Janice and Ken Hiles are VanIsle couple who are trying to give back to the Cowichan Valley.
But far from accepting the gift with open arms, the Cowichan District is instead…giving them a headache.
The couple bought a beautiful piece of property on the Cowichan River with the intention to develop it back in 2018.
It included “Little Beach,” a 600-foot stretch of waterfront property that gets used as a pull-out for the thousands of tubers that are on the river every summer.
As it was already a favourite public spot, the couple decided they might as well donate it and another section of their property to be used as parkland.
What? Potential developers decided to do something incredibly cool for the community? That’s amazing!
They were happy with their decision and even said so as part of the rezoning application for the rest of their property.
And that’s where the problems started.
First, they were hit with a bunch of expensive evaluations they’d have to get done in order to donate. This included an avalanche study. Weird for an area that barely gets snow on the ground, no?
“It’s been financially awful for us having to pay for all the studies, including a snow avalanche study if you can believe it, as well as the many surveys and other work that was required, and now we’re also dealing with the fact that interest rates are going up and the price of lots are going down,” Janice told Westerly News.
“It’s been a nightmare trying to give away this waterfront property, and we can’t move forward with our plans for our property until this is resolved.”
Ian Morrison is the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls. That includes the Hiles’ property. He agrees that all these hoops the couple have to jump through are ridiculous.
“The challenges [the Hiles] have faced were almost insurmountable, and all the variables along their path have taken much longer to deal with than they thought,” Morrison told Westerly News.
He figures all the trouble comes down to poor operations management.
“A lot of the problems had to do with staffing issues, bureaucracy and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. They even had to do an avalanche study in an area where there is never enough snow to even consider avalanches.”
(We’re really mind-boggled by the avalanche study, can you tell?)
It’s not really news that bad bureaucracy is frustrating. But it’s wild that it takes so much work to give land away. Is it this hard to develop it?
For small developers like the Hiles, there’s often only so much time and money backing a project. Morrison worries that getting handed about a hundred ‘Go back to start, do not pass go’ cards in this glorified game of Monopoly might keep anyone winning.
“These folks are relatively sophisticated,” Morrison said. “Without their level of expertise in these matters, this category of developers will likely disappear.”
And the already very small amount of people who want to give land away for free will go along with them.