Trust Society Comments on Ekistics’ Preliminary Neighbourhood Plan and Implementation Options

Letter from the Directors of the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society

Bowen Island Municipality
Attention: Michael Rosen
81 Artisan Lane
Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0

January 3, 2008

Re: Cape Roger Curtis—Preliminary Neighbourhood Plan and Implementation Options

The Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society has been asked to comment on the three development options for the 631-acre Cape Roger Curtis (CRC) set out in maps on pages 22-23, 24-25 and 26­27 of the Ekistics brochure entitled Preliminary Neighbourhood Plan & Implementation Options, dated January 3, 2008.

CAVEAT: The Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society has always worked in the hope of preserving all the CRC lands from development in the belief that this is a unique, regionally significant coastal/marine area and that not preserving it as a park will have serious consequences for future generations on Bowen Island, and that its loss to development of any kind seriously compromises the “preserve and protect” mandate of this island.

The Trust Society recently launched its Wild Coast Plan 2 campaign (see map attached) to encourage the owner/developers to substantially widen the unfragmented sections of park in their proposals and limit development to a tightly clustered inland area. The comments below reiterate much of what is graphically represented in that Wild Coast Plan 2.

Specific Comments on Ekistics’ Plans.

If we have to have development on these lands and if the parkland donation is sufficient enough to warrant it, the option from Ekistics’ January 3 brochure preferred by the Trust Society, with modifications, is the one at pages 22-23, the Phased Sustainable Neighbourhood Plan.

Recommended modifications include:

All RC designated areas on map to be included in park area or, alternatively (and except as modified by #4 below),

All RC designated areas either to retain their current 10-acre parcel zoning or to be rezoned to 20-acre parcels, with one or two dwellings allowed on each parcel; requiring less elaborate infrastructure (i.e., gravel roads and, if necessary, septic systems); and including restrictive covenants that have a “no build” clause with sunset provision of not less than 10 years, that limit the location and size of the development footprint within each such parcel and place strict, perpetual conservation covenants on the remainder to be held (or co-held), monitored and enforced by a qualified land trust. There should also be a formal option to purchase the RC designated lands during the “no build” period in favour of the municipality, the Islands Trust Fund or a local or regional land trust. That option should be assignable (both in whole and in part) to permit the conservation community to acquire and protect as much of the Cape as possible.

Widening of the waterfront park strip along the western shore to at least 80 m-120 m to ensure greater protection of the coastal bluff habitat while also encompassing enough terrain for a workable, sufficiently green-buffered Wild Coast Trail along its entire length. It must be noted that the narrower the strip of forest retained between such a Wild Coast Trail and the most westerly development polygons, the more likely it is that the forest strip will be entirely blown down by strong winds, leaving the appearance of the CRC coast and the proposed trail “wild” in name only.

Conversion of the most southwesterly polygons of Rural Residential development to park (see those marked with an “X” on attached map). These areas are too integral to the core recreational areas on the property—Pebbly Beach and the Lighthouse.

Density to be reduced to 150 to 200 units maximum in the areas marked for amenities and residential, and to go that high only if the final plan includes a 60+% park/100% waterfront dedication, with possibly an increase to the OCP maximum of 224 only if reasonably priced multi-family units are included. (There are many reasons for holding the line on density, which we will discuss in greater detail below.)

A mechanism is put in place to ensure that some genuinely affordable housing will be provided within the units allowed.

Seniors campus of care facility—Cape Roger Curtis is not a suitable location for a seniors’ home. A seniors’ facility should be near the Cove, ferry and emergency medical services.

Waterfront inn—We suggest elimination of this, because an inn will result in greater traffic to the area and a potential demand for a marina to accompany such a facility (which would be extremely detrimental to the coastal area). Another inn on the island (in addition to the proposed hotel in Artisan Square and the proposed hotel at Cowan Point) would result in negative consequences for the home operated B&Bs on the island. Moreover, the location of the proposed inn appears to be atop some of the Ekistics-mapped significant coastal bluff habitat (see p. 11 of their brochure). If an inn is to be part of the final development, it should be relocated eastward enough to ensure protection of that fragile bluff.

Amphitheatre & Neighbourhood Commons—Again, increased traffic to this end of the island for cultural events does not make sense because the densest part of the island is around the Cove. A planned arts centre on the surplus lands in the Cove is sufficient for the needs of the artistic community. Also, we should not be converting precious natural habitat to unneeded lawn that requires maintenance. If there is to be a Neighbourhood Commons or neighbourhood park, we suggest it be located immediately southwest of Pebbly Beach near where the most intensive recreational use of the land is likely to be.

School and community garden—We feel that this would not be an appropriate site for a school, as it is not a central location. We do, however, support the idea of including a community garden in the plan.

Riparian & Watershed Protection—In the northeast corner of the property, the proposed extension of Cromie Road will run parallel and close to Burke Creek for most of its length and cross it multiple times. We suggest that the road be rerouted slightly to minimize its impact on Burke Creek and its tributaries.

Neighbourhood store—In order to reduce trips across island, this may make sense but only if it is a small mum-and-pop operation, like a convenience store.

Chapel and neighbourhood hall—Something along the lines of the Tunstall Bay clubhouse may make sense, again, to reduce cross-island traffic.

We feel that most of the amenities suggested by Ekistics:

  • do not belong at the Cape;
  • are “carrots” that are being used to buy the community’s support; and
  • even if approved, may never become a reality.

The prospect of a major parkland donation is the only reason we see to justify a potential up-zoning of a portion of this property.

We consider that if the alternative plan on pages 24-25 of Ekistics’ brochure (the Partial Neighbourhood Plan) is pursued by the municipality, almost all of the above comments would still apply, except that the “remaining lands” should be rezoned to 40-acre lots subject to restrictive covenants and an option to purchase similar to those described in #2 above and the density permitted within the “partial neighbourhood” should be reduced to significantly below OCP to offset the “remainder” density and adjust for the significantly smaller parks donation.

We consider that the alternative plan on pages 26-27, the OCP+Subdivision Plan, although it includes a substantial park donation, is nevertheless completely unsatisfactory. Although the southern coastal bluffs might, conceivably, be protected through strict (and strictly monitored/enforced) conservation covenants on privately-owned land, the absence of a waterfront park along the whole western shore is too great a recreational loss to induce us to support this development. This option also includes housing in the headwaters of two watersheds in the most northeasterly corner of the property.

Development Permit Area & Preserve and Protect Mandate (i.e., reasons for most of the numbered comments above):

The OCP has designated the CRC lands as the CRC Development Permit Area. The special conditions (taken directly from the OCP) that justify the designation of the CRC DP area are:

  • Wildlife and bird habitat;
  • Sensitive vegetation (most prominent along the rocky coastal fringe as well as the inland steep rock and hummocky terrain);
  • Fragile flora and fauna which require protection in order to maintain the natural environment;
  • Protection of water resources, both for aquatic habitat and for potable water supply;
  • Potential to damage the cutthroat trout in the streams in the area;
  • Importance of managing the sensitive terrain and steep slope characteristics in certain areas in order to protect development from potential hazardous conditions such as flooding, erosion and rock fall.

Considering these very clear warnings in the OCP about the potential for environmental degradation and destruction and considering, in addition, the very clear mandate that Council has under the Islands Trust Act (the “preserve and protect” mandate), Council is obligated to be extremely cautious when approving a development of this magnitude. The possible impacts of even 200 residential units on the rest of the island, as well as on the immediately surrounding CRC terrestrial and marine habitat and its wildlife, will be huge, including the impact on ferry capacity, the impacts on the road system and the impacts on the island’s overall potable water supply.

Additional Comments:

Awaiting Additional Studies—Although laws are in place requiring ecological and other studies prior to development, those of us involved with the natural world and conservation consider that these laws do not go far enough, e.g. studies need to be of a longer duration in order to obtain more meaningful data, especially in this era of climate change. We have commented at length upon Ekistics’ brochure even without the benefit of the additional studies promised, but not yet provided, by the developer, and also without benefit of the January 19, 2008 walkabout having provided much help in the way of ground-truthing proposed locations. Without the owners’ disclosure and production of the long-promised environmental studies (water studies, wildlife surveys, vegetation surveys, fish and fish habitat assessments, archeological field reconnaissance, etc.), CRCTS emphasizes that the above are only preliminary recommendations. We must be able to review these studies carefully and analyze proposed development areas with a detailed topographical map or physical 3-D model showing watercourses, that indicates the areas that have been identified as environmentally sensitive and any proposals to minimize impacts.

The developers must also make good on their previous promises to flag the actual proposed boundaries of their development polygons on the property itself and then, once again, lead a walkabout demonstrating to the community which areas of the CRC lands are proposed for clearing and construction. Only then—after the vital ecological and geographical information we are still awaiting is produced and adequate time allowed after its production for it to be fully reviewed and considered—will it be possible for us and/or the public to comment fully on these proposals.

Ecological Concerns—Council must be mindful of the impacts that even 150 or 200 units will have on the surrounding fragile terrestrial and marine areas on these lands. To allow even that much in exchange for a park will undoubtedly have negative impacts on the ecology of the site. To allow more development than that, at any time, whether now or in the future, is to invite environmental degradation of this island and tragic loss of biodiversity that will never be recoverable.

Because he has expressed it so well and so succinctly, we attach, and hereby incorporate into this critique, the concerns raised by Alejandro Frid, Ph.D. in his January 11, 2008 letter to the Undercurrent.

In addition to emphasizing in our Wild Coast Plan 2 the importance of protecting coastal Douglas-fir and fragile coastal bluff habitats, we are also concerned that the current Ekistics’ plans will destroy the vast majority of the deciduous forest (red alder) on the CRC lands. This habitat type is also very important ecologically and is actually more important to the support of songbirds and small mammals than are the coniferous trees.

Disturbance to Humans and Wildlife—There is a need to consider the effects of noise and disturbance to humans and wildlife alike that will be caused by a 25–30 year project. The CRC lands are important winter range for black-tailed deer and the inshore area provides an essential food source for various wintering waterfowl species, including the at risk and extremely skittish surf scoters. While the developers will no doubt advertise their housing/amenities by extolling the beauty and peace of living at the Cape for up to 30 years, neither man nor beast will experience peace, apart from those brief hours when construction crews stop work. (And work on this island often continues into the evening and on weekends, particularly when the weather is favourable.)

More regarding “carrots.” Since the third public meeting held by Ekistics on November 27, 2007, the Members of the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society Board have become increasingly concerned by Ekistics’ and the developers’ aggressive efforts to sell Council and the public their “sustainable” vision of unneeded and poorly sited housing and amenities, and other ideas which will degrade an ecological treasure without bringing benefit the island. Indeed, their “solutions” may only magnify existing problems by giving us more of what we already have.

Similar unrealistic visions for parts of this island have been sold to us in the past, ultimately leading to broken promises, e.g. Cowan Point. When push came to shove, many of the amenities that were offered to sway people to accept that development just evaporated after its approval either due to lack of funds or the impracticality of building what was proposed. Many of the same types of amenities that the CRC owners are seeking to use as incentives in the current case are already incorporated in the Cowan Point OCP amendment but not yet built (e.g., a school, a retreat centre, an inn). The one amenity offered by the CRC owners which is truly unique and potentially worth exchanging increased density for is publicly-owned parkland—but it must be a truly workable park whose design has been well thought out and thoroughly researched to maximize its ability to mitigate global warming and preserve biodiversity while also meeting many public recreation needs.

Sincerely,

Directors of the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society

Nerys Poole
Jean Jamieson
Marion Moore
Peter Drake
Pam Dicer
Jan Wells
Stephen Foster

cc: BIM Councillors
Bryan Kirk, BIM CAO
Mel Turner, Parks Planning Consultant
Sue Ellen Fast, Chair, Bowen Island Conservancy
Cathy Buchanan, Chair, BIM Trails Committee

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