Docks

To correct misinformation circulating about council’s decision on the four docks at The Cape:

Application was made to the Province in September of 2011 for four water leases at the Cape on Bowen.

This was prior to the 2011 election. The applicants could not know whether or not the 2011 council would be largely representative of the 2008 council, which had an extremely adversarial relationship with two of the applicants. One can infer the applicants considered their legal position to be solid, given that they did not know the make-up of the council which would be judging it.

The Province asked Bowen Island Municipality for a response to the applications in late 2011 or early 2012. To my knowledge the 2008 Council was not aware of these applications.

A junior staff member had issued a rejection of the application, without consulting superiors, on the basis of a covenant on land above the High Water Mark (HWM). The applicants followed up with information to the Province that their application did not extend to covenanted land.

Council looked for tools in municipal bylaws, covenants, agreements, and the OCP to justify rejecting the applications. The toolbox was empty.

There were no shoreline protections in place. The OCP Update completed during the 2008-2011 term called for the provision of these protections, but none had been brought forward.

Furthermore, Goal 2 of the Twelve Fundamental Goals is to “recognize the importance of the marine environment and preserve a marine-oriented community and island atmosphere, “ and Objective 108 is to “facilitate water transportation services and private marine craft access for residents and visitors.”

In summary:

The OCP supports private docks.

The municipality did not have bylaws or other policies that would support refusing the applications.

Council had a fiduciary responsibility to not expose the municipality to litigation when our chances of prevailing were at best uncertain.

The municipality needed to put shoreline protections in place that would prohibit large docks of this nature being built in the future.

The municipality needed to have a bylaw applicable to the entire island so as not to be seen as discriminating against the owners at The Cape.

The wording with respect to the beach protections in the bylaw was changed to match the wording in the OCP and provides the same level of protection as the previous wording.

Today for the first time Bowen Island has regulations governing dock size and location.

At the request of a citizen, the provincial Ombudsman reviewed the process and found everything in order.

2 Responses to Docks

  1. Janice Halligan

    I would like to see the municipality’s website finally arranged so that the documents wherein many of these facts reside were not difficult for the average member of the public to discover for themselves. Other municipalities have achieved this. I’m certain we can… if we make it a priority, which, in my mind it should be. One of the more basic duties of a local government is to keep the community informed, is it not?

    In my opinion, a lot of the misinformation or misinterpretation or misremembered details and distrust that these foster could be nipped in the bud with the implementation of real transparency. *Usable* transparency might be the better way of stating this. It is technically true that the documents can be retrieved (for the most part) from the municipality’s web presence with the facts regarding an issue such as the docks but it is observably difficult and time consuming for any one member of the public to deduce which documents related to which issue.

    Nothing combats rumour and innuendo quite as handily as shared knowledge of the answers to the infamous “what when why and how” questions on topics current and past. When these answers are not easily answered by curious members of our community, misinformation is often manufactured to fill the void which then leads to rumour and innuendo, most of which is negative and none of which is productive. Additionally, others cannot correct misunderstandings amongst their peers when they cannot easily locate the facts to back them up. The most repeated information soon becomes believable when not refuted or refutable by anyone but the decision makers themselves.

    When the same explanations are required time and time again something is broken somewhere. We should fix this soon. Usable transparency would be a good start.

    • Hi Janice,

      I think you make a good case and the municipality is (finally) moving forward with a social media policy!

      Some of the information, like the docks decision, is the product of a closed meeting, but as I have done here, we can perhaps at least frame the process and the parameters within which the decision was made.