The Siskin Lane project is complete. The lots have been sold, (the majority to full time residents) the Strata has assumed responsibility for operations, and the building of a community within the wider community of Cortes Island is underway.
The Renewal Land Company website remains available as an overview of the project development process in the hope it will be a useful resource to other conservation development projects.
For more information on Renewal click here.
Welcome to Renewal Land Company
We are a unique organization that operates on a not-for-profit basis to promote conservation-based land development. We promote a model of residential land stewardship that emphasizes the protection of biodiversity and forest ecosystems.
We are striving to demonstrate a sustainable, lower-impact approach to residential land use and forest management on private lands, and set a strong precedent for the incorporation of community ideals and ecological stewardship into future development initiatives.
We are committed to creating an opportunity for the Cortes Island community to influence the nature of growth on the island, and to demonstrating that ecological protection, public participation and multiple land uses can be successfully integrated into a private venture.
Explore this website to learn more about RLC's projects on Cortes Island!
Why was Renewal Land Company created?
Renewal Land Company was formed in January 2003 with the goal of promoting sustainable development and environmental stewardship on private forestlands. Over 1200 hectares of forestland on Cortes are privately owned by Island Timberlands - a major international forestry corporation that acquired the land as part of their purchase of Weyerhaeuser Corporation in 2005. In 2001, Weyerhaeuser announced plans to sell all of their Cortes holdings over a period of two to five years, and began the largest private land transfer in the recent history of the island (Island Timberlands has continued the sales process since acquiring Weyerhaeuser).
The sale of the Weyerhaeuser lands caused considerable concern among many island residents and community organizations, many of whom had lobbied for almost a decade to have the lands transferred into a community forest and managed according to ecosystem-based management principles. Local concern increased when three of the Weyerhaeuser properties sold to small private forestry companies and were extensively logged between 2003 and 2004.
Motivated in large part by local concern over the sale of Weyerhaeuser lands and the likelihood of industrial-scale timber harvesting on many of the properties, as well as concern over the potential loss of public access to these properties, RLC was formed with the goal of demonstrating a viable alternative to industrial scale logging, as well as establishing a strong precedent for the incorporation of community ideals and ecological stewardship into all development initiatives on Cortes Island.
Leading Up to Siskin Lane
In the spring of 2003, RLC purchased seven properties from Weyerhaeuser, encompassing just over 200 hectares of forest land, with the intention of registering conservation covenants that reflected community values and then re-selling the properties, having protected ecological values in perpetuity. Three of RLC's seven properties were immediately re-sold after we registered protective covenants that prohibited any timber harvesting and limited residential use to a single small cabin. A fourth property (Gorge West) is currently for sale.
Faced with the challenge of balancing forest conservation and public benefits with the high cost of private land acquisition, RLC proposed the Siskin Lane Conservation Development on the remaining properties (a contiguous one-hundred hectare parcel), where twenty-five residential lots would be developed to finance the costs of land acquisition and conservation. RLC did not originally intend to focus on residential development, however, it quickly became evident that without extensive logging, options to recover land acquisition costs were extremely limited.
For several months efforts were made to identify conservation-minded buyers who were interested in purchasing large tracts of inland forest for either preservation or to support a small-scale, ecosystem-based management demonstration site. However, these efforts failed and it became clear that residential development was the only source of sufficient revenue to fund the land acquisition and conservation initiative. The decision to create twenty-five smaller residential lots (as opposed to fewer, larger lots) stemmed from local pressure to keep prices relatively low so that lots would be accessible to local purchasers to secure a strong percentage of full-time residents. Conservation covenants were adopted as a tool to help minimize the ecological impact of residential use by protecting ecological values, conserving large tracts of forest, regulating land-use practices and limiting further development.
Creating the Siskin Lane Community
The Siskin Lane Community encompasses low impact residential use, public trails and parks and forest conservation. Throughout the project, from inception to completion, we worked closely with local residents and Cortes Island organizations to solicit feedback and improve various elements of the project, including design of the residential lots, creation of the public parks and the structure of conservation covenants to protect forest ecosystems and biodiversity. Since our inception, we have met with over 400 island residents and numerous community organizations to talk about our project and incorporate feedback.
The success of RLC's Siskin Lane proposal was contingent on rezoning properties from the existing Forestry-One zoning to Forest Land Stewardship, a new zone that permits a higher density of residential development in exchange for the permanent designation of at least sixty percent of the land for either sustainable forestry or conservation purposes. The rezoning required a strong show of community support in order to be approved by the local government. After 18 months of intensive community outreach, a formal public hearing was held in the summer of 2004 at which 169 residents spoke in favour of the Siskin Lane proposal, eighteen opposed it and nine offered neutral comments or suggestions.
Following the successful rezoning of the Siskin Lane lands, RLC proceeded with further community consultation to refine the development and began construction for roads, utilities and underground services. Conservation goals were carefully crafted into conservation covenants, held by The Land Conservancy of BC, and designed to protect ecological values in perpetuity.
Ultimately, after years of consultation, refinements and careful design, the Siskin Lane project incorporates:
• Twenty-three residential lots of 1.5 hectares each under a bare land strata subdivision (Siskin Lane Strata).
• Two fee-simple residential lots of 1.5 hectares.
• Conservation and the protection of biodiversity and ecological values.
• A 13 hectare Public Park and a network of over ten kilometers of public trails.
• Principles to minimize the impact of residential use; constraints on building size, location and materials.
• Significant community participation in the planning process.
Throughout the course of the Siskin Lane project, RLC made every effort to contribute to the Cortes community. Numerous donations were made to local charitable organizations, both schools were given in-kind donations of timber from clearing for roads and lots, community events such as Cortes Days and the Sustainable Home Show offered an opportunity for both financial support and RLC's community involvement. RLC remains committed to the Cortes community, and will continue to donate any surplus funds from this project to various community groups.
How it turned out
RLC first offered Siskin Lane properties for sale in April 2006. Within days, 15 of the 21 lots had accepted offers, and by summer all 21 available lots were sold. Two other lots sold later in the winter once we knew there were future full-time residents available. The remaining two lots have been held back indefinitely by RLC; when they are listed we will continue our policy of offering the properties locally first, to support any local buyers. Of the 23 lots that have sold to date, sixteen were purchased by BC residents, four sold to Canadian purchasers from elsewhere in the country and three sold to buyers from the United States. In terms of residency, two thirds of the lots have, or will soon have, full-time island residents: nine lots sold to local full-time Cortes residents, and an additional six to buyers who plan to move to the island full time. At least two of the other lots will have rental homes available for long-term rentals. By early Fall of 2006, the first members of the new Siskin Lane community had moved into their new homes, and residents are continuing to build and settle into their new homes. As part of the sales process, RLC was able to offer financing to several purchasers to enable them to become part of the Siskin Lane community.
The Siskin Lane strata held its first AGM in August, electing a council for the coming year and, for those new to the island, getting to know both the Siskin Lane community and the larger island community. By early Fall of 2006, the first members of the new Siskin Lane community had moved into their new homes. All of the new owners are excited about living lightly on the land, and about being part of this conservation model.
This website includes further discussion and information about all aspects of the Siskin Lane project and Renewal Land Company. Copies of all our maps, conservation covenants, community newsletters, zoning materials, financial status and many other details are available for viewing on the site or to be downloaded. If you would like additional information, please contact RLC's on-site manager and realtor Vicki deBoer or contact our Vancouver office.
Renewal Land is pleased to announce Lot 6 and Lot 7 Siskin Lane have now been listed with Discovery Islands Realty.
Link to our Updates page...