Jordan River campground (pictured straight ahead) attracts thousands of visitors every year to the area. The hamlet itself however

Jordan River buyout snuffs pizza dream

B.C. Hydro to buy lands at Jordan River, but will allow continuous operation of campground.

Jordan River will look a lot more lonely going forward, as one of its most popular food and hangout spots, Far Out Pizza, closed its doors on Sunday night.

The closure comes after the restaurant’s owners, Matt Lambert and Mary Coakley, came to an agreement with B.C. Hydro to sell the property a week ago.

For Coakley and Lambert, who lived on the property and operated the restaurant in Jordan River for more than a year, it didn’t feel like much of a choice.

“We fought for a long lease and they wouldn’t give it to us. They [B.C. Hydro] were quite clear that it would come to its natural ending within six months,” Lambert said, adding that while everyone else was given buyout options, the duo stuck their feet in the ground along with the remaining residents of the Jordan River community.

“Everyone else was early to sell and move on, but we wanted to run our business … it was our dream to do that. It’s been fun, but it does end, eventually,” Lambert said.

On Friday, the Capital Regional District board accepted a $3.12 million offer from B.C. Hydro to acquire what’s left of the now-deserted Jordan River residential area, described by the CRD as a “potential flood inundation area.”

In February, B.C. Hydro bought eight properties and settled with seven out of 10 owners. Only one property owner remains.

As for the former pizzeria and its crew, the lease ends on June 30, leaving a hole in the once-thriving historic community.

“It’s really sad, we got really attached to Jordan River and the community here,” Coakley said. “Everyone embraced us wonderfully.”

At the end of the day, though, it comes down to safety, said Ted Olynyk, communications manager for B.C. Hydro, adding that the goal is to reduce risk to the public in that area.

“We want to make sure that there’s no opportunity for permanent overnight residence, so the best thing for us to do is to acquire as much of the property as we can,” he said.

The issue goes back two years when B.C. Hydro wanted to expropriate residents on grounds that their lives were in immediate danger if a significant earthquake hit, which could potentially crack Diversion Dam above the hills and flood the area within minutes.

In 2015, B.C. Hydro reassessed the dam for its seismic status and withdrew plans for expropriation, instead offering residents a choice to sell their homes at a fair market price.

Olynyk said there is still an opportunity in Jordan River for businesses, as the land will be rezoned for commercial and park use only.

“They just can’t stay overnight, it’s too much of a risk. We realize it’s a vibrant community and a part of B.C. history, but we just want to make it safe,” he said.

After numerous discussions, Juan de Fuca CRD director Mike Hicks said the land purchase was “the best of a bad situation.”

“Everyone did what they had to do to try to take care of the people that were harmed,” he said. “We’ve had a frank discussion, and at the end of it, B.C Hydro agreed to compensate the hamlet owners and to negotiate with us over the sale of our property.”

Despite the closures and potential flood and tsunami warnings, the CRD will continue to maintain the Jordan River campground, with overnight camping still permitted.

New safety tech however, is expected to be added to the campsite thanks to a $150,000 grant from B.C. Hydro that will create an early warning system.

“Our warning system in the campground will wake everyone up and give them 15 to 20 minutes to get out of there,” Hicks said, pointing out the devices will send out loud sirens to warn everyone of what’s coming.

As for Coakley and Lambert, the pizza by the sea dream is over.

“Far Out Pizza was all about being in Jordan River, on the surf, on the water, with our gallery here, on the tourist route, on the surf road, it was about being here. We have no intention to take it further.”

The CRD initially agreed to buy 180 hectares of land in Jordan River to create a regional park in 2010, though the park boundary has not yet been completed to the planned disposition of surplus lands.

 

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