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‘Village style’ development proposed for Thornhill

Eliza’s Village focused on sustainability and community
Rendering of the proposed Eliza Village in Thornhill. (Ability Society)

An ambitious new development offering sustainable entry level, low income, family and multiple senior housing options could be coming to Thornhill.

There is a conditional agreement to purchase 37 acres of private land at the site of the old Thornhill forestry nursery bordered by Edlund Ave. To minimize the traffic impact, the proposal states that all traffic will enter the development using the existing service road off of Highway 16, which would need to be upgraded.

The development would be called Eliza’s Village, named after Eliza Wright, a member of a prominent Kitselas family. She married English settler Tom Thornhill, after whom the community is named. The development has permission from the Wright family to use the name.

On June 9, the Pacific North Coast Development Society (PNCDS) presented the proposal for the new development to the Thornhill advisory planning commission.

Floyd Wickie presented the project on behalf of the PNCDS, which is the intermediary between the developer Enterprise4Good (E4G) and members of the community.

The proposed project would be developed in phases over a seven to 10 year period and be “village style,” with entry level, low income, family and multiple senior housing options. The idea is based on similar developments in Europe.

“Instead of just going to a straight seniors development, we wanted to start getting away from that because essentially what we have has ghettoized our area. We have seniors in one area, we have high income in another area, we have low income in another area,” he said during the presentation.

E4G has been in contact with the provincial BC Housing agency and Northern Health about adding 24/7 clinical care and home care supports among others. Northern Health identified purpose-built memory care facilities for people with dementia as the most important. According to the developer, Northern Health has “presented a number of funding options to help facilitate these.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the project would be a waste water treatment plant. H4G worked with fourth-year environmental engineering students at the University of Northern British Columbia to do a concept study on a modular system. Other homes in Thornhill could use the new plant for their wastewater treatment in the future as modules are added.

“I’m expecting it would have to go through some kind of approval process because it would be something we would participate in through the creation of a service, obviously the folks that are benefiting from that service would need to pay for it, so all of those would need to be looked at and certainly a process we need to go through,” said Ted Pellegrino, director of planning and development services for the regional district.

Wastewater heat could be captured and used to reduce the energy needed to heat water within homes. The community would create power using natural gas generators.

Wickie said the wastewater treatment plant would provide an opportunity for local students to receive hands-on training at the facility.

E4G envisions the project advancing with five fundamental concepts: housing for seniors, alternative level of care, low income housing, sustainability, and pilot programs.

The design does not include single use infrastructure – facilities like commercial kitchens, dining halls and and open spaces will be available for use by local community groups.

Current zoning bylaws do not allow for integration of all the aspects of the program, so E4G would like zoning rules changed to allow for the project.

“It’s a challenge to do zoning without a concrete plan and development plan laying out exactly what will be on the site, because when you are looking into the future you want to have some certainty that what the development that’s being proposed is what’s going to happen and not just an idea,” said Amelia Andrews, district planner.

“I think that’s where we are looking to see the development concept in a more clear form and I think that will then inform how the zoning will happen.”

Enterprise4Good is based in Calgary and says it has more than $50 million in assets and the funds available for the core of Eliza’s Village. The total number of housing units and cost of the project has not been determined yet.

E4G uses a social enterprise model, meaning that it looks and acts like a regular business by maximizing profits. The difference is that social enterprise organizations mainly use profits to further social objectives.