Eco-Village proposed for Ponderosa area

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
January 29th, 2012

A sustainable living development may be in the future for a property west of Christina Lake.

A representative from Marga Ventures Ltd., who has chosen to remain nameless while the re-zoning application is in process, made a presentation to the Regional District Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) monthly board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26 in Grand Forks.

The representative recently purchased a 100-acre parcel located off Highway 385, southwest of Christina Lake in an area also known as Ponderosa.

His vision is to turn the property into an eco-village complete with a food cooperative, about 37 private lots, a road-side cafe featuring locally grown food, an all-inclusive wellness centre, campground and solar greenhouses all operating with no or a low carbon foot-print.

The challenge lies in the zoning.

Right now the land is zoned light industrial and is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which is a zoning not assigned by the regional district, but by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

The applicant attended the RDKB meeting so he could get a letter of support from the region to go with his application to the ALC to change the zoning to include residential, so he may subdivide residential lots alongside his agricultural projects.

“We voted to approve (a letter of support and recommendation) but (the applicant) has to provide a agrigologist report to the ALC so they can decide if the property is best kept in the ALR or as a combination of residential and ALR zoning, as he proposes,” said Grace McGregor, director of area C for the RDKB. “I don’t mind supporting this proposal because I think he’s combining it with some really phenomenal ideas.”

“The residential component is critical to supporting the purchase of the property and in the investment of the agriculture developments,” said the applicant, who was pleased with the reception he experienced at the RDKB meeting where the vote to support him was unanimous.

The applicant is optimistic about the application.

“We’re making a case that the property will never be developed agriculturally (as it stands),” he said, pointing out all the light industrial activity that has already happened on the property in the past including the removal of some of the top soil and a small gravel pit in one corner of the acerage.

The applicant hopes to hear back from the ALC soon, then an application to the Ministry of Transportation will be made for the subdivision and surveying component of the project. The project is projected to take five years to complete.


Inspired by David Suzuki

The applicant was inspired to start this project after an encounter with Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki.

“(Suzuki) got really excited about (the eco-village idea) and said it was becoming a world-wide phenomenon,” said the applicant, who recently moved to Christina Lake from Kelowna. “He encouraged us to pursue our dream.”

He chose the Ponderosa area because the property best suits his needs in both size and potential agricultural viability.

He wishes to embrace the ideal of the 1960s of getting back to the land while taking advantage of modern technologies like solar power, alternative housing materials and modern waste treatment systems.

“There is a strong sense of community created by this,” said the applicant. “I have a feeling this community will become a model of development and people from the around the world will be attracted to it.”

He said there are already similiar communities sprouting up all over the world.

The project will also include an educational component where the public may come and see how egg production, bee keeping and growing food can be both environmentally responsible and financially viable.

The lots will be in one quarter acre, half acre, one acre, two and a half acre, three acre and four acre parcels.

To live in the community, property owners will have to agree to a set of standards set out by cooperative and the applicant. For example, the homes will not be permitted to exceed 2,500 square feet, everyone will have to build their homes with sustainable materials in an environmentally sustainable way and with no toxic chemicals.

Homeowners will also be able to choose if they’d like to become a member of the agricultural cooperative and participate in food raising and harvesting.

Because the zoning has not been approved yet by the ALC, lots can not be surveyed and therefore nothing can be sold yet. However, the applicant has already been approached by several Kelowna residents who are interested in “getting out of the city”.

For more information about the Ponderosa Eco-Village please email him at communitycoop@hotmail.ca. For more information about eco-villages visit the Ecovillage network of Canada’s website at www.ena.ecovillage.org.