The district took the first steps to develop a 1.25 acre (5,058 square metre) lot it owns on Coquihalla Street, with a rezoning of the property now moving through council.
455 Coquihalla Street is the site of a petroleum bulk plant which later housed Hope’s community garden and has stood empty for several years. The district is now looking to rezone the property to higher density multi family residential zoning.
The district bought the lot in 2017 from Imperial Oil. Mayor at the time Wilfried Vicktor said the decision was an “entrepreneurial approach” taken by the district to raise funds in a different way than the standard approach of collecting property taxes. Council budgeted $320,000 for the purchase.
At the time, the district was criticized by developer Steve Harvey of Echo Developments in an open letter to council. Harvey, stating that he had put in a bid over the asking price yet was unable to purchase the property, criticized the district for competing with private developers. The Mayor defended the decision at the time. “It was explained what we wanted to do with it and I guess the company saw an inherent benefit to what we were going to do with it, so they gave us a good deal,” Vicktor told the Hope Standard in August 2017. “They were free to sell it to anyone else.”
Four years on, the district is now preparing to rezone the property from single family residential to multiple family residential to “optimize the lands for residential development” a report by director of community development Jas Gill stated.
A district map indicating the location of the plot of land shows single family plots in the immediate vicinity, as well as several larger plots zoned P-2 (institutional) most of those being school grounds.
A rezoning of the property went through first and second reading with no comments from council at an Oct. 12 council meeting. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the rezoning in person at a public hearing on November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at district hall. People can also submit comments on the rezoning before November 2 by email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail (District of Hope, 325 Wallace Street, PO Box 609, Hope, BC, V0X 1L0.)
If the rezoning process is successful, a developer could build apartments, multiple family dwellings, townhomes or seniors housing. The lot can be subdivided into a maximum of five smaller lots.
Gill’s report to council stated that the rezoning aligns with the district’s official community plan, including the goals of facilitating the development of affordable housing, supporting a variety of densities, housing types and lot sizes and encouraging the integration of affordable housing throughout the community rather than it being concentrated in one area.
Although no details about how much the district could gain from the sale are available, Gill’s report stated there should be a “good return on investment on the long-term horizon.”
Real estate prices in Hope have skyrocketed since the purchase in 2017. Comparing statistics on vacant residential land sold in the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB) area (which includes Hope), the average price was $434,557 in September 2021 compared to $182,663 in September 2017. Although these statistics show a more than doubling in price, they are statistics from the entire CADREB area and also don’t account for the size of the vacant residential land being sold, which could vary widely.
Yet the district is bound to make some form of profit on the sale, profit which would likely go to future district infrastructure or facility upgrades confirmed chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky.
If the land goes to sale, it would be through a public process that would “maximize the return for district taxpayers” Fortoloczky stated via email. It would likely be sold with the help of a real estate firm he added.