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Coast Reporter - 18 Nov 2002

Luxury resort planned...Hockey stars eye Egmont

By Keith Thirkell

Two former National Hockey League players and a wealthy Los Angeles backer have discovered the Sunshine Coast and have huge plans for its future.

In what’s being described as the largest and most valuable real estate deal in Sunshine Coast history, a consortium of professional hockey players, logging contractors and a flamboyant American horse racer/real estate tycoon have purchased a 2,260 hectare block of lots in Egmont for approximately $11 million.

The group formed to purchase the land is Pacific Northwoods Resources Ltd. The principals include ex-Canuck left winger Geoff Courtnall, his brother Russ Courtnall, Vancouver Island logging contractor Dale Malloch and Laguna Beach, California-based mortgage magnate Paul Reddam.

Courtnall, 40, said plans for the property include an airstrip and heli-port to ferry visitors back and forth to Whistler; a high-end, West Coast style lodge complete with pool, spa, tennis courts and a five-star restaurant and luxurious log-style chalets sold on a time-share basis. Courtnall said a high-end chain-hotel is also an option at some point, “but we haven’t had enough time yet to really evaluate things. We’ve only owned the property a few months, so it’s all at the early stage.”

The land in question stretches from Narrows Inlet to Jervis Inlet and takes in the better part of a whole mountain. Long time Sunshine Coast realtor Bruce Lasuta said the land deal is the single largest real estate transaction in the history of the Sunshine Coast, “both in land area and dollar value.”

Courtnall said the development will not be geared just towards the well-heeled super-rich. “It will not be a gated resort reserved only for people with money.”

Courtnall said they discovered the land through Malloch, who played hockey with Russ Courtnall as a kid. Courtnall said they flew a chopper around the land then up into the surrounding mountains and everyone was instantly sold. “We were also looking at another piece near Sooke, but this one blew it off the map.”

The previous owners, Timberwest, laid out a golf course which is definitely something we’d look at down the road,” Courtnall added. He said his group is hoping to construct an adventure recreation destination complete with outdoor activities like mountain biking, kayaking, fishing and wildlife watching.

Long-term plans could include bringing passengers up to the resort from cruise ships docked in Vancouver. Courtnall said his group wants to meet soon with local officials and the Sechelt Indian Band to discuss their plans.

“We’re talking about building a new industry in the area that will create a lot of jobs. If we can get the local people behind this, it will mean a lot of money for the area.”

Courtnall said if the Sunshine Coast Regional District approves the project, the initial investment could be worth $100 million and create upwards of 200 full-time jobs.

So far, the project is still in preliminary stages. In order for the resort to go ahead, the owners would have to get the property rezoned. SCRD staff say so far they haven’t heard anything about the project.

“No one has dealt with any direct inquiries regarding a luxury resort,” said planning technician Andrew Allen. “We haven’t even had a phone call that I’m aware of.”

Don Murray, the SCRD representative for the area, said until he sees the plans he won’t make up his mind about the project. “It could be great for the area, but it could also mean the end of a way of life,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t end up looking like Whistler it’ll probably be OK.”

Some other locals are more apprehensive.

Paul and Patty Hansen own the picturesque Westcoast Wilderness Lodge directly across the water from the Pacific Northwoods land. They’ve invested more than $1 million to date and are in the middle of extensive upgrades.

Paul Hansen is worried Pacific Northwoods will denude the land for quick cash before any development begins. “That land they want to develop is our ‘viewshed’. We look at it every day. If they log the crap out of it to make an immediate return it could be devastating for us.”

“I definitely don’t want to see Hollywood in our backyard,” Hansen added. “What I’m hoping is the investors are mostly small-town Canadian hockey heroes who understand the feelings of people in little communities like Egmont and will respect what’s here…”

Others, like Pender Realty’s Jeanette Penson, said she’s hoping the project goes ahead. “I’m all for it,” said Penson. “I hope they do something nice up there.”

Courtnall said the project will come down to the wishes of the local population. “Without the support of the community, things might not get very far.”

Meanwhile, Courtnall said his group is also in negotiations to buy up other adjacent lands as a long-term investment.

“This is B.C.’s best kept secret. It’s only minutes from Vancouver by float plane or helicopter, but it has all the beautiful West Coast features that make the area world famous….”