When stonemason Jody Parry applied for mining permits on lands near Porteau Cove in Squamish a few years ago, he had his eyes on mineral-rich boulders littering the barren landscape for his company, Bellaroc Masonry, to source its granite.
“That’s what we do – we break rocks and put them on houses,” Parry said.
A Squamish resident of nearly 40 years, Parry represents the third generation in the family business.
The local stonemason is up against one of the country’s largest real estate developers in a court fight over Howe Sound property.
Parry knew the site where he’d applied to mine was once a sand and gravel pit run by John Deeks, whose employees lived in a small community in Porteau Cove until the Great Depression. Deeks’ legacy in the area remains, with a lake, a peak and a creek bearing his name.
But what Parry didn’t know is that his permits, good for five years, were stepping on the toes of Concord Pacific, one of the country’s largest developers. Dating back to 2004, Concord’s plans for a 1,400-home community in Porteau Cove were sunk by the global financial crisis of 2008. Since then the lands have sat empty and were mired in controversy when the company bought out its former development partner, the Squamish Nation, for $1.
“I didn’t even honestly know who Concord was at that time,” Parry said in a phone interview.
Concord is taking the province’s Chief Inspector of Mines to court over Parry’s mining permits, claiming they imperil the company’s plans for the site, which it hopes to start building on in 2019. Concord, through a numbered company and a limited partnership, filed a petition in BC Supreme Court on June 18, claiming it has spent $33 million acquiring and developing the lands so far. The petition states construction was originally set to begin 10 years ago but was “temporarily put on hold” because of the Great Recession.
“Since then, the real estate market in or around Vancouver has made a dramatic recovery.”
Concord, which unsuccessfully appealed to the province’s Chief Inspector of Mines to have Parry’s mining permit revoked, claims it was unaware of that permit until it was notified of his plans in April 2018. It claims that five-year permit is “unnecessary and unreasonable” and that mining “will adversely impact Concord’s rights, privileges and interests, including Concord’s ability to obtain funding and/or investment for the lands.”
The company’s website says the Porteau Cove development is “coming soon” and that it will be “the ideal community for those that appreciate and play outdoors and want to be close to all downtown Vancouver has to offer.”
Concord didn’t make anyone available for an interview when contacted by Business in Vancouver. The company’s lawyer, Hein Poulus with Stikeman Elliott, did not return calls for comment.
“The project right now, we don’t have any current updates on it. We still do own the site, so it may be coming up in the future,” an unidentified sales employee told BIV.
Meanwhile, Parry and Bellaroc have applied to the Surface Rights Board to compel Concord to allow access to the lands, and the board has deferred issuing a decision until the company’s petition is heard in court. Parry said he understands the company’s position and is leaving it up to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and the Surface Rights Board before he starts drilling. He insists the permit process was all above board, having met all the environmental standards and requirements to consult with First Nations.
“The Ministry of Mines, they feel strongly that we gave all the information,” he said. “Permits are not just handed over.”
Having worked in the region for so long, including on houses in the British Properties, Parry said he floated the idea of working with the company, including supplying granite extracted from the site to the project.
“They don’t even want to look at that kind of option,” Parry said. “They’re standing firm on their side, and we’ll just have to see what happens.”