Shawnigan Lake project to ‘keep the integrity of the land’
When Doug Makaroff shows people pictures of an area around Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island, he says they’re shocked.
“I do this overlay and it’s on a 20-foot screen and people cannot believe the amount of timber that’s been taken out of the south Shawnigan watershed,” says the Victoria developer.
“What they see is the south end of Shawnigan Lake turned into chocolate milk after every major rain event,” he says, referring to the run-off and erosion that comes with clear-cutting.
Makaroff is still a developer, but instead of trying to find pieces of land to do a real estate deal on, he’s looking for land that’s threatened by clear-cutting and suburban sprawl, so he can save it.
He’s found just such a property adjacent to the area at Shawnigan Lake that’s been scraped raw.
Elkington Forest is about 400 hectares, almost the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver.
It was purchased by the Elkington family of Oak Bay in 1945 and used for a summer retreat. Their cottage on a lake in the middle of the property is the only “development” in a sea of green.
In a perfect world, Elkington Forest would be added to neighbouring Sooke Hills wilderness park, but that wouldn’t compensate the Elkingtons for the $5 million to $6 million worth of timber on the land.
Instead, Makaroff has borrowed an idea from a group of people on Cortes Island, who banded together a few years ago to save 60 hectares there from being clearcut.
Makaroff calls it the 85/15 model, where 85 per cent of the property is placed under protective covenants that will allow logging, but only at a sustainable pace. The wood that’s harvested will be processed at a mill on site and turned into value-added products such as high-end doors and windows.
The remaining 15 per cent of the property will be developed for housing, farm and forest businesses and tourism.
Makaroff says it’s the only model he knows of where real estate serves the purpose of conservation, not vice versa.
“We want to create this as a model of sustainability ... where the houses will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, the timber will be FSC (Forest Stewardship Council certified), we want people to come in and really become part of the pioneers that help establish the culture of sustainability.”
Gord Macdonald, managing director of Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing in Cobble Hill, likes the proposal so much he plans to move his business to Elkington Forest and says some of his employees would like to live there. “It’s a real no-brainer,” he says. “This is the sort of development that we should be doing around here. It keeps the integrity of the land, it keeps the place beautiful and still provides a way to develop sensibly in the Cowichan Valley, so as a resident of the Cowichan Valley, I love it.”
Macdonald’s company has been working with the architect on five model home designs for Elkington Forest.
He’s impressed with the vision that Makaroff has come up with, where the 77 homes will be grouped in three clusters, like European-style hamlets.
“There’s garden space and communal space and green space for kids to play, etc. and all of the gardens open onto the forest and trails,” he says.
The homes, themselves, will be built as much as possible with wood from the property.
They’ll also have a light environmental footprint. Makaroff notes that none of the houses — even the top-dollar, custom built ones with a view — will be bigger than 4,000 square feet, including the basement.
“They are not monster homes,” he says, adding that the first five model homes will be up to 2,900 square feet.
“We’re really encouraging a verticality in the architecture and an Arts and Crafts style — very simple form and shape with lots of popouts, gables, bay windows, those kinds of things.”
Each of the post and beam model homes will feature a great room with exposed timber frame, and knee brace and arch brace craftsmanship.
They’ll be priced at about $153 per square foot.
Makaroff wants people who buy into the project to be able to live and work at Elkington Forest, hence all of the owners can have a home office, a rental suite, or they can operate a bed and breakfast.
“What we really don’t want is for this to become a commuter suburb for Victoria, even though it’s only 17 minutes from Veteran’s Memorial Parkway and the hubs of Langford and Colwood,” says Makharoff.
There will also be about a dozen organic hobby farms of 1.2 to 1.6 hectares each.
To pull off his vision for a sustainable community, Makaroff had to apply to the Cowichan Valley Regional District for the land to be rezoned to something called Community Land Stewardship, which allows for live/work arrangements.
The elected representative on the CVRD board for Shawnigan Lake, Ken Cossey, says Elkington