Issues relevant to many development conflicts

This is a comment posted under About Tim Rhodes because the comment period had expired on other posts. At the request of readers and with Ms. Botta’s permission I have re-posted it here.

  1. Meredith Botta

    Hello Tim,

    I read your response to Murray Skeet’s post on Cape Roger Curtis last July and thought you’d be interested in an exchange he and I had recently. Though his and your respective posts were dated last summer, I feel the issues are relevant to many development conflicts today in many rural and urban jurisdictions.

    I copied our exchanges so far below. Cheers. —Meredith Botta, Vancouver.

    Meredith|February 28, 2014 at 4:41 pm|Permalink

    Murray, I have read most of the documentation regarding both versions of the CRC development over the past number of years and find your eloquent commentary highly subjective. While you are undoubtedly passionate about conservation on the CRC lands (and, by the way, I share your concern here), you are cherry picking your facts and drawing conclusions that are not supported by references, citations or other evidentiary information. In fact, your posts are usually devoid of links and references.

    First, I have no economic connection or stake whatsoever in the CRC development. I do have 30 years experience in land planning in a plethora of contexts, from wild to urban.

    The original Ekistics plan, by any common practice measure, was not “high density.” Were there high-rises proposed? No. Mid-rises? Nada. It was a moderately dense, mixed use village with low-rise multi-family, retail and public services development balanced with predominantly detached housing rising up the slope. The overall density in the developed portion of the proposal would have rang in at a whopping two dwelling units per acre. High density exceeds 30 DU/ac.

    The term “high density” is an extreme rhetorical flourish not appropriate for the realities of CRC.

    Your comments about water conservation while valid for any of our island jewels, do not account for the detailed feasibility study done by Kerr Wood Leidal on the original plan. They used three models: status quo water consumption; moderate conservation measures; and high levels of conservation. They measured the flows of the two major streams and determined that carving off a very small portion of the flow charged during the high rainfall events in winter and storing it in a 35,000 m3 reservoir for summer use was the best option. This option would have been especially efficient if roof runoff was captured and treated to potable standards, and non-potable water used to flush toilets, therein eliminating a major portion of consumption from ground sources. How many other Bowen Island residents and businesses can boast they have similar 21st Century water conservation standards?

    Your comment about forest cover ignores a couple of important points. While over 300 forested acres in the original plan would have been converted to parkland zoning, adding I have to say to the already extremely generous park acreage on Bowen, it preserved a much wider swath of the entire waterfront edge than the current development could ever hope to achieve with its pathetic attempt to run public access to the waterfront every 400 m or so. The 30-metre marine setback currently imposed on the site is pathetic by comparison to what could have been. Moreover, not only were the environmentally sensitive areas preserved, but the entire forest, marine and riparian habitat surrounding them was too. If you think 10-acre lot zoning with all the attendant allowable structures and roads will protect an uncovenanted forest in perpetuity in place of rezoning half the entire site for parkland, then you need to look at history and the population demand that will soon enough place elected officials into office to allow further subdivision of those large lots. Just check out a zoning map of Bowen to see a century of precedence. It is far, far easier to justify subdivision of private lots than it would be to carve up an established park for the same.

    Your comment about the expense of trail maintenance is a non starter. Road maintenance consumes a far greater share of municipal budgets, and Bowen is as car-dependent as any community. Arguably, with the mixed-use zoning in the village originally proposed, there would have been measurably less vehicle use as people would have walked to the corner market, to work down the block, or to visit friends and family nearby on foot or bicycle.

    Lastly, your comments about logging at CRC are really out of context with the environmental cost of standard road building activity and construction assembly yards. The only way to avoid road construction on Bowen is to heavily promote all-season water taxis or passenger ferries to several landing points with an island-wide shuttle bus service waiting on shore. (Now there’s a thought!) You obviously do not want to draw the attention of your readers to the many documents posted for all to see on the Bowen Island website, including the monthly construction monitoring reports by Pottinger Gaherty which includes a photo of the very logged site you visited and clearly indicated the removal and remediation of a temporary works yard and the decommissioning of several roads which were replanted with native tree species.

    Given your passion and effort toward eloquence, you can do much better with truth and facts.

    Murray Skeels|March 2, 2014 at 11:26 am|Permalink

    My column is meant to share my opinions and understandings with other Bowen Islanders. It is not a scholarly work.
    High or low density is location dependent. CRC was a wilderness. The zoning was for 59 lots. The Community Plan allowed for up to 225 units. The developer applied for 600. We considered that high density.
    Conservation measures are employed when there is a shortage. The developers admitted going in that there wasn’t enough water for what their plan envisioned.It was a deal-breaker from day one.
    Bowen has 4800 acres of forest open to the public for recreation. Offering 300 more in exchange for a complete rewrite of our Official Community Plan was not compelling.
    On average Bowen’s population increases by about 80 people per year. About 25 houses are built. It would have been decades before anybody was walking to a corner store at CRC.
    Our plan is to increase density in Snug Cove with reduced density levels as you get further from the ferry and water supply. CRC is at the opposite end of the island so 59 lots is preferable to several hundred.
    As for truth and facts, looking over your comment one notes that the arguments made are not only selective, several aren’t an topic. But I’m tired of this discussion. It is all water under the bridge now. And this column is so old I doubt that very many people will ever see these comments.

    Meredith|March 3, 2014 at 12:24 pm|Permalink
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    While the decision to not approve the original CRC plan was made years ago; while your above post was dated eight months ago; and while you may well be tired of this issue and consider it “water under the bridge,” the planning issues represented by CRC are both interesting and common. There is no ‘best before date’ on the development precepts hovering around the Cape. CRC would make a great “What went wrong?” case study for planning and urban design schools.

    Retrospective analyses do allow individuals, decision-makers and the public to learn from experience and account for the oncoming challenges, to make better decisions, and to plan for a better future. This is especially true today now that island residents can see for themselves the results of the rejection of a reasonable development plan and the resulting boomerang back to typical subdivision zoning in the absence of no prior policies on preservation, nor the fortitude to negotiate anything but the basics with the developer on the second go around.

    Private land is private land, with or without covenants. The current development iteration contains private land right up to the high water mark on all water edges. Council could have negotiated a “density bonus” by allowing a limited array of smaller lots (e.g. 5-acres) to be mixed with the 10-acre lots in return for a dedicated PUBLIC park on the lower half of lots 11-16 (i.e. to create a minimum 100 m marine park setback). Council could have also required an increase in the 15 m Riparian stream setbacks to today’s standard of 30 m, and had the authority to enact stricter water conservation measures through its Subdivision Agreement and building permit processes. Making these simple steps would have created a continuous public park on the most important and publicly accessible marine frontage and kyboshed the construction of private docks there, added tens of acres of forest to permanent preservation in Riparian areas under current DFO regulations, and made CRC one of the most progressive subdivisions regarding water conservation.

    Limiting the management of water resources in scope to only the dry period was myopic at best in this case. As mentioned, the Kerr Wood Leidal study proposed tapping and storing a small portion of the significant volume of winter rain falling and channeling into two on-site streams via harmless infiltration wells, tanks and / or storage ponds for summer use, water that otherwise rolls directly into the ocean. If that was not proposed, as you implied, then why is the KWL study still posted as part of the original study? Why was this report ignored?

    Further, Bowen Island receives between 150 cm – 180 cm of average rainfall every year, about 2/3 falling in winter. This means that up to 222,000 litres of rain falls on average on a 185 square metre (2,000 ft2) roof during the six winter months alone, more than on most Gulf Islands and more than enough for an entire family for a year using moderate water conservation measures. It is a resource that is becoming increasingly important to a 21st Century conservation ethic, and Gulf Island residents and businesses – as well as urban projects subscribing to LEEDs ethics — are utilizing rain water harvesting techniques as an alternative to ground water which has supply and quality issues. If water conservation is historically of critical importance to Bowen, then creative solutions utilizing non-ground water resources should have been in place years ago. Bowen is not Santorini.

    Obviously, the population stats and models posted on the BIM website differ from your information. The 2001 census shows 3,281 people living on Bowen then, but the report uses modeling based on previous averages of increase that indicates a potential of 8,000+ residents by 2016, and over 10,000 by the early 2020s. Whether these numbers are realized remains to be seen, but it does beg the question: What is the Bowen Island Municipality doing to plan for the future?

    It strikes me as perfectly reasonable to allow two or three villages of 500 or so mixed use housing (for a variety of incomes) and business units to be established at a greater but comfortable density (including multi-family and attached strata commercial space) in order to preserve more public open space and environmentally sensitive areas. This would also attract markets, restaurants and other service industries. As witnessed with CRC Version 1 versus Version 2, the latter indicative of what created many notable 20th Century land use conflicts, typical subdivision zoning and planning will not cut it anymore.

    Lastly, 4,800 acres of publicly-accessible island forest consumes 37% of Bowen’s 13,000 acres. That is a tremendous legacy, I have to say. However, in reading many comments on several Web sites and blogs, the 300+ acres proposed in the original CRC development plan for perpetual preservation are lamented as some of the highest and most treasured park land values lost on the entire island. Given the pile-driving occurring right now on what would have been one of the best pristine, accessible rocky beaches in the province, I have to wonder why the OCP wasn’t rewritten upon the first development application. All OCPs have to be updated periodically by law anyway. Why not do so to reflect 21st Century community values?

    Just sayin’.

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