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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.

Bylaw #357 is actually pernicious. It strips away protections for neighbours from noise, dust etc from light industry. It gets rid of any controls on tourist acccommodation, both size and type. It dilutes environmental protections, putting them on a par with economics and the ‘built environment.’ It expands the Commercial zone up Trunk Road as far as BICS, even as several properties remain undeveloped in the lower Cove. A public information meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 21st at 5:30 pm, Cates Hill Chapel. The APC has already objected to the provisions for RV camp grounds. We can only hope that there will be reasonable opportunities for discourse.

The other OCP amendments are found in Bylaw #352. Developing some community land has been the intent since the lands were purchased in 2005. There already is a draft Bylaw #223, which would allow that to happen for Lot #3 (along Miller Road beyond the RCMP station). So doing the same for lot #2, with meaningful community consultation, makes sense.

The problems involve the way it is being done, and what is being included. Instead of directly building upon the Snug Cove Master Plan and Community Centre Feasibility works of Alan Boniface, Council chose to establish a secretive Temporary Advisory Board to make recommendations. By account, one member had a short conversation with Boniface, and none with the previous Community Centre Task Force/Working Group. They met in closed meetings, arguably illegally, then presented a report, which, supplemented with napkin quality drawings, became the basis of the bylaws.

There was a single public information meeting, held at an inconvenient dinner hour, reportedly with poor sound and rather chaotically managed. Staff and a member of the public answered questions while Council members looked on mutely. While there was some support, there were also a number of suggestions for improvement. Yet no substantive changes reflecting that input appear to have been made, and the bylaws are slated for public hearing at 5:30 pm on July 29th (itself a prescription for low turnout). After the hearing, that’s it for public discourse.

This is a travesty, because the process represents a huge opportunity missed. Why there has not been at least a workshop to consider improvements is a mystery, though I suspect Council may fear having to reread bylaws and upset their timeline.

The deficiencies in the OCP amendments are simple- they are at variance to key principles and policies of the document. You can’t create new density by way of multi-family housing out of thin air; it has to be reallocated. Nowhere are secondary suites in multi-family units a supported housing form.

The scatter-gun approach is also problematic. To designate lands Residential/Institutional/Commercial really stretches the intent. Presumably, this is to provide latitude in ultimate uses. But who in their right mind would consider building an apartment by the school, in front of the proposed community centre? Or put parking and a road up against the school property line where kids must cross to access an after-school program. Besides, there is simply nowhere to put all the things proposed for the community campus.

There are positive aspects to the bylaws. I like the idea of a medical clinic, and appreciate reduced parking requirements. Taller buildings at the foot of the hill seem ok as well, though the fire chief thinks new equipment and training would be necessary to rescue people from a four story apartment. Obviously, maximizing potential returns and benefits to the community is a good thing. But there is no assurance the long promised community centre would actually get built. We might end up with just the residential and commercial uses.

At the very least, we need to have wider public discussions about the suitability of apartments on Bowen, designate a specific park site around ‘The Lookout’, and address our affordable housing policy. That  would likely make for  better bylaws. But no, we are getting bush league planning instead. What a waste.

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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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Countdown

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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WHAT IS THE ISLANDS TRUST AND WHAT USE IS IT?

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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Not Only on Bowen

by Maureen Nicholson for Bowen Islanders for Ferry Fairness

“Only on Bowen.” That phrase is used sometimes as a compliment and sometimes with resignation. But the recent BC Ferry Corporation “engagement process” and later events have driven home that Bowen is not unique. We live in one of many communities that depend on BC Ferries, communities that will be harmed by this latest round of service cuts and rate hikes.

It can be difficult to know how to respond to this kind of change, especially after enduring a discouraging community engagement process.

Out of frustration, Continue reading ›

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Can We Change?

by  Tim Rhodes

Public engagement around community facilities has been ongoing for at least a decade. In 2005, reports discussed the merits of including municipal offices to provide “additional capital and operating funding” and the concept of “campus style” development. Subsequent reports included location on the southern portion of Lot 2 and provision of housing and commercial uses as an option for financing capital costs and operations. Most recently informed by a volunteer advisory board including professionals with experience in land evaluation and development, this decade of engagement ultimately resulted in a Public Information Meeting on April 14, 2014 about the proposed re-zoning for Lot 2 of the Community Lands.

Given that the uses proposed in the re-zoning proposal were in response to identified community needs and recommendations in the OCP, I anticipated the audience would question Continue reading ›

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The Real Agenda

Bowen embarked on a bizarre experiment in municipal governance in the last election. Outraged by a possible National Park proposal the electorate voted for a change of leadership. Given the limited options of the ballot they elected both partners of the island’s largest land development company. Now, nine months before the end of their term both partners have resigned, acknowledging their conflict of interest. Noting how self-servicing their resignations are we have to look at how we have been played. Continue reading ›

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Our tourists: what are they really looking for?

by Wynne Nielsen

Visitors are unarguably the most reliable contributors to a broad spectrum of island economic life. They arrive singularity and in friendly flocks, like migrating birds throughout the year to visit  friends/family, attend weddings, stay at B&Bs, walk/hike the island trails and interconnecting parks. They explore our shores in kayaks, visit beaches, view sunsets, sail and seek quietude and inspiration in our still abundant nature — restoring nature deficits of city living. They photograph every aspect of our natural scenery. They play golf, attend workshops, health/wellness retreats, spas, dances/festivals/music venues, tour gardens & art studios. Along the way

Continue reading ›

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DEVELOPMENT/CONSTRUCTION AND PROPERTY TAXATION

by Wolfgang Duntz

In the February 13, 2014 issue of Bowen Bulletin, Ms. Nerys Poole made reference to the January 27, 2014 Council meeting and quoted me as saying: “The bottom line is that we are not sustainable. There is not one community that can sustain itself without growth.…tax increases are bad for morale, because it’s so easy. Get your act together and work toward development, construction.”

While Ms. Poole’s quotation was correct, unfortunately her subsequent conclusions were not. Continue reading ›

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