It looked for a minute like our upcoming municipal election would give us a chance to elect a diverse group of councillors who would be representative of something other than pro-development or antidevelopment (or in the case of the last election pro or anti a national park). But Wolfgang Duntz would prefer that the primary issue of the next election be his most recent rezoning applications. He has asked Council to consider two large development proposals and would like them to give the necessary bylaw amendments first reading before the next election so Islanders can decide where to take it based on who they vote for in the next election. I kid you not, that is almost a direct quote.
We should probably look at the chances of our remaining council members getting sucked into this abyss as well as taking a cursory look at whether these proposed subdivisions are even worthy of discussion, let alone be the centrepiece issue of a municipal election.
Let’s start with Seymour Bay. The basic idea is to upzone the area to permit multifamily condo units. The sales pitch envisions a dock to facilitate direct water taxi service to downtown Vancouver serving the hotel, cottages and retreat centre. I haven’t looked at the details but would bet that, other than the condos they are just asking for more of what is already approved but still hasn’t been started. Personally I’d like to let them do whatever they think will sell and see if they can pull it off. I like the golf course and appreciate that it could be the hub of a small retreat/resort area. Assuming that the water taxi pans out, the hotel is excellent, the guest cottages have the required ambiance, the retreat can attract an upscale clientele and if a number of other deal breakers are overcome it might have a chance. Any developer with the courage to undertake such a venture should be given a pretty free hand. Of course there is another side to this equation. The more saleable units and commercial spaces created the greater the uplift in the value of the property and eventually the greater the cost to the community at large to provide infrastructure, services and spaces on the ferry. But again, it’s hard to calculate this theoretical value given the speculative nature of the venture. One way to avoid having to figure it out would be to come up with a community amenity that the developer could provide that would also enhance the value of his subdivision. An indoor swimming pool would be nice. It could be available to all of the condo owners and hotel guests but also be available to the community for swimming lessons and recreational use, particularly in the winter. I appreciate that others will have very strong opinions for or against this proposal but I don’t think its worth electing councillors for a four year term just because they promise to vote one way or the other.
The other subdivision proposal is called Parkview Slopes. It is a 20 acre area west of Artisan Square above and beyond Leigh Automotive. Upzoning this property beyond low-density residential lots would be a disaster for the island. I say this because I sat up at Artisan Square for twenty years watching it grow and flourish while Snug Cove stagnated. Now the Cove has a real chance of becoming a thriving village and Duntz’s proposal would suck away any chance of revitalization for another twenty years. The problem we have is the absorption rate of new buildings, both residential and commercial. Think about the existing available land that we would like to see developed. There are the lots beside the general store, the burned out house, the old gas station site, the pub and adjoining lot and the community lands below the school. At the rate the island is growing these properties alone will satisfy any possible demand for a number of years. Simply put, we don’t need land for development we need development projects for the land already available in Snug Cove. Being against the Parkview Slopes proposal isn’t anti-development. It is choosing to support Snug Cove revitalization.
Getting back to Mr. Duntz’s proposal that both of these development schemes be presented together and that both of them should receive first reading a few weeks before the election. You really have to wonder why any member of council would want to add this to an already overflowing agenda. And why they would want to defend that decision while campaigning for re-election?
After the last election I made the observation that Wolfgang Duntz would run Bowen for the following three years. When he and Daron Jennings resigned due to conflicts of interest I wondered if he had really lost his power to control council. Should these rezoning applications actually get first reading we will have to assume that he still has the power. But hopefully that phase of our history has passed. Hopefully the issues discussed in the upcoming election will be reflective of what is important to islanders rather than a few councillors. Hopefully the next council term will herald a new beginning and a return to diverse voices engaged in respectful dialogue.