Letters from the public to Municipality reject Cape Subdivision

January, 2007—The Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture requested a subdivision of Cape Roger Curtis under existing bylaws. Mrs. Isabell Hadford, Chief Administrative Officer, had to determine, among other things, whether the application was in the public interest. A flood of letters and a packed public meeting indicated that the Joint Venture plan did not address concerns and aspirations of the Bowen Island community.

To Mrs. Isabell Hadford, Chief Administrative Officer
Bowen Island Municipality, 981 Artisan Lane, Box 279
Bowen Island BC V0N 1G0
(with copies to the Mayor and Councillors)

In response to Mrs. Hadford’s request to hear from all persons that she considers are affected by the subdivision of the Cape Roger Curtis Lands and in connection with the Public Information Meeting called by Mrs. Hadford for January 10, 2007.

From Doreen Giesbrecht, Bowen Island

… I urge you to turn down the current proposal for a 58 lot subdivision at Cape Roger Curtis for the reasons so clearly stated in the letters sent to you by Nerys Poole on January 15th and by Gordon Reid on January 30th.

From Gordon Reid, BA Econ., RIBC, Bowen Island
… I strongly urge you to deny this application as it is not in the public interest for technical reasons such as:

  • Road access: Insufficient provision of access, which has not been granted by the Province and which must be provided. The Bowen Municipal council has recommended it not be provided.
  • Offsite Traffic Management Upgrades: There is no provision for upgrading the road structure, weight bearing capacity, maintenance or surface.
  • Ferry Traffic Upgrades: This sizeable subdivision does not provided any upgrades to the ferry marshalling area required by the resulting foot passenger and automobile traffic increase.
  • Drinking / irrigating / firefighting and emergency water supply: It has not been proven that this has been provided for in a sustainable and safe manor and including climate change factors that affect all communities as demonstrated by the drought in Tofino last summer.
  • Sewer Disposal: It has not been proven this will be handled in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manor.
  • Erosion control: has not been adequately addressed and will cause siltation of streams and ocean beds.
  • Tree Buffers: Areas along creeks and the oceanfront will not be adequate to protect the wildlife and plant life in these sensitive areas in a sustainable way.
  • Walking Trails: have not been provided in a manor that is other than a sidewalk. A sidewalk is not a ‘trail’ and the plan does not include trails as suggested by the letter from Council dated February 13th, 2006.
  • Parkland: There is none of any significance and of a size proportional and appropriate to the size of this subdivision noted on the current plan.
  • Environmental Protection: This plan suggests that restrictive covenants be put on the existing lots stating that areas must be left untouched however this will not be enforceable as there are no bylaws, enforcement procedures or remediation procedures in place to rectify a breach of the covenant.
  • OCP is out of date: No other municipality in BC would allow a site of this size and importance to be subdivided on the basis of a Land Use By-law and a dated Official Community Plan.
  • Parkland: Every other ‘large tract subdivision in every other municipality requires that at least 30% of the land area before even starting to negotiate further concessions for things such as density increases.
  • Highest and Best Use: This planning and appraisal principle has not been applied in the case of this application and a study should have been conducted to ask what the Highest and Best Use is in terms of the Public Interest.
  • Public Polls: All public polls conducted that surveyed opinions of the residents undeniably support a park of significant size and importance on this site.

I even more strongly urge you to deny this application as it is not in the public interest on the following ethical and moral grounds:

  • This is the last remaining coastal parcel of land of this size from the US border to the end of the road access on the North East shore of Georgia Straight. Time should be given to study the prospect of creating a park here and compensating the owners for changing the use from private to public.
  • The Federal Government through its ‘Green Shores Program’ is endeavouring to protect coastal land such as this and no consideration of this or any other program has been put forward. This is a carbon sink which if we as a community are to uphold our responsibility to solve global warming we should consider saving the trees here.
  • Of the two parties that were negotiating to buy this property the other party had a plan to work with The Land Conservancy to donate half of this site for parkland which demonstrates that a ‘higher’ use is attainable.
  • This land has the potential of being a park with the similar importance to that of Garibaldi Park and Lighthouse Parks.
  • The one owner / developer who is a resident of Bowen Island is traumatizing the public with this proposal and insists on pursuing a subdivision(s) he knows is not in the public interest. In my view this is an abuse of public process.

In considering this application I encourage you to consider the public interest not only of those in the municipality but those in the region. There are many other instances where a municipality has down zoned a potential development site where it has determined it was not in the public interest. Removing high rises from the options for redevelopment in Kitsilano is one of them. If this park is subdivided it would represent the shortest sited, lowest value and least creative solution to its development. The only people who will benefit from this are the three owners who are registered on the land title. The people and the environment will suffer forever.

From Leah Cline, Bowen Island
…This letter is a plea to you to uphold the Public Interest and deny the application for the above mentioned subdivision proposal. The facts as they relate to the Public Interest are before you in letters from citizens of Bowen Island and further afield therefore I will not go into detail. At this time of ever-increasing development, the protection of wild spaces becomes equally, if not more essential, if we are to preserve our world.

You have the opportunity to protect and preserve by denying this proposal. This generation and those of the future depend upon our officers and elected officials to make wise and, yes, challenging and difficult decisions to keep the pressures of developers in check. Draw inspiration from our forebears who had the wisdom and insight to create such treasures as Stanley Park in Vancouver or Point Pleasant Park in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Do not be deterred in acting to preserve this jewel, Cape Roger Curtis, from the destruction which would occur if this proposal was approved. Thank you.

From Lynda Eustace, Bowen Island
… First of all, thank you for the opportunity to voice these crucial opinions on the fate of Cape Roger Curtis. I strongly entreat you as approving officer to do everything in your power to allow Cape Roger Curtis to remain a formative natural influence on this island by denying the current application for development of those lands by CRC Joint Ventures. The scope and weight of those reasons go far beyond currently applicable statutes on the subject, but related to your obligation to consider the public interest according to its legal definition as applied here, please consider the following points:

  • Wild Coast: Preserving wild coast is a goal in both the OCP and in the GVRD master plan. This significant, south-west facing land is the last of its kind between the American border and Powell River at the north end of the Sunshine Coast. To consider meting it out in privately owned slices rather than protecting it intact is unthinkably short-sighted and threatens to remove the legacy of an entire community and province in order to place it into the hands of very few.
  • Public Use of Lands: The current development plan gives virtually no public access to the natural shoreline of the lands. It is not surprising that 62% of Bowen Islanders responded with a wish to have CRC lands and shoreline protected in the McAllister poll of September 2005. Since at least 1921, as was attested to by several attendees at the Jan 10 meeting, the Cape Roger Curtis Lands have been a destination for community groups from Bowen Island as well as other Vancouver and area communities. It is the main source of exposure for Bowen residents to the nature of the island and its marine ecosystems and has drawn members of the Bowen community daily for years. This frequent visitation is a public vote; not prescribed or elicited; a spontaneous expression of the enormous contribution to the public good these lands have made. As such outlets become more rarified, their value can only increase. To decrease its role or remove Cape Roger Curtis from public life, as this development proposal does, is to withdraw an extremely significant contribution to public welfare here.
  • Roads: As stated at the public meeting, at least two access points are required for the development of the lands in question and all three of the current options present either difficulty or near impossibility. This is a fact that the CRC Joint Ventures’ legal council has shown some disdain for, stating in Lynn Ramsey’s (CRCJV legal council) letter of September 21, 2006 that the development was “unlikely to effect traffic flow”. To halt the development application based on this alone, particularly in view of the considerable public outcry and fear of the loss of neighbourhood voiced through regular Whitesails residents’ public presence, would be justifiable.

There are many more reasons to decline this application, from the lack of research on the ecology of the shoreline/intertidal zone of Cape Roger Curtis to its potential role as a cultural heritage site. We are limited to this form of complaint in which our grievances must fall within a handful of categories in order to bring about a just resolution to the issue. What happens to those legitimate objections which do not fall within the proper definition? Let us hope they their weight and relevance will not be completely ignored until the legislation catches up with the sophistication of these issues and these citizens. Please reject this application and allow a well-considered and equitable process to take place which will deal with these lands properly.

From Kipp Thompson, Bowen Island
… All my life, or at least my eight to nine years on Bowen Island, I’ve been visiting Cape Roger Curtis. I have to say that it may be the only great park left on Bowen, and I would be devastated if it was reformed into a residential development, which we do not need. All I am asking is to KEEP THE CAPE REAL!!!

From Erin Little, Bowen Island
… In the past few years that I have lived in the newer Cates Hill development I have observed no snakes, I used to hear owls at night and now very seldom do I see any deer. I can only hope that this is not the future for Cape Roger Curtis. There are on earth some places so extraordinary and diverse in their nature that for this reason alone should be protected for all of time. Cape Roger Curtis is this! My four boys have been educated in nature at the Cape. There are other beautiful places on Bowen but Cape Roger Curtis is so unique and it offers the last and greatest family day trip. It is to me, like our own miniature West Coast Trail.

Without a preserved and protected Cape, Bowen Island will be hugely reduced. If I hope to keep inspiring my boys with the importance of nature then I would also expect that our Island government will not let the best of it slip away. I’ve spent my last twenty six years working in nature and loving it. Most often it is forgiving but once in a while it sticks me with a thorn. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps me real. Isn’t that a bit of what we all need? In the words of my son Kipp, please KEEP THE CAPE REAL!

From Julie Andrés and Ian Fry, Bowen Island
… In the Municipal Framework For Planning The Future Use Of The Cape Roger Curtis Lands – adopted by Council in February 2006 it was resolved that Council consider the public interest with regard to Cape Roger Curtis by:

  1. Conserving the majority of the coastline for eco-system protection;
  2. Where there are no adverse ecological impacts, develop public, waterfront, walking trails along the majority of the coastline, connecting to the cross-island greenway;
  3. Environmental protection of the land including environmentally sensitive areas and rare species;
  4. Clustering of homes and any other structures in any new development to reduce land disturbance, maximize green space and the opportunity for trails, and facilitate transportation alternatives;
  5. Minimizing and mitigating any negative impacts from any Cape Roger Curtis development on the adjacent neighbourhoods and on the Bowen Island community as a whole.

Simply put, the current proposal from the developers, CRC Joint Venture, fails to reflect any of these public interest issues and therefore should be denied.

From Carolyn Neu and Paul Crowther, Bowen Island

…We are writing to urge you to take necessary steps to ensure the preservation of Cape Roger Curtis based on its inherent value as a precious tract of wilderness. We urge you to stand your ground in the interests of the highest good for all concerned:

“I believe that spiritual resistance—the ability to stand firm at the center of our convictions when everything around us asks us to concede—that our capacity to face the harsh measures of a life, comes from the deep quiet of listening to the land, the river, the rocks. There is a resonance of humility that has evolved with the earth. I choose to err on the side of preservation, and stand shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters in our shared desire to protect the last, large expanses of wilderness we have left. Once strengthened by our association with the wild, we can return to family and community.

Each of us belongs to a particular landscape, one that informs who we are, a place that carries our history, our dreams, holds us to a moral line of behavior that transcends thought. And in each of these places, home work is required, a participation in public life to make certain all is not destroyed under the banner of progress, expediency, or ignorance.

We cannot do it alone. This is the hope of a “bedrock democracy,” standing our ground in the places we love, together. … The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.”—Terry Tempest Williams in “Red”

We include letters previously submitted from Ontario to Denman Island to Seoul, Korea. Please draw upon these letters and the many many other letters along with hundreds of names that were submitted on a petition. They are all valid voices and are still in effect for that which faces us now.

From Wendy Abbot, Caledon East, Ontario
… On a couple of occasions, while staying with Carolyn Neu, we visited the lovely Cape Roger Curtis wilderness park. What a glorious piece of wilderness it is! I feel very strongly about preserving such areas for the present and future generations. Once it is gone, it can never be replaced. We must stop developers from taking this land away mostly for their benefit with no sense of responsibility for the future. Please do all you can to preserve this wilderness park.

From Sue and Ted Trueman, Denman Island, BC
… During a visit to Bowen Island some time ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend some time wandering through Cape Roger Curtis with friends. We were of course impressed with the natural beauty of this fantastic piece of forest.

We are very disturbed to learn that this tract of land may be slated for development. This is particularly distressing to us being island inhabitants for the past 22 years. We don’t live on Bowen, we live on Denman where during the past several years we have watched huge areas of our community being leveled by uncontrolled loggers and developers. In the case of Denman, this desecration has taken place on private lands where there are zero requirements for developers to exercise a social conscience; there hasn’t even been a token attempt at reforestation by the logging operators.

We sincerely hope the local administrators on Bowen are able to act to preserve Cape Roger Curtis. We would hate to think the area would be reduced to the wasteland we now experience on Denman.

From Melissa Mather and Oliver Crowther, Seoul, South Korea
… We are writing as a response to the proposed development of Cape Roger Curtis. We were both shocked and saddened by this news. To take such a beautiful piece of nature, sacred even, and reduce it to a retirement playground, or whatever it will become, is just incomprehensible. Cape Roger Curtis is such a special environment. Too many communities simply give in to the corporate pressure and destroy these areas with dollar signs in their eyes. They do not realize the price of their actions until they are too late. Please reconsider destroying this sanctuary. Our time there was short, however the impression it left has moved us to action from half way around the world, in Seoul, South Korea. This country has developed almost every tiny corner, and the majority of people are starved for somewhere natural. Do not let this happen to beautiful Bowen Island. Take the high road. You will be setting precedent and allowing future generations to truly understand the meaning of “untouched.” Do the right thing.

From Alejandro Frid, PhD, Bowen Island
… In this letter I voice concerns regarding proposed development of Cape Roger Curtis (CRC). I speak as a local resident and private citizen, but also point out that I am a practicing research ecologist with advanced degrees. While my training and research experience do not make me an expert on the biological details of Cape Roger Curtis, they certainly mean that I have a professional understanding of the principles of conservation biology that are relevant to CRC or any other proposed development. Foremost, I speak as a parent with an interest in a future world with ecological integrity.

On biological arguments alone – which ultimately affect the sustainability of human society – I will build a case for the full protection of Cape Roger Curtis.

1) Development will bring the threat of invasive species. Ongoing studies are finding that the probability of exotic plants invading an area increases by orders of magnitude when subdivisions are developed. It is well-known, for instance, that gravel used for roads or construction sites is a vehicle for the spread of exotic plants. The technical literature on this matter is huge. In fact, a recent article in the premier journal Ecology Letters (2006, 9: 1293–1298) concludes that “The number of exotic species is more closely associated with the size of the human population than with ecological conditions,” so a change from 0 to 58 households (the number proposed by developers) is of grave concern for the many rare plants and other sensitive species in CRC.

2) The forested habitats of CRC are a tremendous opportunity for coastal forest ecosystem restoration. According to the Pottinger-Gaherty report to CRC Joint Venture, submitted January 2005 (Overview Environmental Inventory for CRC), much of the forest has been disturbed in the past by logging. Existing disturbances should not be misconstrued as a license for proceeding with development, since the place is already ‘not-pristine’ anyway. CRC, being located near major population centres with a long history of resource exploitation, is surrounded by areas where low-elevation coastal-fringe forests are very fragmented, degraded and certainly in worse shape than at CRC. Given this broader temporal and bioregional context, the unfragmented forest polygons in CRC that are maturing towards older stages used by habitat-specialist species represent a tremendous opportunity for first restoring and then preserving vanishing habitats in the region. This really matters. Given the tremendous impacts humans have had already on the environment, we cannot expect a world with ecological integrity by relying on protection of ‘pristine sites’ alone. Restoration of habitats is essential, and the technical literature speaks amply on this. Thus, the development of CRC represents a tremendous loss of restoration potential in a large block of maturing coastal forests surrounded by geographic contexts where equivalent tracts of land are rare.

3) CRC is an area of tremendous habitat diversity. The area includes meadows, coastal bluffs (including the arbutus bluffs types that failed to be protected at Eagle Cliff in West Van), riparian areas, coniferous forests, marine environments, and so forth. This is the sort of mosaic that leads to high wildlife and plant diversity. Each habitat type that contributes to this mosaic (and see the Pottinger-Gaherty report for details of each element of the habitat mosaic) must be represented, at the appropriate spatial scale, in a network of protected areas for the Gulf Islands. Development of CRC would diminish the possibility of that representation.

4) Development would threaten wildlife trees and the remaining pockets of old-growth forests. It is well known in the technical literature that (a) trees and snags in forests interior become more susceptible to wind disturbances when openings above a certain size are created in their surroundings, and that (b) these openings also change the moisture regime and other microclimate features. These changes affect forest structure as well as the types of species that can use those areas. Development would either remove wildlife trees and old-growth blocks outright, or at the very least create the ‘edge effects’ described above. Climate change models predict a greater frequency of high-intensity storm winds, of the sort we are experiencing this winter, which would only exacerbate edge effects.

5) Edge effects resulting from forest clearing, housing developments and road construction will affect not only forest interiors, but also the microclimate of the coastal bluffs. The coastal bluffs harbour perhaps most of the rare and endangered plants of CRC, so altering the microclimate of these bluffs likely would bring disproportional biodiversity losses to the system.

6) CRC contains plant communities that are rare in BC. Although some of these rare plant communities are found elsewhere in the Gulf Islands, this should not be misconstrued as implying that the rare plant communities are safeguarded elsewhere and thus their development is justified at CRC. Specifically, there is a huge technical literature addressing the representation of rare plant communities within networks of protected areas, and protection of CRC would greatly contribute to ensuring the long-term representation of rare plant communities within the broader context of the Gulf Islands.

7) Development may impact the marine environment inherent to CRC. Potential threats include pollutants (e.g. from septic systems, construction debris, road herbicides) entering the water table and flowing out to sea, and private docks and moorings. These sorts of impacts could affect blue mussel beds, for instance, and thus indirectly affect the surf scoters (a blue-listed species of special conservation concern in BC) that feed on these mussels. (As a scuba diver in Bowen Island, I note anecdotally that my personal experience is for dive sites with road access and shoreline housing developments to be depauperate of marine biodiversity relative to dive sites without shoreline development. Rigorous studies making this comparison, however, are lacking.

8) CRC contains threatened and endangered species. The Pottinger-Gaherty report highlights several ‘species of management interest’ that would be impacted by development. Examples include the following (this is not a comprehensive list):
a. Macoun’s meadow foam, a red-listed species (i.e., endangered or threatened, according to the BC Ministry of Environment), is present in CRC.
b. Red legged frog, a blue-listed species (i.e., of ‘special concern’, according to the BC Ministry of Environment) that requires wetlands and seepage ponds, is present in Bowen Island and might be present in CRC.
c. Green heron, a blue-listed species documented in Bowen Island, might be present in deciduous habitats near creeks in CRC.
d. Band-tailed pigeon, a blue-listed species, is present in CRC and likely nesting in mature and old-growth Douglas firs and large deciduous trees.
e. Western screech owl (blue list) requires high snag density and might be present in CRC.
f. Peregrine falcons are red-listed, known to nest in the Squamish area and possibly use the CRC area during winter.
g. Surf scoters and blue herons are blue-listed and use the CRC area.
h. Townsend’s big ear bat (blue list) and Keen’s long-eared myotis (red list) are acknowledged by the Pottinger-Gaherty report as potentially present in CRC, but specialized surveys are lacking.
i. The Pottinger-Gaherty report documents a count of 141 Marbled Murrelets at sea in the vicinity of The Cape (which is notable given the short-term scope of the report). This red-listed species nests in old-growth trees, and its potential use of nesting habitat in CRC cannot be discounted until specialized studies show otherwise.
j. Tailed-frogs, a blue-listed species, have not been surveyed in the two permanent streams and their presence cannot be ruled out.

In conclusion, CRC is an area with tremendous biological diversity, ranging from forest interiors to meadows, coastal bluffs, inter-tidal zones and wetlands. The size of unfragmented forest and relatively unmodified state of the ecosystem is unmatched by surrounding areas in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound. CRC harbours many species of special conservation concern, and represents a tremendous opportunity to restore low elevation coastal old-growth forests in a region where these landscape attributes are increasingly rare. The ecological literature has long recognized that species in islands are more prone to local extinction than species in the mainland, which makes threats to sensitive species of even greater concern.

If we had any foresight as a community, CRC would be fully protected within a network of protected areas for the Gulf Islands with the explicit goal of safeguarding a world with ecological integrity for future generations.

From Stephen Foster, Bowen Island
…Once again I would like to thank you and Michael Rosen for hosting the public meeting on January 10 to hear comments on the Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture (CRCJV) proposal for a 58 lot subdivision on the Cape Roger Curtis lands. It was an inspiration to hear the variety of individual presentations, the very personal and deeply emotional way people described their relationship to the CRC land and the near uniform rejection of the proposal as it was put forward. The public interest was clearly present in the room that night.

I would like to further add my voice to the many who have written to you to call for the rejection of this proposal in the name of the public interest. It has been deeply frustrating to watch the owners, CRCJV, rather than meaningfully engage the community, instead choose to rally around their current proposal, which in the past they themselves have described as their least imaginative planning option. I am strongly hoping that ownership will move away from this approach and show a willingness to plan with a greater respect, creativity and openness to the community’s needs and concerns.

We talked a while back about the positive response we have been getting from the GVRD. In a recent communication with Ed Andrusiak, head of park acquisitions, we learned that Paul Skydt has recently been retained to produce a park land acquisition catalogue for GVRD. He is working in the eastern end of the GVRD at present and will be looking at land in the western part about March/April. It seems that an inquiry by one of the Park Forum members has sparked some renewed interest in CRC. In meetings with the three
North Shore mayors, we have been told of their willingness to support a feasibility study by GVRD parks. Mayor Turner, Dave Hocking and others on council have indicated that they are ready to approach the GVRD. With that in mind, I have been consulting with the CRCJV to see if they would support the approach; early indications are that they will (it’s on the agenda of their next ownership meeting in February).

I know that in the past the GVRD has been of little help. And I doubt that GVRD Parks has enough money to be a significant financial player on its own. However, if CRC does fit their criteria, and if they are willing to throw their hat into the ring, this will surely trigger other players’ participation. I’m thinking particularly of BC Parks, as well as smaller organizations like The Land Conservancy (we’ve had several meetings with Bill Turner and his team), and through community fundraising. Precedents for this include the Texada lands controversy on Saltspring Island and Dionisio Point on Galiano Island (Macmillan-Bloedel), both of which had troubled histories that concluded positively for the owners and community.

To protect what is dear to most of us on the Cape, it will take determination, focus and tremendous creativity. There are many of us who live here willing to contribute whatever we can to help bring things to a positive outcome for our community. The Cape cannot be replaced and it would be a shame and an embarrassment to develop that extraordinary coastline by imposing high-end housing on it, like we see on virtually every other beach on the island.

But ownership needs to change its approach, to respect and work with our community, to risk a good faith negotiation with council, to start showing up at meetings with planners and not just lawyers. This is a watershed moment for this community as it stiffens its resolve to define and protect the values that make Bowen such a unique and wonderful place to live. Slapping 58 trophy lots on this marvelous 630 acres is an affront to us all. Please, please, as Bowen CAO and on behalf of a very interested and concerned public, please reject this proposal.

From Nerys Poole (LL.B.), Bowen Island
…I want to personally thank you for holding the public meeting on January 10 to hear comments on the Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture (CRCJV) proposal for a 58 lot subdivision on the Cape Roger Curtis lands. In addition, I wish to provide you with my written views on why this subdivision should be turned down in the public interest, under your authority as approving officer to refuse a subdivision plan “if it is against the public interest.” (section 85(3) of the Land Title Act)

The Cape Roger Curtis lands are unique to Bowen Island and the Greater Vancouver Regional District

The 600 odd acres of the CRC lands are the last remaining area of wild coastline on Bowen Island and the last remaining area of accessible wild coastline from the US/Canada border to Powell River. These lands are precious not only to Bowen Islanders but also to many people in the Lower Mainland who, through a short ferry ride, are able to experience the beauty of this wild coastal environment. Because of its uniqueness, the public interest is a significant factor in your consideration of the current 58 lot subdivision proposal. The Bowen Island public and the wider public in the GVRD area have an interest in ensuring that at least some of this land remains in its natural state.

The Bowen Island municipal council resolution on the public interest has provided some guidance as to how the public interest is to be defined when considering any development on these lands. The proposed 58 lot subdivision does not comply.

The revised subdivision (changed from the 60 lot subdivision) appears to provide at most five access points to the beach. It is not clear from the map provided as to whether these access points meet the requirement in section 75(1)(c) of the Land Title Act. In any event, as the majority of the coastline will be private, these access points do nothing to ensure the coastal ecosystem will be protected. Neither does this proposal meet the public interest in ensuring that a portion of the coastal area remains in its natural state and available for public enjoyment.

The trails identified on the proposed plan are shown as trails alongside the road network. This does not meet the goal of ensuring the waterfront areas are available to the public. Nor is there any attempt to connect this area with the cross island trail network.

There is nothing in the proposal which provides protection to the habitat of the many rare species on the CRC lands.

There is nothing in the proposed plan to provide comfort to the neighbouring community of Tunstall Bay that their neighbourhood will receive protection from the impacts of increased traffic. In fact, there is evidence that this development “would injuriously affect established amenities of adjoining properties.” (section 86 of the Land Title Act)

Despite the stated goals of the Municipal Council and the Official Community Plan, the CRCJV developers have made no attempt to cluster homes to reduce disturbance on the CRC lands, to maximize green space, to provide opportunities for trails nor to facilitate transportation alternatives.

The CRCJV 58 lot subdivision proposal is contrary to the Official Community Plan.

As you are aware, section 87 of the Land Title Act allows an approving officer to refuse a subdivision plan if the plan does not conform to all applicable municipal bylaws, including the Official Community Plan (see Wyles v. Penticton (City) [1995] B.C.J.No.1257 (BCSC) which found that the approving officer was entitled to consider the Official Community Plan in determining what was in the public interest).

The Bowen Island Official Community Plan sets out broad objectives, none of which are met by the proposed 58 lot subdivision. CRCJV proposal does not meet the objective of preserving and protecting Bowen Island “and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of Bowen Islanders and residents of the Province generally.” The CRCJV proposal in no way recognizes “the human responsibilities toward the environment.” The CRCJV proposal does not give high priority to “environmental and social factors.” The CRCJV proposal (with ten acre lots that will be available for sale only to the very wealthy) does not “encourage maintenance of a population with varying income levels, lifestyles and age groups.” The CRCJV proposal does not “ensure that growth management shall be conditioned by the natural environment.” The CRCJV proposal tips the balance in favour of individual property owners and away from “community well-being.”

In addition, the Bowen Island Official Community Plan designates the CRC lands as a “development permit area for the protection of the natural environment and for protection of development from hazardous conditions.” The OCP notes that the CRC lands have “special areas of wildlife habitat, sensitive vegetarian and other areas of fragile flora and fauna which require protection in order to maintain the natural environment.” It further notes that the sensitive vegetation is most prominent along the rocky coastal fringe. Under the 58 lot subdivision proposal, these areas will all be private and subject to development by the individual owners along the waterfront. In addition, there are areas on the CRC lands that have sensitive terrain and steep slope characteristics. The 58 lot subdivision proposal does not address these areas.

There is currently inadequate environmental information about the whole of the CRC lands. More studies need to be done to ensure that the sensitive flora and fauna on these lands are protected. Under section 86 of the Land Title Act, an approving officer may refuse to approve a subdivision plan if “the anticipated development of the subdivision would adversely affect the natural environment.” There is evidence from environmental studies that demonstrate the fragility of this environment and emphasize the importance of ensuring it is not adversely affected.

The public interest is not being served if an area of land the size and uniqueness of the CRC lands is allowed to be developed without ensuring the decision is based on sound and comprehensive environmental studies. One of the studies that is required to be undertaken as a basis for future reviews of the OCP (current OCP is now seven years overdue for review) is “detailed inventories of environmentally sensitive areas.” (as per section 1.4 of the OCP) The CRC lands are clearly “environmentally sensitive areas” and identified as such by the development permit requirement in the OCP. A detailed up-to-date environmental inventory of these lands with a corresponding analysis of the effect of development is essential before approval of any development on these lands is given.

The CRCJV 58 lot subdivision proposal is contrary to the stated goal in the Islands Trust Act.

As you know, Bowen Island is still part of the Islands Trust and therefore falls under the goals as stated in the Act. The Islands Trust Act was passed in 1974 in recognition of the unique amenities and environment of the islands. All decisions on land use planning and development on Bowen Island continue to be subject to this Act and to the stated goal to “preserve and protect the trust area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the trust area and of the Province generally.” (section 3) Our B.C. Court of Appeal has commented on the uniqueness of this provision and its effect on land use decisions in the case of MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. The Galiano Island Trust Committee (BCCA, August 10, 1995), noting that “no comparable provision is to be found in any other legislation of this Province concerning municipal government.” The Court of Appeal proceeded to uphold the challenged bylaw of the Galiano Island Trust Committee which had the effect of downzoning the MacBlo lands and stated:

“Once land is developed, undoing the development, if it is harmful to the public interest or what some people perceive to be the public interest, is next to impossible.” (para.130)

The Court of Appeal emphasized that section 3 of the Islands Trust Act was critical in its decision to uphold the Galiano Island Trust Committee bylaw.

If you approve the CRCJV 58 lot subdivision, it will be impossible to undo the harm to the public interest.

The CRCJV has stated in a public pamphlet distributed recently that they are interested in applying for rezoning in the early part of 2008. If this is their stated goal, then this subdivision proposal should not be approved. It is obvious that the purpose of the CRCJV in applying for approval of the 58 lot subdivision is to use it as a bargaining chip in any comprehensive rezoning process. To use the subdivision approval process for this purpose is contrary to the public interest. And there is nothing, except the word of today’s owners/developers that will guarantee that they will enter a comprehensive rezoning process. There is nothing that will prevent them from selling the CRC lands after they have received approval for this 58 lot subdivision.

I ask you to consider the court cases where subdivision plans, even though permitted by the applicable zoning, have been rejected on the basis of the public interest. The facts before you demonstrate significant harm to the public interest and thus support a refusal of this 58 lot subdivision (see Vancouver (City) v. Simpson, [1977] 1 S.C.R.71; Cole v. Anderson [1993] B.C.J.No.2557 (BCSC), and many others).

As a member of the public and a permanent resident of Bowen Island, I ask you to consider the evidence of the public interest that has been presented to you at the public meetings and in other written submissions and to say no to this subdivision plan. I have been coming to Bowen Island since 1963 and am now fortunate enough to make my home here. I have walked the CRC lands over the years. These lands are a unique part of Bowen Island that cannot be replaced once developed. We must ensure that a portion of these lands are protected for our residents and visitors to our island. I truly believe that it would not only be against the public interest if this 58 lot subdivision were approved but that it would be a total abdication of our responsibility towards future generations if this land were allowed to be developed as proposed.

From Sharon Proske, Bowen Island
…I am writing to support and to encourage you to do everything within your means to preserve and protect the Cape Roger Curtis lands.

I agree with the letters submitted to you by Gordon Reid (January 30, 2007) and also by the Wilson family on January 12, 2007.

A true community is not made up only of human beings and it would be tragic if we allowed this magnificent land to be “developed” in the current manner proposed by the owners.

Very few communities still have the opportunity to preserve and protect such a remarkable property. In most other communities it is already too late.

From Jerry George and Jan Wells, Bowen Island
…We have lived on Adams Road since 2001. We came to Bowen Island because of the unique life style existing here: peaceful roads where people can walk and ride bicycles; a community that is diverse and tolerant; a healthy, sustainable community with rural values and a strong sense of heritage.

We respectfully urge you to reject the proposed development plan as being contrary in almost every respect to the public interest. We believe the proposed plan would be detrimental to the natural environment of the whole island, as well as to the land itself. This plan does not ensure that the priceless rare plants on the bluffs at the Cape, and the unique habitat on land and in the water can be protected. This valuable piece of undeveloped coastline should be preserved for future generations. What an embarrassment it would be for Bowen Island if we let this chance to preserve the last wild coast in southern BC from property speculation. We also believe that the whole environment of the island is threatened by more septic systems, more demands on the water table, more docks that disturb the marine life, and more construction traffic on our roads.

Equally strongly, we do not think that the proposed plan helps to protect our social diversity, our safe neighbourhoods and our peaceful way of life. Rezoning this land; working with the GVRD to create a meaningful preservation plan that protects the environment while still allowing some access for recreation; finding a creative solution that keeps this property intact as a piece of irreplaceable wilderness: these things are not beyond our grasp. We strongly urge you to consider all alternatives fully and to reject this plan as ill-considered and not in the public interest.

From Pam Dicer, Bowen Island
… Firstly, I would like to thank you for the Information Meeting on January 10th. It was very informative and the opportunity for the public to speak to you and your staff was much appreciated.

Recently, I read Land Use Bylaw No. 57. I am concerned not only about the land but about the inter-tidal zone; the 300 m offshore, zoned WG 1. About 15 years ago, a friend from Texada told me that money talks to such an extent on that island, that a blind eye is turned towards the use of docks, boats and planes in connection with private lots, despite bylaws which do not allow this. Surveys show that bird numbers are declining and having taken part in many of these, I am concerned about the waterfowl that winter along the Cape coast and the mussel and eelgrass beds upon which they depend for food. These waterfowl (e.g. Scoters, Goldeneye, Eiders) are very easily disturbed, e.g. in winter when food is scarce, if a duck is frightened into emergency flight in excess of 3 times in a day it has, as a result, expended more energy than it has consumed, and is at risk of freezing to death overnight. At any time of year, there exists the risk of fuel and noise pollution from engines. Therefore, the following questions come to mind:

1. Do sufficient rules exist to prevent docks, boats or planes from being allowed?

2. Does the political will exist to enforce such bylaws? [It is very likely that someone who can afford >$1.25 million for a lot and then build on it, comes complete with various types of watercraft – even helicopters or floatplanes.]

3. Does Bowen’s jurisdiction over the 300 m offshore, overlap with DFO’s jurisdiction?

4. Regardless of who has jurisdiction over the 300 m offshore, why did the WG 1 zoning not require surveys to be done in the same way that the RR 1 zoning did on the land?

I am not expecting you to write to me with answers to these questions but I list them here for you to consider when making your decision.

On a more personal note, my love of Cape Roger Curtis goes back to 1980 when I started coming to the Cape with the Vancouver Natural History Society to study the plants and wildlife and with the North Shore Hikers to get exercise and enjoy the scenery. The group leaders requested permission of the previous owners to visit which permission was always granted. So, by the time I moved here 3 years ago, the Cape had already become special to me. The open woodland areas remind of the woods in which I wandered as a young person in England, which causes me feel at home on Bowen now. I have also had the pleasure of introducing friends and relatives to the Cape and surveying birds in the western half of the Cape is my contribution to Bowen’s Christmas Bird Count.

For the above reasons, and for many others I could list, please count me among those who would like you to turn down the development permit application from Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture.

Also from Pam Dicer, Bowen Island
…I am writing to voice my concerns about Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture’s proposed first phase development of 10 lots along the southeastern waterfront (proposed Lots 20-29) of Cape Roger Curtis. This is where the majority of the rare plants grow.

Terry Taylor was the botanist hired to conduct a “Detailed Vegetation Assessment of Coastal Bluffs” at the Cape on July 21, 2005. This report was submitted to Pottinger Gaherty Environmental Consultants Ltd. in August 2005 as part of CRCJV’s environmental assessment.

Terry Taylor is highly regarded in his field and, as a member of the Vancouver Natural History Society (“VNHS”), had previously conducted two plant surveys at the Cape on May 19, 1991 and May 24, 1993. The 1991 survey was included in the CRC Biophysical Survey compiled by the BI Conservancy and the combined surveys were published in the natural history and conservation journal of the VNHS, Discovery (please see By comparing Terry’s July 2005 survey to the May ‘91 & ‘93 surveys, I discovered an additional 80 plants were listed in the Spring surveys, in spite of Terry’s comment (below) that he considered the combined May plant lists as “only preliminary”. One would be forgiven for thinking that there is little evidence of rare plants based on the July 2005 survey as, by July, there is almost no evidence of the spring flowering ephemeral plants. It is worth noting that the seeds of these plants often lie dormant in the soil for years waiting for ideal conditions before sprouting. This can result in them not always being found in the same spot or not coming up at all in some years.

The following are the concluding paragraphs of the article Terry wrote to accompany the publishing of his 91/93 plant surveys in Discovery.

“The botanical diversity of Cape Roger Curtis is actually much greater than indicated by this list. Only a cursory investigation was made of mosses, lichens and fungi. Also, the plants shown are those which were observed on just two survey days, both of which were in May, one in 1991, the other in 1993. More extensive studies, including non-vascular plants and fungi, carried out at other times of the year, are required to actually show the true diversity of the site.

Both surveys were conducted in May, and although this is when most of the rare and ephemeral species are evident, obviously the list of plants is only preliminary. But it is an inventory sufficient to show that this is indeed a unique and ecologically significant area. If the wildflowers and special ecology of Cape Roger Curtis are lost they will be lost forever. The decisions made in the near future will decree whether this will or will not be the case.”

The current regulations governing environmental surveys are held by naturalists to be woefully inadequate. In order to get a more accurate assessment of an area, at the very minimum a survey should be conducted in each season of the year over at least 2-years.

I do hope that the above helps you in the decisions you will be making. For your information, I will be creating a version of the letter (without mention of yourself) to be published in the Undercurrent as a short article. Thank you for your attention to my concerns.

From John Dowler and Monica Senn
…We are writing to express our ongoing concern about the planning for Cape Roger Curtis. Simply stated, we request that you reject the latest subdivision application from CRC Joint Venture. We feel the community has been involved with the property for decades and had already declared its interest in retaining portions of it in its current state, long before the current owners purchased it. While the Joint Venture representatives sought input as to islanders’ wishes, they seem to have walked out of every process so far when they learned that clearly the property was part of a much bigger vision for the island.

Bowen Island has precious little public foreshore. In fact most of it is either too steep for mountain goats, or fronts on Killarney lake rather than the ocean that surrounds us. Money is available to support purchasing some of the land, and the land is big enough to support developer profit without taking away our last chance for a piece of land that has been praised by environmental groups and people on Bowen for a very long time. There are species at risk on the lands, and the one accessible beach on the island that doesn’t already have houses looming over it and private land crowding it to the waterline. A way can be found to balance community and developer needs, but not without considering the site as a whole rather than starting with a bad plan merely to help turn profits while the planning process heads off in another direction.

The current Joint Venture application avoids any response to the ongoing input they requested themselves, and while we respect their desire to make a reasonable profit from the venture, they have put maximum profit ahead of any meaningful debate.

The adjacent lands will be heavily impacted by large scale developement. The Whitesails neighborhood will have to absorb a steady stream of large vehicles, while the other approach via Thompson Road will affect the preservation of Fairy Fen. While these issues may be worked out, this can only happen in the context of a larger scale plan that distributes the negative impacts as thinly as possible.

The Joint Venture has indicated that even if this application is approved, they will require islanders to go through a ‘visioning process’ for the entire island. Not only does this turn the public process on its head by allowing the main beneficiary to control the flow of debate, but they have already initiated and walked out of two or more processes. It is not in the public interest to let them frame and structure the debate, nor is it appropriate for them to set the conditions under which they will accept public involvement in the development of what is certainly the most important remaining coastal property on this side of Georgia Strait.

We urge you to glean from the many letters pouring into you on this topic the nuggets of applicable arguement that can empower us to open the door to a comprehensive plan for Cape Roger Curtis that balances the need for housing, profit and green space on Bowen Island.

From Peter Drake, Bowen Island

It was over 20 years ago that Joni Mitchell sang “They paved Paradise and put up a parkin’ lot”.Sadly, our global society is still doing the same thing.However, in Canada there is increasing pressure to protect our environment.The recent Cabinet reshuffle and the commitment by the Prime Minister to give environmental issues the top priority are evidence that Ottawa is taking its responsibilities to the environment and future generationsseriously.

If a Conservative Government can take this approach, surely we, on Bowen, where we pride ourselves on our social responsibility and have a specific mandate to “preserve and protect’ our land and Island culture, should be doing even more.

In your consideration of the latest development application for the Cape Roger Curtis lands you have the ability to take a pro-active stance.You have the opportunity to persuade the developers to adopt an approach whereby the many environmental and cultural assets of the land can be protectedyet their reasonable profit expectations can be met.

I strongly urge that you insist on a comprehensive development approach which takes into consideration all the many issues that are involved (already well known to you and the subject of input from a great variety of the public) and not just those that stem from a narrow interpretation of current zoning regulations.

It would be an excellent example of “Thinking Globally and Acting Locally”.

Archived materials