Despite the heavy snowfall Wednesday, at least 100 people are believed to have attended the open house for Rainbow Ridge affordable housing development in Mansons Hall.
“We were really happy with the turnout considering the weather, the snow and the road conditions. We decided to go ahead with the event regardless because we had special guests including Ian Scott, who was coming all the way from Victoria. He’s our development consultant and he was in Campbell River for other meetings. He made it to Cortes through the snow. The island roads were plowed and salted to help people, including me, get all the way from Squirrel Cove as well as the Klahoose drummers who made it to the event to help open up the presentation,” said Sandra Wood, Executive Director of the Cortes Community Housing Society.
“ We had an open house that went from three in the afternoon until six in the evening. We thought that would be a good time to get the parents who were picking up their kids from school, but even the school closed and had a snow day. I think a lot of people who walked lived in the Manson’s landing area, and of course are interested to know what’s going to happen in their neighborhood. There were more people out there than we expected. Many of them sat through the five o’clock presentation as well.”
Cortes Currents: What kind of feedback did you get?
Sandra Wood: “We mostly received really positive feedback. People really liked the new site plans, the drawings of the landscaping and the trail system. A lot of people really preferred this new layout, which is more a circle of town homes around a village green. It has a more organic feel than our original plan of three or four years ago, which was much more linear oriented. People were excited that there’s potentially as many as 24 homes in this plan. Everybody thought it made sense the way that we pushed all the parking to the north edge of the property and had more of a walkable neighborhood that’s not centered around cars. It’s really centered around pedestrians and people being able to walk to their homes and for children to be able to play safely in the playground that will be part of that Village Commons inside Rainbow Ridge.”
“I’m really excited that you can share as part of this story, our new site plan and the new floor plans for the townhouses. For anybody who was not at the open house, we had big blueprint size posters on the wall so people could really look at the interior layouts for the one, two, and three bedroom units, and could really see the organization of the town homes in this new neighborhood cluster on a big scale.”
“I think the pictures show it better than I can say in words. So I encourage you to share as many of those images as you can with this article, and eventually we will also be sharing those images with our mailing list. So people who normally get our updates by email will be getting links to those images, which we will be posting on the Cortes community housing.org website.”
Cortes Currents: You’re recreating Manson’s Landing as a walkable community, with the trails and the fact that they link into everything.
Sandra Wood: “That’s exactly part of our vision for people to really walk into Manson’s Landing, to do their shopping and to access services. Or they can come on bicycle and be able to cycle off of Beasley Road, off of Sutil Point Road and actually use a trail network that I think will be a lot safer, especially in summertime when there’s a lot of tourists driving, maybe at higher speeds on our country roads. So having safer ways to walk and bike or ride your horse or take your children to school.”
“I think those will be really great long term public transportation options that we really want to make happen and really want Rainbow Ridge to become part of that solution as far as the walkable community.”
Cortes Currents: Did you hear any concerns?
Sandra Wood: “I think everybody has concerns on: are we going to be selected by BC Housing in the next funding round? When is BC Housing going to invite nonprofits and charities to apply again? Does that mean we have to wait another year or more, because we obviously need this housing now. The cost of construction keeps going up. Everybody’s super aware of the inflation factor that will increase the cost of construction. The longer it takes for us to begin, the more expensive the project gets. So that’s a concern. Also having local labor available, because most of the skilled builders and contractors on the island are very well employed and very well engaged. Trying to find enough people to help pull a project of this magnitude off is definitely a concern.”
Cortes Currents: So what’s next?
Sandra Wood: What’s next is these designs and drawings will be going to our contractor, which is Kinetic Construction, to do an accurate budget. We want to have that budget done for early in the new year, so that can become part of our application to BC Housing next year.
Cortes Currents: Do you have to go back to the SRD at all?
Sandra Wood: “No, the Strathcona Regional District has approved the project.”
“The only things that we’re still waiting for are the Ministry of Transportation to approve the subdivision application, which we put in more than a year ago. They are involved in approving the storm water management system as well as the road design. That’s a major piece that we’re hoping to hear about soon.”
“We also applied for a water license over 18 months ago, and we still haven’t had a response to that. So those are the two main government decisions that we’re awaiting.”
Cortes Currents: Assuming that everything goes smoothly, what’s the earliest that we can expect to see shovels in the ground?
Sandra Wood: “I know that Ian Scott would have a different answer to this, but I will say it all depends on when BC Housing is going to open their doors for another grant intake. If they did that early in the new year and if Cortes was selected, then potentially we could have shovels in the ground in the fall or winter of 2023.”
“However Ian Scott feels like it’s more likely that BC Housing will not open the intake until the summer or the fall of 2023, in which case the earliest possible start would be 2024.”
“I’m hopeful because of the new premier, David Ebby, who was the minister in charge of housing before he became the premier. Everything he’s saying now that he stepped into this leadership role is that housing continues to be his number one focus, and I hope that means that we’ll get more action and more money available for projects like ours that are so close to being shovel ready. So I’m hoping it’s 2023 as our start.”
The Klahoose Fire Fund
Sandra Wood: “Many of your listeners will know that the Klahoose Village had a tragic fire just a week ago, and they lost three homes, which has resulted in four people being homeless. Of course, there’s shelter elsewhere temporarily, but it’s a huge loss of everything they owned.”
“We wanted to take the initiative of the housing society having this open house, to also raise money for the victims of those fires. We’ve raised over $4,000 as of the open house on November 30. We’re going to keep the option open until December 15 for people who want to make donations and they can do an e-transfer.”
The Cortes Housing Society set up a separate bank account for the Klahoose Fire Fund and any e-transfers sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will be deposited in it until December 15/2022.
Sandra Wood: “We will get those funds to those people before Christmas. I think that’s a really great way that the community can show their support and really help the Klahoose at a time of need. It’s just so hard when we’re so short of houses already and then to lose three more buildings is so sad. The only good news is that there was no loss of life and that the fire department were able to save the Klahoose Health Centre as well, which is obviously another really important asset to their community, to the entire Cortes community because there are health practitioners who use those offices and the clinic. So thank you to the fire department and a really great reminder how important fire hydrants are.”
Fire Hydrants at Rainbow Ridge
Sandra Wood: “There’s very few communities on Cortes that have access to hydrants, and I’m happy to say that Rainbow Ridge is planning to put in fire hydrants as part of our neighborhood design. Not only that, all of the townhouses will have an integrated interior sprinkler system to knock down any fires that start inside, like kitchen fires and things like that. So we’re taking it really seriously to protect those future buildings.”
Top photo credit: Looking down the wall at Mansons Hall – Photo by Bill Weaver
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