Background: The Cape on Bowen
Don Ho and Edwin Lee are founders of The Cape on Bowen Community Development Ltd. (2011). A small group of people have investments of various large amounts in the COB. Don Ho has a small, non-controlling share in the project, and essentially over the years has acted as the advisor and executor on behalf of the shareholders’ collective decisions. The property has been appraised at a retail value of over $70 million.
To date The Cape on Bowen has sold 24 lots, including all the west coast lots, and currently owns 35. Current zoning is Rural Residential 1, which allows a very large house on each property, plus 1 secondary building per 0.2 hectares. Minimum lot size is 4 hectares. The practical limitation is that it does not allow commercial uses.
Candy Ho has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company, effective August 1, 2019. She has been charged with the specific mission to work towards a plan that brings to life the values of the community. In seeking new capital to realize such a plan, Candy sees it as her moral obligation to reach out and work with only those investors who believe in creating positive legacies, respect community, and do not look at financial return as the overarching, primary driver of their decisions. She has resigned from Element Lifestyle Retirement, effective October 1, 2019, in order to dedicate herself fully to improving the future of Bowen Island through her work on The Cape. She has been involved in the background of COB for 15 years, through all its ups and downs.
While Candy advises the board and executes on their collective strategic decisions, she doesn’t have any equity interest in the development and thus does not have a vote. The board has given her their philosophical support and funding support. The shareholders endorse her collaborative approach with the community. If it is established that there is interest from Bowen Island for something other than 59 exclusive estates at The Cape, they will entrust Candy to collaborate with the Municipality, committees, and professional consultants towards a rezoning application for a plan that is economically viable and can attract conscious investors. Candy would lead and execute on that process through to the end.
Here, we elaborate on context.
Most of the current shareholders would like to move their money, which means selling significant majority interest in its holdings to a new capital investor who has the financial capacity, the vision and long-term commitment for a master planned development. They would be selling the property at wholesale value for its current zoning, but for a new investor to be interested, there has to be something that is greater than this zoning, both in economic value and in purpose.
For Don and Candy, their desire to rezone is primarily because it creates a legacy for the community. Building out a master-planned community requires tremendous capital outlay for further infrastructure to support density. Ultimately the financial return depends on a financial analysis of the delicate balance between increased sale value versus increased costs, along with the time horizon of development and associated opportunity costs. More density does not mean better financial return. It is not that simple.
If and when a new capital investor comes in, Candy hopes they will allow her to stay in some way to guide the future of the property, and Don hopes to be around to witness the makings of a legacy. They want to rezone in order to create a well designed community that includes:
- large areas of public forest land, natural habitat, gardens, trails and parks
- enough diversity of housing to attract diversity of people
- a retirement centre where a person can stay until the end of their days
- a spiritual wellness retreat drawing on the beautiful location
Candy recognizes that the first imperative step is to repair the relationship with the community through greater transparency and outreach. She and her father acknowledge that the local reputation of COB was damaged by issues such as the division of the Cape into 59 expensive lots, installation of large docks and subsequent legal battles, some areas with particularly extensive logging, and the accidental release of a prospectus that appeared to imply support from specific community leaders for a rezoning.
Candy believes that for the community to really be a positive legacy, we all need to come to a shared understanding of what this local community wants for its future, and through the process collaborate towards a common vision.
The goal of this process isn’t to re-litigate the past, though of course we will discuss it. The hope is that we can find a way to share an imaginative and positive outcome.
By cultivating support from the public for a community that would serve needs of islanders, they increase the likelihood of attracting investors who share a vision for habitat preservation, affordability and a place that islanders can once again consider their home. They are actively seeking investors who can fund the vision for the future Candy and Don are working toward. Candy has a daily meditative practice that further motivates her to help build something that is inspiring and in sync with her values.
So this is a time of changes in generations, participants and goals that is creating new possibilities for The Cape, and for Bowen Island.