The first step in the process of a potential development near the Eagle Bay campground south of Revelstoke has been met with resistance from locals and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.
An application by the developer Sage Investments to have a 500-acre portion of the 2,500-acre parcel excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was sent to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) by the CSRD with a unanimous vote in favour of a recommendation of refusal at its monthly board meeting in Salmon Arm on July 19.
The ultimate decision on the request rests with the ALC and they could approve the request regardless.
The 2,448-acre Eagle Bay property is located about 75 kilometres south of Revelstoke on the western shore of the Upper Arrow Lake, where the Eagle Bay Forest Service Recreation Campsite is located.
Sage Investments acquired the land in 2008 after the timber company Pope & Talbot went bankrupt. 520 acres of the parcel are within the ALR, so the first step for the developer is to have that land excluded from the reserve. In the meantime, Sage Investments has gone about clear-cutting the property.
The CSRD board sided with a staff report that recommended refusal on the grounds the proposal was contrary to the district’s agricultural policies and the mandate to preserve farmland; that staff couldn’t support exclusion in an area with no zoning; and that the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) for Area B opposed the exclusion.
“In the absence of having a zoning bylaw in place we have requested the ALC refuse this application at this time,” said Area B director Loni Parker.
At the July 19 meeting the CSRD board also gave first reading to a new zoning bylaw for Area B. The bylaw is expected to be passed early next year and will give the CSRD more control over how land is developed.
The proponent met with the APC in May 2011, where a report on the agricultural potential of the land was presented. The report indicated the land was of little agricultural value, except for use in growing tree fruits. However, its isolation and the lack of agriculture in the surrounding area meant that use was unlikely.
The APC asked for a more detailed analysis, which Sage Investments declined to provide.
Ron Thomson, the land manager for Sage Investments, said he was not surprised about the board’s vote. “We would have liked to have seen it forwarded on a neutral basis to see the land commission look at on its merits as farmland,” he told the Times Review.
Thomson said the logging likely coloured the APC’s vote and that the members didn’t vote solely based on the land’s farming merits. “It was emotional and it was strong and it was largely related to the logging and not wanting to reward bad behaviour,” he said.
Parker said the logging didn’t play into the recommendation but that members of the APC were “dismayed” about the logging.
“They clear cut right through the area,” she said. “That has caused dismay not just with APC but with just about every resident in Revelstoke and Nakusp.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations confirmed Sage Investments was being investigated for its logging activities in the area. The land is private, so Sage has the right to cut down trees, however it is still required to adhere to all environmental, fisheries and forestry regulations, Brennan Clarke said.
While he did not go into detail, he said damage to riparian areas, sediment in stream beds and cutting to close to the lakeshore were issues being looked at.
Thomson said he remains hopeful the ALC will approve the request. “From the report and the study that was done it seems pretty clear its not really suitable for farmland,” he said. “If that’s the sole criteria I think we have a pretty good chance.”
Development of the land is still a ways off but Thomson did confirm that logging the land was part of the business plan for the property, and that the logging was done “to the letter of the law.”
For Parker, Sage’s actions have not inspired trust so far, noting the company kept logging even after it was asked to stop as a gesture of respect. Successful developers, she said, work with the APC and CSRD staff.
“If a developer wants to be a successful developer, he has to work within the system,” she said.