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Tranquille developer blames province after multiple ALC denials

The province's Agricultural Land Commission has heard multiple pleas from the owner of a historic Kamloops property who wants to build an agricultural suburb on the massive site.

Each time Ignition Developments goes to the commission, it focuses more on residential and commercial construction and less on agriculture, but now the developer is blaming the province for "repeatedly moving the goal lines."

"Progress has been systematically stymied by the provincial government approvals, despite the city's prior approval of the neighbourhood plan," a news release from Ignition read.

The company owns the Tranquille Sanitorium and hundreds of acres of the surrounding property, which was once its own community on the western edge of Kamloops.

Now the second owner vying to build the site after the closure of the mental health hospital, Ignition's Tranquille project manager Tim McLeod has lived on the site for years as the company keeps pitching its plans to the commission and the public.

The current vision is for a residential community on the banks of Kamloops Lake, surrounded by farm land. It could include orchards and pastures, but two years ago, they also began exploring the potential of adding vineyards to the site.

READ MORE: Kamloops mayor goes to bat for proposed Tranquille development

That was months after the commission, which serves to protect valuable agricultural land from over development in BC, called out the company for its failure to focus on the site's farming potential.

"While the panel recognizes that there are significant challenges with developing the properties for residential purposes, the continued lack of progress to farm the site since 1989 demonstrates a lack of assurances that the agricultural benefits included in the proposal will ever be realized, even if the appropriate conditions were ordered," the 2022 decision read.

An aerial image of the former Tranquille Sanitorium and surrounding farm land.
An aerial image of the former Tranquille Sanitorium and surrounding farm land.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Ignition Developments Ltd.

The commission's panel found Ignition has a pattern of "continuous" increases to its proposals to remove agricultural land.

The decision at the time included a request to increase a previous allowance to remove 32 hectares agricultural land to 52 hectares. The property is nearly 200 hectares in total. Almost all of it is under the commission's control.

READ MORE: Okanagan environmentalists frustrated with changes to timber salvage rules in wake of wildfires

Ignition said the BC government has "delayed progress" on the project for more than five years. Its plan includes 2,000 new homes to be built on the site, while the news release noted that Kamloops is on the BC government naughty list of cities that need to build more housing.

The news release did not name the Agricultural Land Commission, an organization that works at arms-length from the province. Instead, it pointed blame at the BC NDP government.

A representative from the company did not respond when asked how the BC NDP government has slowed Ignition's efforts to build out the Tranquille site.

The news release went on to say the project's construction would bring a $1.1 billion GDP (gross domestic product) benefit to the province, but it's not clear how that figure has nearly doubled from the $600 million estimate in 2021.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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