With IT hoping to become active on Cortes Island, it is more important than ever to signal that residential development will not be allowed on lands where significant logging has occurred in recent years. If owners want to rezone their forest land to residential land, they must come to the community before a tree is cut when they have something of value to offer the community in exchange for the greater profit that can be gained with residentially zoned land.
We’re all painfully aware that about 10% of the island is owned by a big, distant asset management company that is answerable to its shareholders, not to us. Brookfield Asset Management promises higher returns to shareholders than can be made with forestry. When community members meet with Island Timberlands, Chris Dawes, the real estate manager attends. That’s because IT/BAM needs to sell residential land on a world market to maximize returns. It doesn’t care about affordable housing, a forest economy, or other community interests. IT/BAM and others stand to make many millions of dollars on Cortes forest lands if they can be rezoned out of F-1. No doubt, they are watching this OCP process closely. We need to draw a bright line around lands with F-1 and F-2 zoning by designating them as F-1 and F-2 lands in the OCP.
Historically, the Cortes community has used the forest zone to protect itself from “log and flog” land owners:
• Siskin Lane and Eco-Initiatives provided a plan for forest retention when they went to the community to ask for new zoning to allow greater residential density. In both cases, the community supported the rezone.
• In contrast, the lots at the corner of Bartholomew and Sutil Point Roads were logged prior to the request for a rezone. The community responded with a petition signed by 329 community members stating that forest lands and must not be rezoned following significant logging in recent years. http://www.cortesisland.com/tideline/show362a/329_request_forestland_protection
• A severance provision resulted in subdivision after significant logging on the Seaford Y and Gorge Harbour parcels. The community amended the by-law so that the severance provision no longer applies to forest lands.
• A further subdivision by a new land owner was later sought for the Seaford Y and denied.
Zoning is the strongest land use tool available to citizens. Those who engage in the development of our OCP wield a lot of power over future uses of land. And they deserve appreciation for the time and effort it takes!