In the late 80′s, when the trees were cut down to begin the work on the retirement village on North Road, many islanders went ballistic. When the stand of large fir trees was reduced to to a jumble of timber and stumps, the land just east of the school was very visible and it was a shocking change that happened virtually overnight.
The land had been for sale for a while with no takers, but when Don Powell, bought it he saw potential for development. The island’s OCP (Official Community Plan) called for seniors housing and Don decided to take a chance and provide it. He got through all the red tape and got underway - despite the great hue and cry over the logging. There was a road to be built, and the clearing continued – amidst the wailing of the many islanders who did not want any trees cut down. In some circles, Mr.Powell was not a popular guy, but many tradesmen were very happy to see a project that provided employment, and many seniors were happy to have a local option for retirement living, when the time came to sell their acreages and scale down.
The zoning allowed for ‘institutional use’ and churches fit that category, so a small lot at the corner went to a religious group that erected a church – which obviously inspired the name of the road. Amen.
The first few residential units that went up were a hit. A couple sold right away, and the rest were rented over the next few months. Slowly, the project grew, and over the years Don put up two more phases, along with a custom-built building for the ambulance. By now, more folks were getting used to the new development and recognized its value to the island. Don Powell himself moved into a unit in the newest phase, and his hands-on approach to the project indeared him to the residents and the island in general. Ironically, it was not long after that the Island’s Trust – whose local trustees had been vocal and harsh in their criticism of Powell’s development - ended up leasing a building from him for their Northern Office.
Today, as trees have grown and landscaping has matured, it is hard to imagine NOT having the Retirement Village. Although it met with plenty of oppostion during its infancy, it now blends in nicely with the island’s style and many of the strata units have been sold to local seniors. There is almost always a waiting list for rentals.
A flock of of guinea fowl and of wild turkeys have taken up residence there as well- although feelings about the birds is mixed among the human residents. The birds do provide natural entertainment – albeit noisy and messy at times. Just like Gabriola politics!