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Bowen Island’s Council under Investigation!

by Richard Wiefelspuett

In March 2014, the Office of the Ombudsperson (“Ombudsman”) notified the Bowen Island Municipality (BIM) that an open investigation of the municipality and Council had been launched. The investigation is the result of a formal complaint filed by me in December 2013.

The filed complaint is a comprehensive document, now posted on the Stop-the-Docks website for reference.The complaint is based on this Council’s actions regarding their recommendations to the Province that allowed for construction of the docks at Cape Roger Curtis (CRC).

Before we settled on Bowen Island in the fall of 2012, my wife Lesley and I had spent some 15 years in China and Singapore, countries in which democracy is nothing but a faint wish. We were looking forward to life in a vibrant community but became quickly concerned over the lack of genuine public debate and the many barriers that the current Council has raised deliberately to undermine public engagement.

The Ombudsman only investigates complaints that have merit; the office does not investigate trivial complaints.

The specifics of my complaint are related to private dock applications at CRC and addressed the role and conduct of BIM Council during the process of providing a response to the request from the Integrated Land Management Bureau (the “Province”).

In a Council meeting (May 6, 2013), several Council members declared that they had received legal advice regarding the Municipality’s power to recommend to the Province that these private docks not be approved.  At this Council meeting, the mayor and several councillors – Rhodes, Lucas and Duntz – explained to the public that their legal advice confirmed that they had no jurisdiction to take any position in the dock approval process (see archived video of the meeting).

This information however is in complete contradiction of independent legal advice by a respected law firm (Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP: May-23-2013-Legal-Opinion1.pdf). I found this contradiction deeply disturbing and asked for the release of more details related to the legal advice received by Council. BIM refused to provide the legal advice to me.

In February of 2014, the Ombudsman confirmed to me that their office would proceed with an investigation into Council’s actions. The primary concerns of the Ombudsman were the closed door meetings held to discuss the Council’s response to the Province and the result of this closed door meeting: rejection of BIM planning staff’s recommendation to not approve the docks based on the Official Community Plan.

As a result of the investigation and communication with the Ombudsman’s office, I have provided additional information including cogent examples of Council’s conduct, with respect to alleged violations of the Community Charter closed meeting provisions and a range of examples that illustrate conflict of interest issues on the part of some council members.

On 18 September 2014 the Ombudsman called to update me on the status of the investigation.   In response to his request to BIM, the Ombudsman received records related to the legal advice sought/received by Bowen Island Municipality in regard to the dock approvals at Cape Roger Curtis.

He stated, that the the Bull, Housser and Tupper advice to the Stop-the-Docks campaign describes the jurisdiction of the municipality accurately. The Ombudsman has since asked for additional information from BIM and the scrutiny of BIM’s legal advice continues.

This finding is significant. It confirms that, contrary to their own representation to the public, the BIM Council did indeed have jurisdiction to stop the docks at CRC!   The BIM planner’s report of June 2012, eventually released a year later as a result of a freedom of information (FOI) request, made no mention of legal advice received or solicited and provided valid reasons (based on the BIM Official Community Plan) for recommending to the Province that the docks not be approved.   In a closed door meeting on June 25, 2012, Council specifically rejected the recommendation of its own staff and then presented to the public that it had no jurisdiction to not approve the docks. The failure to hold an open meeting to debate this issue, contrary to the requirements of the Community Charter, resulted in the staff recommendations being kept secret for a whole year. The public was thus prevented from lobbying Council to follow the recommendations of its own staff. The result was the provincial approval of the unsightly docks we see today.

Why did Council lack the political will to protect the public interest and preserve the coastline of CRC? We can only speculate that, rather than protecting the public interest, they were following a different agenda.

The finding of the Ombudsman to date sets the record straight and places the responsibility squarely with the current administration. The docks at CRC are the irrefutable legacy of Jack Adelaar, Tim Rhodes, Andrew Stone, Cro Lucas, Alison Morse, Daron Jennings and Wolfgang Duntz.

The Ombudsman has informed further that the open investigation will continue and “conflict of interest” issues are next on his list.

Listen with words of tolerance

by Stacey Beamer

 

Listen with ears of tolerance
See with the eyes of compassion
Speak with the language of love
-Rumi.

 

Wise words that I try to live by and a philosophy worthy of Council chambers.

There has been a lot of talk over these last few weeks about playing nice as mayoral candidates, being ethical and fair.

They almost made it…maybe next time.

I stand for election completely independent. Funding my own campaign and not beholden to the positions of any individual or group.

Neutrality in the Mayor’s chair is critical in my view.

I am the only Mayoral candidate that can say that.

It seemed, for the first two weeks that both other camps tried hard to pretend I wasn’t here. That maybe I would just wither away. I didn’t. I won’t.

I take it as a compliment that they have both picked up on my terms like “Big Picture” and the importance of infrastructure and that they both now think our youth are as important as our seniors. I was impressed to learn that they both posses significant experience at the helm of multi million dollar projects, as I do.

The only thing I have said publicly about the other two mayoral candidates is that, in my view, Tim represents one version of the status quo and Murray the other. I believe that this is true.

I also believe that both camps lost the plot years ago! This is supposed to be about Bowen, her environment and the creation of a healthy balanced community! However, if it was truly about Bowen, rather than power struggles and political ideology, we would have had the courage to learn from a few of our mistakes by now. We would be able to self reflect as a community in peace, instead of blame. We have not done that yet. And if we don’t start learning, the same fate that befell Roger Curtis awaits many other properties on Bowen, like Grafton Lake, and we will not ever get the amenities we seek. This was my main motivation for running as mayor in this election.

If either camp could actually demonstrate with evidence that they had, on one side, done a good job as stewards of the environment, or on the other, that they had done a good job ensuring that developers paid their fare share to Bowen, I would not be here.

I do not have a team of people assigned each week to write fear filled letters to the Undercurrent or a team to phone every house on the island.

My intent was to gain votes with honesty, passion and content, with a proven track record of experience and leadership. I bring a deep understanding and love of Bowen and her people. I will not go after votes with fear, rhetoric, and big budgets .

I think both camps have underestimated how incredibly exhausted island residents are from the decades of toxic fear mongering that has become so omnipresent here. How incredibly frustrated we all are with our comprehensive lack of progress on so many issues.

It’s almost as if, without realizing it, we have created and accepted as normal, a structure here that is designed to fail. Almost as if we thought that standing still for decades and doing nothing was a good way to protect Bowen. It has not worked! Doing nothing is not a neutral choice. Doing nothing has cost our environment, and our pocket books dearly. I believe we are blessed to live here and have an obligation to do better. I believe that we have the potential to lead the world in community building and should.

Over the past few days, I have experienced attacks on my integrity from both camps. Groups have been tasked to spread the word that I’m not the right guy for the job for this reason or that.

If all a candidate can offer is to say, “vote for me because that other guy is bad” then in my view they are selling a campaign full of fear that is absent of meaningful content. I think it is insulting to the incredible pool of intelligent people that call this place home.

I am local and approachable and happy to talk at length about any subject you may wish. Stop me in the street or email me at beamerstacy@gmail.com.

I will close with a quote from the film “Boondock Saints” that a friend sent me. Not my favourite flick but I loved the quote.

” There’s two types of people in this world when you boil it all down.

You got your talkers and your doers.

Most people are just talkers. All they got is talk.

When all is said and done its the doers that change this world, and when they do that, they change us and that’s why we never forget them. So which one are you? Do you just talk about it or do you stand up and do something about it? Because believe you me, all the rest of it is just coffee house bullshit!

So what are we? Doers or talkers?

You decide Saturday November 15.

Bowen Rocks!

Parcel Tax to pay for Treatment Plant?

At recent election debates both Tim and Stacy mentioned that we may have to impose an island-wide parcel tax to fund a water treatment plant for Snug Cove. Such a tax would certainly be controversial. But I don’t think such a tax is even necessary. Here’s why.

This whole issue got going because Vancouver Coastal Health asked Cove Bay Water District to provide them with a plan for a new treatment plant and failure to provide that plan may affect Cove Bay’s operating licence.

Now Cove Bay has engineers working on grant proposals for two thirds of the required $7.5 million to build the plant. That would leave Cove Bay water users on the hook for $2.5 million. That is a very big pill to swallow, hence the idea that Cove Bay would like the Municipality to spread the cost across the island through a parcel tax, using the argument that we all use the school and future community centre, which are on Cove Bay water. But there is no way that we can start imposing island wide parcel taxes for improvements to local service areas.

What isn’t being discussed is that there is nothing unsafe about Cove Bay water. We haven’t had any health issues for over a decade.

Remember that we are not being forced to build a plant, just to provide a planning document. Our plan must include increasing the number of users so we can afford to run the plant when it is built. Operating costs are projected to be $250,000 every year. Cove Bay water rates just went up 50%, this would add another $400.00 per year for each household even if the plant itself was free.

And there is collateral damage. This proposed plant is supposed to be built across the road from the entrance to Artisan Lane on a valuable lot that we own. It would require a large storage tower on land being promoted for rezoning by a local developer. The municipal lot is too small for settling ponds so the wastewater from the treatment plant would have to be concentrated. The equipment to do that costs $800,000. Then the concentrated waste would go to the sewage plant by the Festival Grounds, which means building a pipeline. But the sewage plant isn’t actually large enough to handle all of the buildings proposed for the Cove and pumping this waste through it would reduce the possible new connections by 15 or 20%.

The frustrating part of all this is that we commissioned an engineering report in 2003. It doesn’t even consider this location for the plant. A preferred location identified by the engineers is beside Grafton Lake where the water originates. It is an excellent location for a much less expensive treatment plant and the owners have indicated a willingness to work with us to make it happen.

The project Stacy and Tim are supporting would be hugely expensive for every homeowner on Bowen and very unlikely to be acceptable to the Cove Bay subscribers. There is something wrong with what is happening here and is one of the reasons I’m running for Mayor.

 

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Still on the Campaign Trail

The last 19 days have been nothing if not instructional. On Monday I attended the Mayor’s Debate. Cates Chapel was packed with interested and engaged community members who listened thoughtfully and through their applause and occasional laughter gave great feedback.

One issue that really resonated was protecting and following our Official Community Plan (OCP). I was asked to identify the critical zoning and development issues facing Bowen over the next four years. As part of my response I noted that some major rezoning applications have included a request that we amend the OCP to accommodate the developer’s vision. I made the point that they were much more likely to succeed with their project if they just tailored their vision to our community’s long range plan. The applause was noteworthy. It’s clear that islanders really like the idea of this vision. We wrote it together and it reflects our values. I noticed that the current council seemed to regard it more as a hindrance than our guiding vision. It was most heartening to see how many other islanders were eager to see it respected.

Another issue that drew quite a response was the proposed reindustrialisation of Howe Sound. I spoke of how wonderful is has been to see that the whales, dolphins and fish are returning to the Sound and how sickening it is that so many major industrial projects are in the planning stages. In case you forgot one they include an LNG terminal, an open pit gravel mine, a garbage incinerator for Metro Vancouver and logging a quarter of Gambier Island. It amazes me that each of these things is studied in isolation with no regard for the cumulative effect. For decades we watched so much of the ocean life in Howe Sound die and are just now beginning to see the resurgence. Finally a tourist to Vancouver can travel for just a few minutes to reach a thriving marine environment where they might glimpse whales. The passion many of us have expressed on this issue is already paying off. The Minister of Forests just announced that they are going to hold off logging on Gambier, and the Squamish Nation is spearheading Howe Sound marine planning. This is one regional issue that the new Council should definitely be part of.

The question of supporting our youth also came up. Our high school students don’t get enough respect. I made the point that in many communities if you ignored your teen’s needs the way we do you’d have some real problems. We don’t because we have a great group of kids. I think the problem we’ve had is that because kids grow up so fast we see their needs as coming and going. We have to realize that the next group will be along shortly and facilities should be constructed for the long term. A new permanent bike park will a good example of how we can support not just this generation of teens but for the long term.

Trails and greenways came up several times in regard to tourism initiatives, on island transportation and livable communities. For over a decade every rezoned development has been required to build trails and set aside parkland, typically 30 to 50% of the property. What is exciting is that all of these trails will eventually link up to provide an off road network for walkers, bikers and horse riders to get to any area of the island. After the election work will begin in earnest on a Parks and Trails Master Plan that can give property owners clarity on how their land fits the overall picture. As this unfolds I envision community volunteers working with the municipality to maintain and upgrade the trails. It will be a great community building opportunity and a wonderful legacy for future generations.

We were also asked about transportation solutions. We’ve done remarkable work showing the world how a small isolated community can transform itself from a throw-away culture to champions of recycling. Revolutionizing how we think about transportation will be our next opportunity. The Municipality needs to take more leadership on this issue. We can work with the School District and Translink to look for ways their buses can be used more efficiently. Our local Translink bus operator is a gem of a guy and has proposed a number of innovative solutions to bus service, and we need to work with him and Translink to improve service. The LIFT group on the island is working on a new app for ride sharing. And a proposal for a taxi service deserves further scrutiny.

I’d like to leave you with a short vignette that I posted on Facebook; “I learned a valuable lesson on Halloween. I was wearing my candidate’s costume and handing out candy in Deep Bay. As I was putting candy in a boy’s bag somebody called me Mr. Mayor. The boy’s eyes lit up and he said with awe in his voice “Are you the mayor?” I admitted that I was only a wannabe Mayor. But it really struck me that, whoever you are in your day-to-day life, when you’re Mayor you represent your community. It’s an honoured position and a serious responsibility.”

This will be my last column before Election Day on November 15. I would greatly appreciate your support.

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A Forward-looking Vision for Bowen Island

For over two generations, the Bowen Island Eco-Alliance has been active in the belief that the quality of our community life is in direct proportion to living in harmony with our island environment. We urge voters in Bowen Island’s upcoming elections for local government to choose candidates who will uphold this principle.

Our vision of harmony includes measures to address climate change and local housing affordability. We value the contribution of a healthy island-scale economy to meet local needs and to welcome visitors. We differ, however, from those who advocate greater development than that already planned for in the Official Community Plan (OCP). Our community cannot simply build its way out of the challenges that we face. In fact, so often, private development creates a need for more public infrastructure that soon requires tax revenue from more development to pay for the costs. We prefer small-scale solutions that respect the island’s finite size and inherent limits to growth.

The policies of the OCP are closely integrated around an anticipated level of future residential growth that forms part of the overall community plan. This level of future residential density envisioned in the OCP is referred to as the “build-out”. Bowen’s latest OCP, approved in 2011, commits to retaining the same level of residential build-out as the previous OCP (1996). Adhering to the build-out allows reliable planning for infrastructure and amenities needed for the future as the population grows.

One of the most innovative features of Bowen’s current OCP is to encourage development in the existing village of Snug Cove and the future village of Seymour Bay by transferring residential density from less developed areas of the island into those two compact areas. This policy is intended to preserve large un-fragmented forest areas in the rural parts of the island, while also creating “walkable villages” that contribute to affordable housing and reduced greenhouse gases. The OCP outlines a process of “density re-allocation” by which these objectives can be achieved without adding to the already anticipated build-out.

More than anything, Bowen Island needs an elected mayor and councilors who are knowledgeable and committed to maintaining the OCP policies on growth management and implementing other innovative initiatives, such as density re-allocation.

The Eco-Alliance believes that Bowen’s rural character encourages a sense of mutual assistance and local initiative in the community as a whole. Rural character extends as well to an island-scale economy of locally owned and operated shops and home-based businesses; of local food production; and, in a contemporary sense, internet entrepreneurs living in “electronic cottages” while conducting commerce globally. Our community’s rural character also inspires the development of arts and culture. It is not a coincidence that Bowen Island has one of the highest concentrations of employed artists and craftspeople for its size in Canada. Nor is it surprising that Bowen Island’s involvement with the Islands Trust for over 40 years has fostered an environmental land ethic that forms an important part of our political culture.

These essential values form the heart of our island community. But they need to be nourished and strengthened. And they are put at risk by those forms of inappropriate development that encourage increasing suburbanization and weaken our sense of local identity.

We urge you to vote for candidates who have an environmentally-focused vision for Bowen Island’s future.

 

Bowen Island Eco-Alliance Directors

Luz Budzinski is a former print shop proprietor, now retired. Gillian Darling Kovanic has been a documentary filmmaker for thirty years. Jack Little is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University. Eric Sherlock works for government in the field of international relations. Jack Silberman teaches documentary film at Capilano University.

For more information about the Eco-Alliance, see our website:

 

www.ecoalliance.ca

 

 

 

 

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Murray For Mayor

I’m seeking your vote for mayor so I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why.

Our daughter turned three just after we moved to Bowen in 1978. A year later her brother arrived. Janice and I were seeking a life style in a natural setting. While the natural setting and proximity to Vancouver drew us here it is the community that has held us for 36 years. During the years it took to build our house we moved back and forth across the island living in whatever we could rent. When our house in the woods was liveable we got our goats, chickens and honey bees. If you ever want to hear stories about how not to raise livestock, I’m your man.

For thirteen years I commuted to town and I still remember the costs and challenges involved. Since 1991 Continue reading ›

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The vital need to build a more fully democratic society

by John Sbragia

As British Columbians prepare to vote in municipal elections involving a longer four year term, it becomes increasingly important for all citizens to “think globally and act locally” when considering and exercising their civic responsibilities on November 15. That process points to the most vital issue in acting locally towards a more enlightened community in our current world.

The economy and other important issues affecting all of us cannot be dealt with adequately without a more fully democratic governance and society. Until that happens, “the economy” will remain a political shell game played by the agents of wealthy and powerful vested interests – a game where the rich are getting richer, and increasing numbers among the rest of us are getting poorer.

The most important political lesson we can learn from history is Continue reading ›

Building Consensus and Community

By Tim Rhodes

My most important lesson of the last three years is how difficult it is to move any agenda forward in the partisan and divisive atmosphere that often pervades our public discourse, and how important it is to move beyond this if we are to prosper.

I believe we have common values – we cherish the same things – and we can and must build consensus on these values, because Council’s success over the next term will depend on building things we cannot see and will benefit us far into the future: the culture of positive public discourse Continue reading ›

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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT – follow the money!       

By Nerys Poole

When you consider who to vote for in the upcoming election, ask yourself: which candidates have been funded or financially supported by developers on the island? Who is likely to hold closed door meetings to discuss issues that need open debate and public scrutiny?

These are critical questions for our island. We have had the last three years to assess candidates from the current council. And we have many fresh faces.

For those who may be relatively new to the island, there is much to be learned from past election results and Continue reading ›

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Setting the Stage

The countdown to our municipal election starts now. Nominations close this Friday and in five weeks we go to the polls. We don’t yet know who will be running nor do we know what the major issues will be. But it doesn’t hurt to speculate.

For me the biggest consideration will be how our existing council treated us over the last three years. They approved the construction of stupidly oversized and inappropriate private docks at Cape Roger Curtis. They did it in secret and then they pretended that they were forced to do it. It wasn’t until we saw an email from the provincial government, obtained through a freedom of information request, that their malfeasance was exposed. Continue reading ›

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