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Here we go again

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.


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Summer Is Over

Summer is over and its time to get serious about the upcoming municipal elections. In the past mayor and council served for three year terms. On Bowen this meant that they almost had time to do something, but not quite. This time the term will be four years and a council with four likeminded individuals could do a lot to change the face of our island, for better or for worse. To make an informed decision about who to ultimately vote for we should remind ourselves about how politics work on this island. The nuances of who supports what and why they do it needs to be explored.

The two groups that most quickly come to mind are the Eco Alliance and the Improvement Association. Continue reading ›

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This Side of the Moat

Have you ever wondered where we’re going? Is Bowen going to grow, are property values going to rise or fall, is BC Ferries going to drive us into the ground? There are a few factors that exert enormous control over our demographics but there are also some macroeconomic trends that may skew things a bit.

Imagine what Bowen would be like if we had unlimited free ferry service with runs every fifteen minutes. Instead of a 3,500 population it would be 35,000 and the character of the island would be completely different. We have a small population precisely because access is so difficult and expensive. In business we talk about the width of a company’s economic moat; those things that prevent competitors from destabilizing its position. On Bowen our moat isn’t just figurative, Continue reading ›

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Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was developed & launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Abuse and neglect of older adults is not limited to any one country or part of the world. So, WEAAD involves activities to bring greater recognition of mistreatment of older adults wherever they live throughout the world, and to highlight the need for appropriate action. It is intended to give abuse and neglect of older adults a global relevance that will sustain and move prevention efforts forward throughout the year and for years to come.

On Bowen Island, Snug Cove House Society is dedicated to supporting independent seniors to stay well.  We are, therefore, concerned about the issues of elder abuse and neglect, whether caused by the self or others.  There are resources available here and Continue reading ›

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Island Notes

Be careful what you wish for.

Our Municipal Council is putting the final touches on a bylaw to rezone six acres of municipal land between the school and Seniors Lane. The area is divided into three pieces. Along the road it envisions four-storey mixed commercial/apartment buildings. Behind that would be buildings, again up to four stories high, with 33,000 square feet of municipal administration and community assembly space and more apartments. Behind that, closer to Bowen Court, would be townhouses with secondary suites. In total, between the townhouses, suites and apartments, up to 80 living units could be built. When you consider that our population grew by 40 people in five years (2006-2011) it again seems a bit optimistic.

Normally it would be hard to get excited about grandiose plans but this one is a bit more serious. Continue reading ›

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Mucking Around with the OCP

The B.C. Local Government Act lays out requirements and provides guidelines in the drafting of Official Community Plans. Bowen has an additional obligation to include OCP policies that specifically implement directives of the Islands Trust. Any changes to the OCP require approval from their Executive Committee.

While the OCP is a living document, any changes must be done for good, compelling reasons. There are two ways of doing this. The first is periodic review and update, something done with wide community involvement on Bowen in 1984, 1996, 2011. The second involves ‘spot changes’, necessary to achieve desired outcomes for specific properties or issues.The golden rule is to ensure that any change does not contradict the hundreds of other elements of the OCP. That is why extensive community and professional input is so paramount- to ensure that amendments are proper and well supported.

Bowen Council is now forwarding two OCP amendments, one to allow for rezoning and development of Lot 2 of our community lands (between the school and Seniors’ Lane-Bylaws #352/353), and the other to remove perceived barriers to economic development (Bylaw #357). Each is well intentioned, but fraught with problems and inconsistencies. Both compromise the OCP and fail the golden rule litmus test. Continue reading ›

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Election Platform

Politicians ask the electorate what they want. A wish list emerges. The politicians pick from the list and build a campaign around it, in hopes of getting elected. That’s how it works in most places but Bowen is a bit different. The wish list is so long and diverse that those running for council have found it best to avoid specific issues and speak in broad generalities.

A typical speech is something like “My wife and I have lived here since the dawn of time, we raised our children here, helped to lift into place the roof beam of the fire hall. You know me and I know you, I share your dreams, hopes and desires for our island. I feel the same pain as you when BC Ferries raises our fares and cuts our service. Continue reading ›

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Municipal elections will be upon us again this fall.  When our current Council took office three years ago, they were quite vocal about the lack of progress made by the outgoing Council on outstanding pressing matters. The new crew had a Strategic Plan for their mandate. Now the time has come to revisit that plan and see how they’ve fared.

On top of the list was implementation of a ferry marshalling solution. First came “Plan Z”. When that proved unworkable they spent a goodly sum of money on a “Plan Q”. When that proved unworkable they blamed our problems on the herons nesting in Snug Cove and dropped the whole thing.

Another top priority was the completion of a new Community Centre. Continue reading ›

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submitted by the board of the Bowen Island Conservancy

Our mayor has publicly pondered the value of the Islands Trust to Bowen Island and whether we might opt out of the Trust.

First of all, the Islands Trust and the islands within it can only be changed by provincial legislation, not by a locally elected municipal council.  There is a reason for this.  The Province created this Trust Area not just for those of us who are fortunate enough to live here, but also for all British Columbians who benefit from exploring the natural beauty of the islands.

The provincial government enacted the Islands Trust Act (“IT Act”) in 1974 as a reaction to growing concerns that development was endangering “the very features that made the Trust Area so attractive to residents and visitors.”  This raison d’etre for the Islands Trust continues today.  Continue reading ›

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Muddying the Water

I’m far from Bowen right now but I really want to comment on a letter recently sent to Cove Bay Water homeowners. It makes the case for building a $7.5 million water treatment plant to serve our 615 users and urges us to support taking out a $1.5 million loan. The problem isn’t so much with the capital cost; it’s the operating costs they’re glossing over that make the deal hard to swallow – but I’ll get back to that. The reason I’m writing is because the first thought that went through my mind was “So that’s why they raised the lake.” Continue reading ›

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