Three years after it was almost completely destroyed in the Elephant Hill wildfire of July 2017, there are plans for a new 60-unit mobile home park at Boston Flats between Cache Creek and Ashcroft.
The new park is planned for the upper level of the property, which is bounded by Highway 97C to the south and Highway 1 to the west. The original mobile home park was located further east on the property, on a lower bench above the Thompson River.
When the Elephant Hill wildfire raged out of control, fire swept down into the park along the only road into and out of the site. While all the residents were safely evacuated, most were left with only the clothes on their backs after almost all the homes in the park were destroyed.
“A lot of people were displaced as a result of the fire,” says Mike Pastro, the agent of Cole Developments Ltd., the family-run company that owns the property.
“The area needs a good supply of affordable housing, which is what we were thinking about when we applied for a rezoning application.”
That application was made earlier this year to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), with a request that a 4.5 hectare portion of the 7.96 hectare property be rezoned from RL-1: Rural to MH-1: Manufactured Home Park. The property is in TNRD Area “I” adjacent to the boundaries of both Cache Creek and Ashcroft, and the councils of both communities gave their approval for the project at meetings earlier this year after having an opportunity to review the proposed plans for the site.
On July 16 the TNRD board gave final reading and approval to the zoning bylaw amendment, clearing the way for the project to begin moving forward.
“Now the work starts,” says Pastro. “We have to get studies done showing that the water and sewer systems will be viable, and we need engineers to come out and do designs that will work for the park.
“We have to comply with environmental and other regulations, and everything has to be done to the current building code. We want to do it right, do it properly, and build a park that will stand the test of time.”
However, he notes that the cost of establishing a new park on the site will be a factor.
“We have to look at the cost of doing it. We’re hopeful that the infrastructure can be put in and the park developed at a cost that makes it financially viable to proceed. It has to make economic sense, and we hope we can pull this off.”
The new site is not in an area prone to flooding, and is further removed from any wildfire risks than the previous park. Pastro also notes that the proposed site has much better access than the old one, as the property is immediately adjacent to Highway 97C and an existing frontage road.
“We didn’t pursue the former site location because the costs would have been high. We would have had to build a second egress road, and there are terrain issues, with lots of hills and terraced areas. Those geotechnical issues would have had to be addressed, and that adds to the cost.”
Pastro adds, however, that the former mobile home park site might be redeveloped one day if circumstances are favourable.
“If all goes well and the new 60-lot site gets full, and if the cash flow is good, there’s the possibility of developing the former site down the road. It’s a lovely site with a view of the river, so it’s a beautiful location for a mobile home park.
“Unfortunately, due to increased fire separations between units and the geotechnical requirements, we can’t get 60 sites in there; maybe 30 or 34 at most. It’s not feasible at this time to do that.”
The original park was developed in the 1970s, and the current owners purchased it in 1993. Pastro says they were devastated by the fire, and it took them a while to be able to get to the stage of going to rezoning in order to rebuild.
“Kudos to them for persevering. The first step — of getting the land rezoned — is done, so now it’s on to the next step.”
He adds that while they’re proceeding as quickly as possible, it’s impossible at this point to give a time frame as to when the new park will be completed.
“These things take time. You have to deal with consultants, with government agencies, so you can never say. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess.
“The owners want to do their best to get everything lined up. We’re in the first inning right now, and the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.”
Pastro says that the plan and the location for the proposed new mobile home park will make it a great thing for the area.
“It’s a beautiful place to retire or to live, and the park would provide a different lifestyle that’s very attractive to a lot of people who need stable, affordable housing.
“It’s hard to attract people if there’s nowhere for them to live, so it’s a win-win for the communities. It will be a very nice park; a really good thing for the area, and something the area could be very proud of.”