Falls golf resort to be ‘resurrected,’ says Aquilini

The Aquilini Investment Group intends to continue residential development around The Falls golf near Chilliwack.

  • May. 1, 2012 1:00 p.m.

The Aquilini Investment Group intends to continue residential development around The Falls golf resort and to “resurrect” the golf course it was built around.

“Our vision is to create a small Master Planned Community that encompasses larger lots with less density at an affordable price,” Aquilini officials said in a brief statement. “We would also like to resurrect the golf course and create smaller pockets of retail.”

Acting Chilliwack Mayor Chuck Stam said it’s “great news” that Aquilini has stepped into the resort’s troubled financial picture, but it’s too early to say whether the company’s vision fits into the City’s plans for the Eastern Hillsides, which are still in draft form.

One question is how to pay for servicing and infrastructure costs when the area hits the new 4,000 population “trigger” for “optimal” community-building.

City planners said in the draft plan that to increase the area’s “build-out capacity” beyond 4,000 to 6,000 (close to 900 more dwellings) that “the off-site infrastructure and interconnecting road improvement costs … will jump by $27 million.”

Even if that cost is included in development cost charges (DCCs), the planners said, “the slow absorption rate” of the hillside housing market could extend the project beyond 30 years and ultimately hit taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

“The interest payment for 30-plus years is an unreasonable burden on the first generation of Eastern Hillsides residents, and a high investment risk — if the anticipated larger market (from 4,000 to 6,000) does not materialize,” the planners said.

The estimated $27 million in additional costs is also a low-ball figure, and there are other on-site costs, including more intensive site engineering in the hillside area, that could eventually wind up on the City’s plate.

“There is no mechanism to ensure that the City will not be paying the shortfall, or that the private sector has the ability to absorb the cost increase,” planners said.

Stam said city staff are currently in “conversations” with Aquilini officials, so he could not add further details at this time.

“But it’s great news to have the calibre of development team that Aquilini has, for them to step in and take over the golf course and real estate interests,” he said.

“We can’t let a crown jewel like The Falls fall into disrepair,” he said.

Michael Thornton, Silver Falls Development Inc. president, told The Progress last week that as the largest single creditor in the bankruptcy process at The Falls, he had decided to foreclose and to join Aquilini in a “team effort” to save the resort.

The health of the golf course, a par 71 championship course, is seen as key to surrounding property values of residents who bought into the resort expecting it to continue as a premiere golf destination.

The resort is located on about 233 acres, 162 acres for the golf course and 71 acres for residential and related development.

Before bankruptcy proceedings started last year, the resort had residential space available for 3,000 units and about one million square feet for commercial and recreational development.

The population of the eastern hillside area currently stands at about 900 people.

Last October, the city chopped the area’s buildout potential by 60 per cent to 4,000 people in about 1,700 homes from the earlier target of 17,000 people in 5,200 homes.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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