The West Village is where the seed that sprouted Sun Peaks was planted. As the community grew it seemed somewhat left behind, an area for long time locals or staff at the edge of the village.
But as one project after another is announced in the area, eyes have turned to the West Village as a place for growth in the place where it all began.
Meghan Kolodka has lived in Sun Peaks for eight years and she and her partner are now raising a family of their own. After having a child they felt the squeeze in their current home and were looking for something larger but still affordable they could grow into.
That led them to purchasing a home in one of Sun Peaks’ newest developments, Peaks West.
“We needed a garage,” Kolodka said. “We have an expanding family and with that comes more stuff and we need space to put it. The price is right, it’s the most affordable we’ve seen here for a while.”
They’re also looking forward to the change of pace being just outside of the core of the resort and near family and friends.
“I’m very excited, my sister and her fiance are right across from us and one of my best friends will be sharing a wall.”
Kolodka and her friends aren’t the only locals drawn to the two and three bedroom condos. Of both sold out phases, 46 per cent of buyers are from Kamloops or Sun Peaks and another 36 per cent are from elsewhere in B.C. Only six per cent of buyers were international.
Darcy Franklin, developer of Peaks West and owner of Meranti Developments, built his first duplex on Burfield Dr. in 2016 and has since completed three more multi-family homes. As a long term resident he saw what the area could be.
“For years there has always been a stigma attached to Burfield, it was seen as the other side of the tracks. It has traditionally been owned by long time ‘Toddies’…When we started looking we really saw the potential for families,” he said.
The lot had been on the market for years but zoning that allowed for residential or commercial development made it attractive to the partners.
With construction underway the first phase should be complete in November 2019. Twelve thousand square feet of commercial space will also be built on the ground floor and leased out by Peaks West Properties.
“We receive enquiries (for commercial space) every day,” Franklin said. “There’s tons of interest and lots of ideas…we wanted that commercial space to anchor the development.”
It isn’t the only place in the West Village attracting long term residents. This year a group of Burfield homeowners came together to collaborate on projects, with up to 40 owners attending meetings. One of the first goals was cleaning up two lots owned by the east and west ends of the street.
At the west end of the street the lot was cleared to create a space for biking, where kids are now seen playing all day. Now owners of the east end have plans to remove abandoned vehicles and make a community space.
Member Rob O’Toole said they plan to have it surveyed before getting rid of garbage and controlling access.
“We’ve talked about different ideas like a park, we’d love to see if we can do something like that with a play structure and picnic tables.”
“It’s quieter now,” O’Toole said about living on the street. “But it’s quieter at different times of the day. It’s quiet at 10 or 11 p.m. but not quieter on Sunday at 3 p.m., that’s the dynamic now.”
But growing pains have come alongside improvement. On Burfield Dr. some homeowners could face paying for utility upgrades as illegal suites were added over the years, putting stress on water and wastewater systems.
Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) Mayor Al Raine said before municipal incorporation many people built homes that weren’t within code or zoning.
“A lot of people were supposed to build duplexes, then a lot of the duplexes became fourplexes,” Raine said. “That was not in the original zoning.”
SPMRM hosted a public meeting and asked homeowners with issues to identify themselves and work to bring additions to code. Only one homeowner has come forward.
“The only way forward is to legalize those that meet code…there is going to be a day of reckoning. If they don’t meet code…that’s ugly,” Raine said, adding illegal additions may have to be removed or blocked off.
As the only year-round entrance to the resort for the foreseeable future, Raine said he understands the need for traffic calming. He said SPMRM is considering the addition of a roundabout at the intersection of Sun Peaks Rd., Alpine Rd. and Burfield Dr.
“My hope is that we can build Sun Peaks without traffic lights.”
As work began at Peaks West another problem needed to be solved; a road used to access Burfield Heights units on the east side of the complex since its construction in the early 1970s was on Peaks West property and would soon be inaccessible.
David Cane, owner in Burfield Heights and secretary treasurer of their strata, said the road was used long before he purchased in 1991.
“Best we can tell nobody was really paying attention to zoning or building codes,” he said.
“It was built with no vehicle access or parking.”
Cane said the strata council knew it may be an issue in the future and made attempts to purchase the land without response from the sellers.
“We’ve been really fortunate Peaks West have let us use it for this winter,” Cane said. The strata was recently able to purchase a large lot above their own to develop into parking.
“Many of us are excited about the Peaks West development. It’s also kind of exciting to see this kind of development over here.”
Cane’s neighbour Neil Otsig, echoed his thoughts.
“A lot of people didn’t even know we were up here until they took the trees out. We’ve got a great view now that we didn’t have before, more light, a view of the golf course.
“And when the Burfield is running it’s the best ski in, ski out on the mountain.”
That skiing could change with plans from Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) to alter the Burfield chairlift. SPR manager Darcy Alexander said their focus is on the East Village right now but in the future the chairlift, once the longest in North America, will likely be shortened just beyond the existing mid-station and have capacity doubled to least 900 riders per hour.
He added SPR’s master plan includes day parking and day visitor services in the area, but those improvements are years away.
“Right now our focus is on the East Village and around there,” he said. “We need to get the existing village stable before we spread out.
“There’s not a lot of land down there…we’re approaching it more from a day skier perspective, not (overnight) guests.”
However there is one space in the West Village SPR continues to add to. The first staff accommodation building was built in 1999, then another in 2004. This year construction began on a third, and a fourth should be underway next year when SPR’s temporary use permit expires for portable buildings erected in 2016 during a staff housing crunch. The additions will provide nearly 200 beds.
Alexander said SPR may look at adding other buildings throughout the resort because community planning recommends staff accomodation be spread out. But he said building costs in the East Village are significantly higher as things like utilities and roads need to be added where in the West Village infrastructure is already established.
SPR has 12 lots above Peaks West which Alexander said they are debating between developing as single family lots or another multi-family build.
Other affordable housing is on the horizon in the area as the Sun Peaks Housing Authority starts work, securing land for housing for employees and locals. Two lots, one near the community’s mailboxes and another near the base of the Burfield chairlift, will soon be ready for the authority’s use.
In the meantime more construction is set to begin beside The Burfield as developer Ash Hanna continues with plans for around 11 units in a multi-family development with a small commercial space, likely used for food and beverage. Hanna said the project will be designed for those who want to live in the resort full time.
He added current plans see construction begin when the ground thaws in 2019 for an estimated November 2020 completion.
As Hanna proceeds, he said it’s key the area sees other infrastructure investment, especially adding more well lit walkways.
“We need the footpath on the other side extended, we have too many staff here and across the road walking…if we don’t do something for public safety we’re going to have a serious accident.”
He said he is happy to see commercial space being added to Peaks West and would like to see other plans, like a gas station, move ahead. Alexander said SPR is currently working towards securing a contract to have a gas station developed at Sun Peaks Rd. and Alpine Rd. but it’s probably two years away.
Meanwhile Hanna’s two buildings will represent more than $10 million in investment and he said he hopes the latest building will get the same warm welcome and feedback as the first.
“It’s important people see the village as a whole, east to west and all in between…It’s not just the resort, it’s the greater community.”
As the long neglected area begins to grow again it faces both unique opportunities and challenges but one thing everyone involved has in common is their excitement to be a part of it all.
“I’m so excited, I wish it would be ready tomorrow,” Kolodka said.