Benny Boyz Ventures Ltd. withdrew its zoning application for Bighorn Estates RV Resort after the developer decided community pushback was going to be too strong for the project to thrive in the long-term.
Village of Canal Flats chief administrative officer Brian Woodward received a letter from Haworth Development Consulting on behalf of Benny Boyz on June 18th announcing the developer’s intention to let the project go for now and try again later on.
“Our primary reason for this withdrawal is that the misinformation that has circulated regarding the project — and the number of petitions that were signed against the project based on this misinformation — is concerning for the development team,” Richard Haworth, owner of Haworth Development Consulting wrote in the letter.
At a regular council meeting on June 22nd, several councillors presented similar concerns that misinformation had been purposefully spread by community members about the proposed RV Resort.
“I am disappointed that the “Concerned Citizens of Canal Flats” Facebook group was responsible for spreading a lot of the misinformation,” Councillor Marie Delorme said during the meeting.
Similarly, Mr. Haworth said the project was derailed by rumours and misinformation spread by the Facebook group on it page.
“One (false) item was that Benny Boyz requested that everybody who was in the RV park would get a pass to the beach, which is not how it works in Canal Flats,” Mr. Haworth said. “There were other aspects of the project that were untrue, where wrong information was being circulated.”
The Concerned Citizens of Canal Flats group was created on April 20th and swelled quickly to 291 members, which is roughly 40 per cent of the village’s population. On April 28th, the group administrator did publish a post warning community members about free beach passes for RV Resort patrons, which was later dispelled by Benny Boyz.
“Benny Boyz wants the town to supply each of his RV lots with a FREE PASS to the beach. That’s an additional 175 visitors to our beach for FREE,” the post read. “Due to the already inadequate parking, most likely the town will need to upgrade the parking and facilities at the beach, and WHO do you think WILL PAY for that?”
When a resident made a post to the Facebook group to clarify the beach pass misinformation on May 11th, the group administrator pushed blame in another direction.
“Until now, information provided to us could not be verified because council members were not allowed to discuss issues with the public relating to rezoning applications,” the post read.
Councillors themselves stated their frustrations with how much time they spent meeting directly with community members to correct misinformation that was spread elsewhere.
“The biggest thing for me in this process as a new councillor… was the ton of misinformation that was out there,” Council Karl Sterzer said. “I spent most of my conversations with constituents clearing up facts. Benny Boyz could have done a better job sharing the facts.”
According to Mr. Haworth, Benny Boyz made an effort to clarify details with an open house, which was attended by approximately 50 residents. Despite the open house, Mr. Haworth said he and his team ultimately failed to get in front of the misinformation that was being spread.
“We will be assessing why our attempts to reach out to the community failed and we will be making greater efforts to bring this project to the community and to demonstrate how it will fit into the fabric of the community in a seamless manner,” Mr. Haworth’s letter read.
At the zoning application’s public hearing on June 1st, many community members presented concerns that an RV resort would have limited or no impact on the village’s economic and employment well-being. In the letter, Mr. Haworth wrote why that is untrue.
“Canal Flats is currently experiencing a period of economic uncertainty highlighted by the permanent shift closure at the Canfor mill, the closure of the community golf course and the issues surrounding the short fall of funds required to complete the water upgrade for Eagles Nest,” Mr. Haworth wrote. “We believe that the development of a well-designed and managed RV resort in Canal Flats could be a significant component of the village’s tourism-based marketing strategy and an economic driver for the community, including a multitude of spin-off jobs for construction, maintenance and other services directly and indirectly related to the project.”
During the meeting on June 22nd, Councillor Paul Marcil said the public negativity towards the project comes back, in large part, to money. He said community members were misinformed about what an RV resort would do for them, but also that it is the job of Benny Boyz to convince the public that their project will be beneficial.
“We listened to all the gripes and never heard all the positives,” Mr. Marcil said. “Benny Boyz, you need to advertize better to show how an extra 300 people could support our small businesses.”
Though the process did not have an ideal ending for Benny Boyz, Mr. Haworth wrote he learned what needs to be done better in the future.
“We look forward to the opportunity to working with the Village of Canal Flats and its residents over the coming months to gain support for this project and to move it forward in a positive manner that will benefit the entire community,” Mr. Haworth concluded in his letter.