A plan? Coming together? What the Hell? Where’s Murphy!!?

Our community, impoverished as it is, begged and politicked for the Regional district to ‘come together’ and buy 7 acres of waterfront up where the old store used to be.  In effect, the seven acres is – despite being empty except for some derelict small buildings – the center of town.  Well, the centre of the town we don’t actually have.  In fact, it is the centre of town and we don’t even want a town.  We want a village.

We’d like a centre of a village.

“Now, give that land to us!”  The idea is that we, the community, will ‘develop the land’ in such a way as to help out the community and do ‘good works’ by somehow making a community-responsive development which is very likely to be some kind of village-y thing.

As luck would have it, we have the only good politician to ever walk the planet representing us and he did so in this case successfully.  The District bought the land.  Woohoo!  To be fair, they have it now and they have not yet given it to us but that has been the conversation and I am sure it will come to pass in some way.  We won’t own it but we may lease it for a dollar a year-kinda-thing.  We’ll see.

“Why do you want it?  Why do you want a village? “

Millenials complain that the baby-boomers are not getting out of the way fast enough and worse, if they do leave, they want too much money for their house.  And, I think that is partially true.  In the city, for sure.  Where it is NOT true is rural communities and off the grid regions like ours.  Our land is cheap.  Well, cheap-ER.  But still too expensive for millenials.

Very roughly speaking land-worth-having runs maybe $20K to $30K an acre.  More if it is waterfront.  Less if it is inland.  $20K an acre would likely get some small waterfront frontage, tough topography and the bulk of the land NOT waterfront.  Water view for sure.  There are way too many variables in that blanket statement for someone to act on but, generally speaking, that’s close.

Of course, some properties aren’t worth having (no fresh water, north-facing, too vertical, too small and (much more common) too big.  There is no ‘average’ size but, typically a purchaser is looking at maybe two or three offerings and one is 20 acres, one is a co-op share and one is 1.5 acres of waterfront.  The prices would be $400K, $who knows about the share value until the co-op has been met with but worth something and the little one would be at least $50,000 .  No real logic.  NO real market.  And, if there is a good building on it, the price leaps by at least $200 per square foot simply because the cost of construction is double out here.  If you hire people to build your house, it is more than that, actually.

Living poor ain’t cheap.

So, a millenial is looking at coming up with almost as much money for an OTG purchase as they might need in town for a condo or townhouse but, of course, they get land and forests and paradise instead of granite counter-tops and a parking pass.  It’s a choice.

But it is a choice NOT available to young people.  Not as a rule.  Why?  Because you can’t get a mortgage out here and, if you do, it is not a high ratio one.  The buyer needs 50% down at the very least.  There are HUGE barriers to young people buying out here even if the property and the setting is ideal.  In fact, there is no way to ensure any kind of regular employment income.

So, to encourage younger people, this community plans to ‘develop’ the 7 acres into either tiny home lots (on leased land) or actual tiny homes that can be rented.  In this way, it is believed, the young people can get ‘a foot in the door’ and get started.  We’ll see.

That, in itself, is a big undertaking and the community seems keen to undertake it so I am pleased and willing to help when and where I can.  Most everyone feels that way.  We even have some ‘young people’ waiting for it to happen.

And then a neighbour decided to sell 20 acres just up the road!  And a logger was going to buy it.  Such is life.  But it would definitely UGLIFY the area and no one was happy with that deal – especially the vendor.  So, they offered the land to the community.  And one family stepped up BIG and gave $50K on the condition that the balance of $100K was raised by the community.  That would be the previously described ‘impoverished’ community.  

Again – to be fair – the community is NOT entirely impoverished.  We have some billionaires.  And millionaires.  But, of the 250 people in the area, the median income is likely still around  25 to 40K annually.  That might be a bit high.  I know several surviving on less than $18K.

But, after two months, the community raised (so far) $82,000.  That plus the original $50 gives us $132,000 towards the required $150,000.  The empire is growing.  See: GO FUND ME:  Lot 302, Read Island.  It is an interesting read.

What that means to us is not so much MORE development but rather the original plan can still proceed without a clear-cut logging show messing up streams and running over kids.  That 20 acres will go ‘for posterity’ and saving old growth forest instead.  In a twist – we will GIVE the 20 acres to the Regional District.  They give us 7 acres on a low-ball lease and we give them 20 acres with a million caveats attached.  Weird deals get done out here.

All the adjacent land considered (there are other pieces, too, including the school property, the bunkhouse property, a memorial five acres previously donated and another 20 acres bought in a similar way forty years ago.  We will have a kilometer of ‘corridor’ that will keep the village centre as envisioned.

Natural progression.  Slower than island time.  Big (for us).  HUGE impact (on the community).  Lots of community involvement (a community of independents).  Politics.  Government.  Donations (gasp) and general agreement.  No fights or rebels.

How the hell did this happen?




16 thoughts on “A plan? Coming together? What the Hell? Where’s Murphy!!?

    • A group is planning but, really, the plan centres around a collection of small homes and restoration of the store and dock. There will be some other minor initiatives but this is largely focused on just housing. But…we’ll see. Improved links? You mean communication….?


  1. Oh, Good God! No! We all consider it a PLUS not having a ferry. Its true that a ferry DIRECT to Vancouver would be good running say, once a month but a ferry off the island to another island is a waste of time.


    • Me and maybe half the others have satellite. We also have ‘boosted’ cell service…..but few have that. I’d say half are electronically incommunicado most of the time. So a WiFi hub somewhere would be good but there are simply not enough people to warrant it.
      Yeah…..the old store could be very cool but that’s 1500 sft at 200 per or $300k. Being ‘commercial’ and legal and doable is impossible. It pretty much has to be a museum – still expensive to do but all the food and health regs do not then come into play.
      Government is unconsciously forcing people to live in ‘grid’ areas. They say it is for our safety. Hah! Think I am safer in Surrey or here? Surrey has lots of rules and regulations. Here, there are bears. I choose here.


      • One of your contributors mentions the value of being able to run an on-line business off the grid. Perhaps a cellphone tower? Am I right in assuming that the island’s population is declining and aging?


      • Half our population is 65+. That suggests a dwibdling population but young people are still coming and the student pop remains stable. We are not shrinking but, in ten years, we’ll be losing dozens…..death does not spare those living otg.


    • The building is 100 years old. It was built on piles over the water with an extensive boardwalk. The basic structure is not sound and will require some new piles, new boardwalk, at least one major outside wall and that is without really looking. No plumbing. No wiring. Needs a new roof, too. Those chores alone would cost $150k and that is with donated labour for half. Can’t do piles with volunteers.
      To make it 100%…….?
      May not be possible – cheaper to tear down and build new.


    • 100 years ago there were a lot of loggers and fishermen out here. Population? Maybe three times the population as now. Plus so many of those people only got around by rowing or very small and slow-powered boats. They NEEDED a store and they supported it. Two stores, in fact. One on the East side, one on the West.
      Then came cheap gas, better engines and a decline in small scale rural industry. Young people moved to the larger gene pool. Cities grew. The hinterland was vacated .
      Today, OTG is off-the-radar and underpopulated. No services at a time when few can do anything without hiring profesionals…..and after first consulting their lawyer, doctor, financial advisor and getting permits. If this trend continues, most people won’t be able to DO anything……..except hire others…….probably immigrants from 3rd world countries who can still DO stuff!


  2. A couple of comments. The last 10-acre interior lot that sold not far from you went for about $53,000 and that’s about the price today for lots like that, which certainly offer a few decent building sites. That price compares well to the price of a 33-foot lot in Vancouver. I just looked at BC Assessment online. The last 33-foot lot I owned there is now assessed at $2.4 million, down from close to $2.7 million the year before. That does not include the house on it. And that’s for the privilege of living in an overcrowded, dirty place like Vancouver, cheek-by-jowl with an army of others.

    As for waterfront, I paid $6,000/acre of grid about 26 years ago and BC Assessment values it at a bit less than that today. If someone offers me $20,000/ac. (never mind an astonishing $30k), I’ll be out by sundown. And that’s for an acreage with a lot of low bank, buildable area, places for orchards, gardens, etc., plus protected moorage on site. The timber on the land is probably worth more (well, until the recent drop in prices) than anyone would ever pay for land on which to live. So, in short, land here, of any sort, is dirt cheap. Only loggers look at the timber on a parcel of land.

    The cost of building is expensive, but almost everyone builds their own. They mill their own lumber, which cuts down on retail and transportation costs.

    That raises the ferry issue. As you say, no one (well, except for maybe a few who won’t admit it) wants it. That’s guaranteed to keep out newcomers and help speed up the exit of the older folks. It certainly drives up the cost of living off grid. Everyone needs their own boat. Better two, for times when one is out of service. With no ferry, and given how these waters can be in winter, a stout vessel (read very expensive to own and operate) is a sina qua non of life in these parts. So, a surefire way to keep the young folks away. To live off grid on an interior lot means keeping a boat at one of a couple of public moorage sites. One must have a vehicle to drive to said moorage site and one might be some miles distant and having worry about what’s happening to their boat in the middle of a January night with a SE gale blowing and torrential rain falling. Hardly an appetizing proposition for young or old. Bearable for some ‘tweens.

    Take a look at islands like Quadra. How many there own boats anymore? They are not needed, so folks avoid the considerable expense. But elsewhere, a different story. And forget about “sharing” ideas. Never seem to work, for a host of reasons. So that leaves almost all desiring and needing to be independent in the transportation department. No ferry will also ensure that building costs will remain prohibitive. Everything of any size has to be barged in. Expensive as hell.

    Certainly employment is an issue. That should become less and less so with more and more internet-based operations. It’s the ONLY thing that has allowed me to get out of downtown Vancouver, where my office is. No internet, I am out of business and damn sure not living OTG. I have been earning a not bad living, internet-based, since 1998. Done that living in a few countries. Working online means working anywhere in the world you choose. But, one has to plan for it. Some jobs will never be online jobs.


    • I agree. Even the numbers. To get 30k an acre requires a small (undrr 5 acres)lot…..southfacing, level, low-banks, good timber, view, moorage, fresh water…..maybe en good cell reception. Very, very few make the grade. You know from whence you speak. Nice to have a new reader. Thanks.


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