sale Agreement is signed by the parties involved, as it was in this instance in December, 2012, the Purchase/Sale Agreement itself is then finished. “It is then the covenants, options, etc. that are registered at the time of land transfer become the documents governing the relationship between the District and the purchaser. Without a covenant in place, there would be nothing the District could rely on in order to ensure the development is properly completed to the satisfaction of the District.”

The issue was discussed at the most recent council meeting. Councillor Tim Snyder says that if council does give him the extended timeline, he would want to see progress, possibly with monthly updates. However, Elliott says that winter soon will be upon us, and so there is not going to be much construction during those months.

“The developer is working hard on getting this done,” says Elliott. “We are trying to help him get that done and will be monitoring that. Once council and the developer agree to an extension, that’s your control point.”

Elliott says that, if the developer doesn’t finish in the allotted time, there are a number of things council can do. They can grant him another extension. Or, council could chose to take the security deposit and use that money to finish the development, or council could purchase the property back. “That is your hammer,” says Elliott.

The site has also received complaints for being “an eyesore.” Elliott says that the District can use unsightly property bylaws to force the developer into making the property look nicer.

However, he doesn’t expect that will be the case, at least for this year. “I don’t expect there will be anything done with the property between now and freeze-up, but we’re not going to be moving forward on an unsightly bylaw,” says Elliott. “We know that it’s an active construction site.”

“I’m having bad feelings about this already,” says Councillor Snyder, who proposed the one-year extension alternative.

Councillor Don McPherson agrees. “How long does it take to build something? Two years is just too long. Give him a year. We want to see this thing finished. It just seems to take so long to build anything in this town, but it feels like a year and four months would be plenty of time.”

Elliott says that, once the issue of the sewer lines are settled, he expects that construction will continue ahead, though it will most likely be next building season before anything happens on the ground.

“The fellow there now is sincere and has every intention to do it and do it well,” says Elliott. “There’s been challenges, but we’ve been facing them together.”