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Recreational users will have to pay to access popular Stotan Falls

Stotan Falls is one of the Valley
Stotan Falls is one of the Valley's most popular summer swimming spots. Access now will be off a toll road, although you could still hike in from Nymph Falls.
— image credit: File photo

Residents in the Comox Valley may regard this as an early April Fool's Day prank, but it's not. It's for real.

For those wishing to access and enjoy the popular Stotan Falls area this summer, you will have to pay for that privilege.

3L Developments Inc has put out a public notice in the local media that as of April 1, it will be charging recreational users $5 per person on any land they own, including along and on Puntledge and Browns Rivers.

As well, motor vehicles that will be using the Duncan Bay Main Road between Puntledge River and Forbidden Plateau Road will pay a road toll of $2 for a car and $5 for a truck.

Calls made by the Echo to 3L Developments have not garnered any response. It's uncertain why they are doing this but this is nothing new.

3L Developments have done this in 2012 when they attempted to prohibit access to biking and hiking trails leading to Stotan Falls. They cited liability issues as the reason.

However, the Nanaimo-based company has been in a legal battle with the Comox Valley Regional District over its application to develop a 741 lot subdivision on its property near the Browns and Puntledge rivers. They applied to amend the CVRD's regional growth strategy in 2014 but it was denied by the CVRD board.

The decision was challenged in court and in January 2015, the court ruled that CVRD was not reasonable in its decision to not initiate the amendment. The judge directed the CVRD to consider 3L Developments application.

The CVRD appealed the decision but lost again in 2016. At that time, the court directed the CVRD to do four things – set up a technical advisory committee and a steering committee to review the application by 3L Developments; to prepare a preliminary report on whether the application should be considered as a minor or standard amendment, and for the CVRD board to review the application and technical report to make a decision as to whether the application was minor or standard and for the board to review the application to decide whether or not to approve proceeding with an application to amend the regional growth strategy.

Ann McDonald, the CVRD's general manager of planning and development services, said upon receiving the court order, the regional district contacted 3L Developments on several occasions to determine what the company intends to do.

"They are not prepared at this point for its application to be reviewed by the board," said McDonald. "They're still reviewing their options to see what their application would look like."

MacDonald pointed out that 3L Developments may be amending the application they submitted in 2013.

"We were told that they want to revise the application and so we are waiting for that," said MacDonald.

The CVRD is currently reviewing its regional growth strategy and recently held a public open house on March 16 to obtain public input on the need to undertake a five year review of the RGS.

MacDonald said if 3L Development still had concerns about the RGS, that was a good opportunity for them to express their concerns and issues. However, they did not attend the open house, which drew developers and stakeholders in the regional district.

Feedback from the open house will be provided to the CVRD board in order to assist the board in making a decision about whether to undertake a review. The board will make a decision later in 2017.

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