There has been only one bid for land in downtown Courtenay originally bought as the site for a new homeless shelter.

The vacant property at Cliffe Avenue and Tenth Street was advertised by City Hall with offers invited at least as good as its current assessed value of around $355,000. The lone bid for all three adjacent lots on the site has been submitted by businessman Det Kunz, who owns the recently-renovated former IWA building next door. He wants to turn at least part of it into a parking lot for his tenants and their customers. His formal offer for the site, the amount of which has not yet been revealed, will be put to council early next month for a decision on whether or not to accept it, the City’s director of legislative services, John Ward, told the Echo.

At present, Kunz owns a 17ft-wide strip alongside his renovated building at 841 Cliffe, but that only allows four cars to park nose-to-tail with no flexibility to manoeuvre. He previously advised councillors he needed a further 20ft of land from the vacant site to allow the two parallel strips to be combined, which would then allow 14 or 15 angled and accessible parking stalls to be laid out. Councillors were sympathetic to his dilemma, but decided they ought to advertise the land on the open market until May 17 before coming to a final decision. They were anxious to ensure they were not accused of doing a deal behind closed doors when they might have secured a better offer for the land. That sensitivity was significant because the property was originally bought by the Comox Valley Regional District for $470,000.

The price alone was controversial, as it was way above the assessed value of the site at the time. But the intended use, for a shelter and maybe transitional housing, generated even more heat. Controversy dogged the site purchase and its proposed use from the get-go, and eventually the regional district decided to wash its hands of the project and transfer the land to the City of Courtenay for a token sum. It was accompanied by a $100,000 grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority “to assist with the development of an emergency shelter and/or supportive housing project”. The Echo understands the City intends to add what it gets from the site sale to the VIHA grant. The combined sum would then be used to help fund or kick-start an alternate project or projects yet to be identified, although Mayor Larry Jangula has publicly stated the new initiative will not be a new emergency shelter.