Another Letter to Joint Venture Owners from Trust Society

June 8, 2006 – BACKGROUND: While the Trust Society invited an owner’s representative to meet with us and talk about creative solutions, they did not respond in any way to our previous request – their letter didn’t even acknowledge, let alone reject, our invitation to search out common ground solutions.June 8, 2006

Mr. Don Ho, Mr. Edwin Lee, Mr. Dan Grimble,
CRC Joint Venture,
P.O. Box 228,
Bowen Island, B.C. V0N 1G0

Dear Mr. Ho, Mr. Lee and Mr. Grimble,

Thank you for your detailed response to our letter, dated April 4, 2006. We do appreciate hearing your perspective on things to do with Cape Roger Curtis and its future development. More importantly, we are pleased to be able to have a direct conversation with you and to get a clearer sense of your perception of details surrounding the potential development of the CRC land.

You state in your letter that you are “quite prepared to work with Bowen Island’s elected representatives in a constructive and mutually respectful manner to explore and find ways and means to achieve each group’s objectives.” We are delighted to hear this and would like to assure you that our group, the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society, representing a large number of the people on this island, share your approach. We recognize that your purchase of the CRC lands has been consistent with the rules as laid out in the OCP and defined by the Land Use Bylaws, as you note in your letter. And we certainly hope you to enter into the comprehensive rezoning process, as proposed by the Bowen Island council. Our intention is to work with council and any other organizations on the island deemed to represent the public interest, to bring constructive and creative solutions to the table that can meet a reasonable set of corporate objectives, as well as the needs of the people who call this unique community home. We, too, want to work towards a successful outcome.

With respect to your listing of the “substantive obstacles” to the rezoning process, our response is as follows:

You claim that certain individuals and groups hold “a sense of entitlement” to the CRC property. We acknowledge that some people who have been speaking out about CRC must sound that way at times.

Nevertheless, the Cape remains precious to many of us who live on this island and who continue to be involved in protecting the special values of this place. There is very little accessible wild space with coastline left on Bowen. Many of us have been walking, relaxing and recharging our spirits on the CRC property for generations. So it is hardly surprising to find that people have an emotional connection to that land and that they offer strongly emotional responses to the prospect of it being used for high-end housing. On page 1 of your letter, para. 3, you state that “the present tree cover is only of limited environmental, economic or aesthetic value.” That statement seriously misjudges the general perception of the CRC land by residents of this island, and grossly underestimates its preciousness to this community. The overall sense of beauty, harmony and well-being that many of us feel when visiting the CRC land, the nourishment gained when spending time walking the property or contemplating the seascape and/or sunset, results in a powerful aesthetic that is what is motivating so many of us to fight to protect as much of the Cape as is possible.

Yes the property has been in private ownership for a long time. But your pre-purchase research would certainly have flagged the very difficult path you were facing in developing the CRC land (after all, it’s why the purchase price was so low and, presumably, why you felt the need to hire someone locally as your representative). Although you state in your letter that attempts to purchase the CRC lands “were not successful”, our preferred language would be that those initiatives had not been ‘successful yet’. Or better still, ‘not successfully concluded at the time of your purchase’. The effort to protect CRC was well underway when you bought that land. It remains the firm goal of the CRC Trust Society to shepherd the creation of a contiguous, wild, marine coast preserve of significant size, and we will be a player at or near the negotiating table, representing the public interest in accomplishing that outcome. We may no longer be able to advocate that all the CRC land be committed to this end. However, in working with you, the owners of the property, and with our elected representatives and planners, we look to all parties, including your company, to bring creative leadership to the table to accomplish a successful rezoning process.

You have embarked on an initiative that represents far more than just new housing on this island. The potential development of the CRC lands touches on a large number of issues churning within this community. These issues come with various titles – pace of development, affordable housing, attack on green space, access to waterfront, transport and infrastructure sustainability, water supply, exceeding of ferry capacity, etc. There is a belief on Bowen that the values and aesthetics and rural/residential character of this island are under attack; that the place is gentrifying too quickly and that Bowen could be transformed into a bedroom community for Vancouver working people. The community values held here and elsewhere in the Gulf Islands represent something very different from that outcome, and many of us who see ourselves as guardians of those different values feel that the development of CRC represents a watershed moment in the emerging local debate around these issues. We have tried to caution Wolfgang Duntz about this, wondering if he might be underestimating this deeply held concern. It is something we wish to emphasize to you as you consider entering the negotiating process.

The new council was elected largely on a promise to protect land at CRC. We believe strongly that the creation of a park or ecological reserve on the CRC land will be a definite outcome of forthcoming negotiations. Residents will most certainly mobilize to resist a straightforward development of the CRC land under the current zoning. The potential for this community to experience the terrible divisions we have already witnessed on Galiano, Gabriola, Cortes and Saltspring Islands, where events devolved into an almost circus-like atmosphere over development issues, is a very real possibility here. Neither the community, nor our elected representatives, nor (presumably) yourselves, want such a disharmonious outcome. To avoid this, we have been hard at work developing a proposal that we think offers a workable compromise.

We would like to request a meeting with you, the owners of the company, to discuss two things:

1) We are well aware of the damage that off-road and 4-wheel-drive vehicles are doing to the paths on the CRC land. We also see the campfires and the garbage strewn about. We are troubled by it and often talk about it, but to date have been feeling that there is little we can do. However, after further conversation, our members thought that a wonderful way to channel our affection for the CRC land would be to volunteer our services as monitors and tenders of the land for the next few months. We could organize a few people to walk the property on a regular schedule, check the fires, clean up the garbage, and even create obstacles to limit the vehicles that do damage to the pathways. Of course this would all be done in consultation with you and only with the proper approvals.

2) We have been developing an ecological reserve option that we would like to discuss with you. It is an idea worth looking at; even if it doesn’t entirely fulfill your objectives, we believe that discussing it might help both sides clarify an appropriate solution. Our plan involves a purchase/donation/tax deduction design that would secure a piece of the property from you and then see it donated as an ecological reserve or park (eco-gifted to an organization like the Land Conservancy). We have been sounding out organizations and individuals who can afford to make sizable donations, and they have been telling us they will contribute, particularly if it will help resolve the CRC issue once and for all. We have been doing our homework, talking to lawyers, tax advisors, politicians, etc. Our proposal respects your goal to develop new housing and realize a reasonable profit, but foresees you moving forward with an agreed-upon and defined park space built in to the proposal. We see this approach as one that gives the municipal council, various conservation and park groups on the island, as well as the majority of islanders, a meaningful compromise they could endorse; one that would chart a more harmonious pathway through the forthcoming public hearing and approval process.

We would be happy to meet with you at your convenience. Please contact me at 604 9470977, or by email – s.f@telus.net

Look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Stephen Foster,

Board member,

Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society.

Posted in CRCTS-Letters