Residential ecosystem caters to Mother Nature

Doug Makaroff examines Elkington Forest drawings near one of the many wetlands being protected on the property. - Peter W. Rusland
Doug Makaroff examines Elkington Forest drawings near one of the many wetlands being protected on the property.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Doug Makaroff’s truck bounces along rocky roads in Elkington Forest.

It doesn’t look like what he touts to be the island’s most sustainable, green community.

Or does it?

Aside from narrow roads and a few rough lots so far, all the trees and underbrush are still intact; it’ll be a residential ecosystem, not a clear-cut suburb, in his $30-million project.

That’s the philosophy behind saving 85% of the trees in the 1,000-acre community under careful construction.

Elkington will boast a clustered home-hamlet of just 97 lots — seven of phase-one’s 18 lots are already sold — plus an eco-lodge, farmland, an equestrian centre, community centre, plus some eco-industries.

Those features — plus a small store, fire hall, and maybe a school — will barely dent the wooded wonderland where Makaroff’s Living Forest Communities, and the Trust For Sustainable Forests, aim to save nature by living in it.

“Our conservation model is to protect threatened forests that are really significant to the water table,” said Victoria-based Makaroff.

He proudly saw Canadian singing-star Ann Mortifee’s green vision of living with Mother Nature in her residential oasis on Cortes Island. Now Mortifee’s future abode is under hammers as Elkington’s model home.

“This (Elkington) is the only free-market (residential) model to do conservation of large tracts of forested land,” Makaroff said, happy without a golf course at his project. “Our greens are still standing!”

Covenants protect Elkington’s diverse ecosystems, while timber rights are held by the trust that receives a portion of lot-sale proceeds.

“We put real estate into the service of conservation. For example, there’s no cutting in riparian zones,” Makaroff noted.

Elkington’s small-patch timber harvesting will use highly-selective methods pioneered by Yellow Point’s late Merv Wilkinson. Trees are used to build Elkington’s homes, or to supply its small, value-added businesses.

“You provide a more healthy forest when you open the canopy and allow trees to grow stronger,” Makaroff said, noting some trees are 600 years old. “We want to restore this forest to pre-colonial contact (size and diversity).”

Gazing from a bluff some 600 metres up, Makaroff winced at yawning clear cuts surrounding Elkington Forest where hunting, camping and motorized recreational vehicles are banned.

To fend off forest destruction, his investor-funded project falls under a special land-stewardship zone created by the Cowichan Valley Regional District. And 500 of the project’s 1,000 acres are retained by the Elkington family — who sold Makaroff’s group 500 acres in 2008.

With green safeguards, Makaroff hopes his homes-in-habitat model sets the stage for other forward-thinking developers.

“We’re saying ‘Here’s the new standard for development; for it to be even considered in Area B (Shawnigan Lake), here’s what you’ll have to do.’”

He’s also acutely aware of private plans to import five million tonnes of toxic soil to a Shawnigan Lake-area pit — within view of Elkington — for treatment.

“We’re actually involved in the (permit appeal) fight.”

Elkington’s plans for 97 lots, tapping aquifers, will see green master builders use a series of eight home designs, plus three cottage plans, to construct homes using strict guidelines. Models measure from 624 to 2,800 square feet.

Folks can also hire independent builders to construct dwellings under Elkington’s green guidelines designed to maintain value and reduce living costs.

“We’re trying to be the most sustainable place to build a home. We want homes with a similar look and feel. We want an arts-and-craft feel, not monster homes.”

Rock work, wood, timber framing, and metal roofs are standard, complementing mandated water capturing, plus alternative heating and cooling “whether it’s solar or geothermal.”

Class-A sewage treatment to “near drinking-water standards” is planned under a waste system owned by the CVRD.

“We went far beyond what the CVRD demands,” Makaroff said of his project’s ultra-low impact.

Lots measuring about a third of an acre cost $199,000-plus. Some connect to Elkington’s trail maze, and link to the Trans-Canada Trail slated for completion by 2017.

That’s also when Makaroff hopes to have sold all of Elkington’s lots, including the 77 already approved, and another 20 up for approval at the end of the month.

He was frank about his project’s goal to get folks almost off grid. “We want this to be the most resilient and sustainable place to live.”

Wednesday: Order of Canada singer Ann Mortifee a project proponent and soon to be a resident.

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