Last Thursday, August 22, 2013, with only the four electoral area directors empowered to vote, the Strathcona Regional District denied the Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership’s Squirrel Cove Marina application (bylaw 171) at third reading. The application is now finished from the Regional District perspective.
I have been wrestling since with how to communicate to you what happened and my opinion about it. I am deeply torn between writing the full truth as I see it and professionalism… so I will work on an opinion piece over time that weaves many threads together. In the interim, given that the media was not present, here is my best shot at an un-opinionated account of the discussion and the vote.
I started the discussion at the SRD Board and shared my perspective by reading the statement below. Discussion ensued and the vote was tied with Director Abram and myself in support and Directors Leigh and Walley in opposition. Three of the four of us would have needed to support the application for it to have received Regional District Board support.
Director Walley stated that the boaters, who in his opinion are the ones most ‘directly affected’ by the application, were predominantly opposed to the proposal. He also stated that their submissions were generally more detailed and thoughtful than those of Cortes Islanders who are, again in his opinion, more ‘indirectly affected.’
Director Leigh stated that she did not believe that this application was consistent with the overall spirit of the Cortes Official Community Plan and said that it did not properly balance commercial, societal and environmental values. This regardless of the OCP specifically designating this foreshore area in front of the Klahoose reserve for this type of First Nation use. She further stated that she did not believe that a fish farm was an appropriate land use to coexist with boating and that Squirrel Cove should be made into an ecological preserve. I pointed out that it was a shellfish farm not a fish farm, that the shellfish operation had been appropriately zoned and licensed for years alongside boats, that the application included only a relocation of this operation and that some boats would be tied and moored rather than anchored as at present and therefore that the overall land-use conflict that she identified would not be different than now. Director Leigh had no response but maintained her position.
Director Abram, said that although he had real concerns he supported the application because he honoured the will of the Cortes community and the will of the director from the area. He sated that he hope that other directors would do the same.
I opened the discussion by reading the following statement:The Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership’s rezoning application of the foreshore in front of their Squirrel Cove reserve lands which proposes a marina development, relocated deep water aquaculture site and a small dock has generated much input from Cortes Islanders and boaters from afar. This application is from a wholly Klahoose First Nation owned corporation and thereby carries with it special consideration and ramifications which require our acute attention.
Almost all of the input that we received from off-island boaters did not support the application. This input generally raised concern about privatizing and commercializing what is currently a free and relatively wild common safe anchorage in Squirrel Cove. Consistent concern was also raised about navigation issues, adjacency of aquaculture and moorage, economic viability of the business venture and its potential impact on adjacent businesses. These are all very valid issues and drew our attention.
On the other hand, this application is in line with and fully supported by the Cortes Official Community Plan which is only a few months old. The Cortes OCP states “Marine areas fronting reserve lands are acknowledged for their cultural and heritage values, as well as their significance in supporting uses that will further the economic, social and cultural well being of First Nations.” They are thus designated with a new ‘Coastal First Nations’ designation. The OCP goes on to state, ‘The Coastal First Nations marine areas are also recognized as being suitable for marine commercial and resource based activities.’ During the whole OCP review process I do not remember any community objection at all to this new coastal designation, and indeed discussion did ensue about the range of activities that would be deemed appropriate in these areas including marina development.
In keeping with this Cortes support for the new OCP, almost all of the local Island input received through this rezoning process supported the Klahoose application. Although some support came with concern about business competition and project viability, none-the-less Cortes Islanders overwhelmingly supported the application. In my view, it is local land-owners and residents that should be having the greatest influence over local land use planning decisions, and Cortes residents support this development.
By supporting the will of Cortes residents, as expressed both through the OCP and the public hearing process, we will also be supporting the will of a First Nation government. This in and of itself is worth a lot to me, to my community, to this board and indeed this region. By supporting this application we, as a board, will be better holding open the option for good government to government relations not only with Klahoose but also with many other First Nation governments in this region as they are closely watching this process and the decision we make today. The SRD strives, through our strategic priorities, to improve relations with our First Nation neighbours and sign with them government to government protocol agreements. Our decision today will impact those prospects. This application is not locally controversial enough to warrant such an upset. Indeed, what is being proposed in essence is not a major change of land-use. It would be a change from all boats anchoring to some boats anchoring and some boats tying up at a dock or using a mooring buoy. There will absolutely be positive and negative repercussions from the marina – this is the nature of development.
Today, I will be voting in support of the Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership’s rezoning application – SRD Bylaw 171.
After hearing from my three elected colleagues I reminded the board that the Klahoose First Nation had told us in writing that regardless of the Regional District’s decision they would be proceeding with their marina development and stated that I trusted this to be true. I further said that the decision before us was not really one of the marina being developed or not but rather very simply one of supporting the will of a community and a Nation or alienating a neighboring government. However deeply unfortunate, we collectively chose the latter. The vote was then taken and the application defeated.
All public comments received on this application, as well as all associated documents can be read here: http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/22-Aug-13/July-24_-2013-Public-Hearing-Bylaw-171-Minutes-and-Binder.pdf
I welcome your comments and suggestions as to how to proceed….
Sincerely, Noba Anderson
Regional Director, Cortes Island
Strathcona Regional District