Kamloops natives find formula for development boom
- Kamloops natives find formula for development boom
An innovative 99-year lease spells out everything from taxes to dispute resolution
Friday, July 08, 2005
CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun
The Kamloops native band has moved from ranching to real estate as it searches for innovative ways to tap its natural resources and stimulate development.
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KAMLOOPS - A bird's eye view of this city of 80,000, nestled in a valley at the convergence of the North and South Thompson Rivers, tells a lot about the modern economy of the Kamloops Indian band.
The valley is roughly trisected by its rivers, sort of like a pizza cut in three.
Two of the three slices appear to be loaded -- densely dotted with goodies like roads, parks, family homes, apartment and office blocks, stores and malls and industries.
The third slice is almost bare, with just a few small clusters of development that might have spilled over from the other sides.
That third slice is band land -- the 13,350-hectare Kamloops Indian Reserve. But it has many more dots than it had five or six years ago. And these are choice additions -- 300 homes in a stylish new resort community built around a first-class golf course on a slope overlooking the river.
Sun Rivers Resort, like the high-profile, high-end Kelowna, Musqueam and Squamish housing developments, is a project that many bands -- all those that lack developable land in high-rent neighbourhoods -- can only envy, not emulate. But the way the deal was done still stands as a model for other reserves seeking to extract maximum value from their land, regardless of what its best use might be.
Manny Jules, a former chief here and an advocate for native economic independence, says the key is the degree of certainty the band offers both the developer and home buyers thanks to an innovative 99-year lease. The full payment is up front, and the deal spells out everything from taxes, which will not exceed those across the river in the city of Kamloops, to service levels, as well as how disputes will be resolved.
The idea is to avoid the kind of black eye the Musqueam in Vancouver -- and the whole idea of on-reserve leasing -- got from a spat over lease fees in 2000, about the time this project was getting started. The Musqueam tried to raise the fees as much as 7,000 per cent from the few hundred dollars a year that had been in effect for decades.
The Supreme Court of Canada eventually set those fees mid-way between demands. In doing so, it ruled that the land, some of the most desirable in Vancouver, was worth only half as much as freehold land because lessees had few rights to decide its use.
Leslie Brochu, vice-president of the private Sun Rivers development company, said the band here assumed homes on its land, where leases provided more certainty than in Vancouver, would go for about 25 per cent less than those across the river. But that's not the case. Homes here are selling for as much as they'd get in the city -- from just over $200,000 for a small home to about $700,000 for a larger one.
The master plan calls for a community of about 2,000 people and 5,000 homes within 10 or 15 years, and building continues. Brochu says about 40 new homes, all of them pre-sold, are under construction or planned for the near future.
The current chief, Shane Gottfriedson, says qualified band members get the first shot at Sun Rivers jobs.
The band also operates five other businesses. They are:
- The 18,200-hectare former Harper Ranch, now Spiyu7ullew Ranch, that the band bought when a specific claim to regain land that was once part of the reserve was dragging on too long.
- The 30-year-old, filled-to-capacity Mt. Paul Industrial Park with 220 long-term tenants.
- T'kumlups Petroleum Station, a year-old and soon-to-be expanded enterprise that already turns a profit and is the main revenue-generator for the band's newly imposed commodity tax.
- Mount Paul Centre, with facilities for trade shows and conventions, plus an RV park.
- Sagebrush Downs, a four-season horse-training facility.
- A soon-to-be-formed forestry corporation to manage a new deal with the province for the band to annually harvest 272,000 cubic metres of off-reserve wood.
One result of all this activity is substantial and stable revenues to support the band's social and cultural aspirations for its members, Gottfriedson said.
Another is that, "We're having a helluva time finding band members for a lot of jobs. We're running out of people."
TRANSITION TO INDEPENDENCE: NATIVES IN THE B.C. ECONOMY
A Business BC seven-part series
Tuesday, July 5
Introduction to transition
Wednesday, July 6
Osoyoos - Creating a legacy of success
Creston - Trying to foster entrepreneurs
Friday, July 8
Kamloops and Port Alberni - From high-end housing to run-of-river electricity
Saturday, July 9
Cranbrook - A tourism gamble at St. Eugene's Mission
Tuesday, July 12
Fort Nelson and Dease Lake - Capitalizing on northern resources
Wednesday, July 13
Doig River - First train your people, then build a business to hire them
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