Public Hearing held on Cottonwood Apartment

Cottonwood packed the house, again, but this time, instead of individuals turning out to support the project, dozens of people crowded the council chambers at the special meeting on March 11, to voice their concerns over the town’s proposed partnering agreement with the developer.

Iles began with a brief history of the apartment building, the District of Tumbler Ridge?s relationship with 680419 BC Ltd. Corporation and the deal that was struck between the Town and this corporation surrounding the development of Cottonwood into a hotel ?As Mayor I have to have the courage and confidence to go ahead and make a decision. The worst thing that could happen is that we get cold feet and walk away.?

Each of the Councillors followed with comments surrounding this issue, most notably Councillor Colledge, ?A lot of people have attacked Council with assumptions and accusations,? says College, ?I have been physically pushed up against a wall and had fingers pointed in my face. Everything can?t be public knowledge due to the Privacy Act, this developer has been treated with the same respect and privacy that you would expect.?

Although the motion was tabled due to a print error and the meeting was adjourned, Mayor Iles opened the floor for discussion. Many people in the audience had questions, and two formal documents were presented to Council.

Carolyn Tanas questioned the Covenant that was signed between the developer and the District. She also asked why the people were not told about this deal in January when at a Public Meeting ?we were told that the Town had no further interest in this property.?

We are against the procedure, we are for this deal?, says Gary St. Angelo owner and operator of Golden Aspen Bed and Breakfast. In his 15 minute presentation St. Angelo raised many concerns that he and others have.

Foremost, Wilderness Lodge is being portrayed as a hotel ?but according to documentation,? says St. Angelo, ?this is primarily a timeshare.? Through the course of his presentation he raised many other issues ncluding ?inadequate performance clauses, no penalties in place for non-performance, taxation rate and no restriction as to the minimum rack room price.

?What is our protection in this deal?? asked one concerned resident. ?We need to have a return on our investment. This return could be used to diversify the town.?

In a subsequent conversation on these concerns with Nigel Black, CAO refutes the claim that the District has an interest in the building. ? We have had the developer agree to a covenant, which restricts the use of the property. This was done to protect the best interests of the community while we were negotiating the proposed partnering agreement. We did not want the developer to be in a position where he could simply sell the units as condos after the sale by the District.?

Black says that the registered owner will be entitled to use the suite for a maximum of 42 days per year. ?The rest of the time it will be used in a hotel capacity. This would indicate to me that the primary use is hotel and not in fact a time-share.?

Black added Council felt conditions outlined in the agreement were adequate and development will operate under the same tax laws that all properties are subject to in the community and in British Columbia. ?Council?s direction was to encourage additional investment in the building not to add so many conditions to the agreement that it would discourage the developer from proceeding with the project.? Black says Council feels the return on investment to the community will be in the future tax dollars raised by this development which was previously non-taxable and in the various economic and employment spin offs that will accompany the development.

Towards the end of the meeting a visibly frustrated Iles asked the crowd, do you want us to defeat this motion?? The response from most everyone was ?NO! We want full discussion on this.?

Although the general tone from those gathered seemed negative there were people who supported Mayor and Council?s position at this meeting. ? We were afraid to speak up,? says one woman after the meeting was over. Another resident added, ?There?s just too many people in this town who think they are lawyers.?