Hello all and happy fall!
This morning I am heading off to Co-Chair a meeting of the Strathcona Community Health Network (see last month’s article)
, meet with my staff about the upcoming zoning bylaw review and then head down to Victoria for the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention where we will be debating issues of importance put forward by local governments from around the province. I will write a report about that shortly, but have a few local things to share with you before I get engulfed in that provincial world. Re: Review of Cortes Island Zoning Bylaw, 2002 (#2455) (Electoral Area B)
This fall, it truly looks as though we are going to review the Cortes zoning bylaw! There is only caution in my voice because I have been promising this for a few years, but now the pieces are truly lining up. I approach this both with some trepidation but also knowing that it is quite important to get it right and bring it up to date, including having the zoning bylaw better reflect our recently revised Official Community Plan.
What is the Zoning Bylaw and What does it do? The opening line from the current document states; “It is the intention of the Cortes Island Zoning Bylaw to reflect in simple day-to-day rules, the character of the Cortes Official Community Plan, 1995 and in so doing, provide for a fair, spacious and comfortable life in a rural environment.” The zoning bylaw regulates what may, and may not, legally occur on both land and water on and around Cortes from a land-use perspective. It regulates things such as the size of residential lots, how many houses, cabins and outbuildings can be built on each, how far back structures must be placed from lot lines, what activities may and may not occur on commercial lands and which lands are reserved for forestry use. It regulates some aspects of the aquaculture industry as well as private and public docks including location and permitted structures. It regulates signs and parking and home business use. It provides set-backs from streams, limits the location of sawmills, and will be in alignment with the more visionary Community Plan that looks to how we want to be as a community into the future.
So back to the imminent review... Next week, I will be asking advice of my Advisory Planning Commission how to proceed with this review in the best way for the island and I anticipate that the initial community consultation portion of this review will happen between late October and early December. I believe that most of the terrestrial zones serve us well and don’t need much modification (most residential, commercial, forestry etc.) although I could stand corrected.
I will be putting forward some edgy ideas for your consideration such as establishing setbacks from the ocean and imposing maximum house sizes. I want us to think hard about the kind of future we want for this community. As much as we hate rules, they can really protect us, and the environment, against the kind of development we do not want to see and encourage land use that we support. Our zoning bylaw can be part of supporting affordable housing, or making it increasingly difficult for a diverse range of people to be here. Think about communities that are a joy to be in and those that are a nightmare maze, and I bet that some of that is a result of good (or poor) planning. One of my favourite local examples of this is Qualicum Beach. Local government can’t outright ban fast food chains from a town, but Qualicum Beach limits sign size, height and illumination and prohibits drive-throughs... and to date no fast food chain has set up shop!
There are three areas that I foresee will need more attention and community discussion than others during the review of the Cortes Zoning Bylaw.
1. We truly need an overhaul of most of the aquaculture zones that were not updated during the last review in 2002. We will work together to try and find a solution to the issues that works best for all parties.
2. We did not find good resolution during the Community Plan review about the number of permitted houses on un-subdivided lots and the permissible size of the secondary cabin or suite. There is some very clear language in the Community Plan that supports increasing this density, but if this is done across the board or on an application basis only is an issue where we will need to find some resolution.
3. Finally, I anticipate needing some good thought regarding the provisions to regulate ‘nuisance.’ There is some strong and clear language in our current zoning bylaw that speaks to disallowing ‘nuisance’ including the number of junked cars on a lot, general unsightliness, etc. Since the adoption of this bylaw in 2002, the courts have declared that we need to have these kinds of provisions in a separate ‘nuisance bylaw,’ so we will need to decide if we want to go this route and if so, whether we want to include the same kinds of general prohibitions that currently exist. Related to this nuisance issue, we will need to decide if we want a ‘special events’ permit for large outdoor gatherings that would set some standards for safety and sanitation.
We will be holding some public meetings, likely on specific topic areas, and will also encourage input through other avenues. If all goes well this fall, I expect that a draft would come back for community comment in the new year with final adoption happening sometime late spring. How is that for optimistic? I would encourage anyone interested to read through the existing Cortes Island Zoning Bylaw, 2002 (#2455) (Electoral Area B) and think about how to improve it. You can find it here
. On the same page you can also find the 2012 Cortes Official Community Plan which may offer some inspiration in your thinking. The zoning bylaw update is an opportunity to shape land use, growth and density and protect environmental values on Cortes – something that directly impacts all of us. Thanks in advance for your participation.Sutil Point Park – Unethical or Wise to Sell a Park?
Cortes has only one small, inactive park which is on Sutil Road that I expect very few of you know anything about. It is ½ an acre in size and located immediately before the beginning of Smelt Bay Provincial Park as you head south on Sutil Road. It is forested, has no trails, signage, nothing, and being in the ‘inactive’ category the Regional District does nothing with it other than insure it and include it on our parks map (if you look closely you will see it, but at the Cortes-wide scale it is completely lost). This park was created in 1991 as part of a subdivision, and to my knowledge has never really been used. The neighbourhood is well served by Smelt Bay Park and I don’t see this park being an attraction beyond the most local users. Is this park worth keeping? If so, should we develop it for local use in some manner? If not, should we sell it? If we sell it, the funds would go into a Cortes-specific reserve to purchase future parklands, and possibly in part help with the last debt payment in 2019 for the Whaletown Commons. We could consider selling it to one of the two adjacent property owners whereby they would absorb it into their existing lot. It is estimated that we would likely get about $30,000 for this kind of sale. If we were to put it on the open market for sale as a stand-alone lot, we would likely receive over $100,000, although a formal appraisal has yet to be completed. The ironic and possibly unfair thing about the SRD selling such a small lot is that we would not allow a lot of this size to be created, although there are many other historical lots this small on Cortes. So the question is, what is more valuable and of greater benefit to the community: this piece of land as public/green space or the funds from its sale that could contribute toward the purchase of a park with greater value?
To proceed with a sale in any way, we would need your formal permission. This is your park, your funds, your decision. There are two ways to seek this formal approval. The first is an ‘alternative approval process’ whereby we say that it is our intent to sell unless 10% of you object. This was the recommendation in the Regional District staff report found here
. This process could be done quickly, allowing the funds to be available sooner for use, but gives voice only to the negative. The other option that I may support would be to have a referendum question on the ballot at the next local government election in two years. I would only recommend moving in this direction after hearing from you. Is this worth the effort? Is this park of good public value? I am open to hearing your thoughts about how to engage in this matter; tours, meetings, a survey?Cortes Advisory Planning Commission
We are very blessed to have such a great, diverse and cooperative group that serve Cortes as the Advisory Planning Commission advising me and the Regional District board on land-use planning matters. As noted above, we will be meeting next week to discuss the best way to proceed with the review of the Cortes Zoning Bylaw. I would like to thank the following four people for their service on the Commission and acknowledge their generous contribution over the years. Julia Rendall, Susanna Bonner, Mary Clare Preston and Leah Seltzer have all stepped down due to changes in their life circumstances. Joining us this fall is Carrie Saxifrage and Corry Dow and I have a couple other expressions of interest that I will be considering and invite other suggestions as well. Members staying on include Mike Manson, Ester Strijbos, Rod Lee, Kristen Scholfield-Sweet and Frances Guthrie.
SCCA Gas Tax Fund Application
The Regional District Board has agreed in principle to support a Gas Tax application from the Southern Cortes Community Association for $86,000, and we are awaiting the final staff report and contract before this becomes final.
The first portion is a requested $35,000 to complete the community kitchen renovations which has an overall budget of $169,300. This kitchen was closed by Island Health three years ago. What really stands out is the $134,300 they have raised through local contributions and larger government grants to not only replace the kitchen but improve it substantially with the intention of making it more open for community use than ever before.
The second project centers around upgrades to increase the hall’s accessibility - mostly through improvements to the entry way – and is requesting $21,000 of gas tax funds. Of note, they have raised $49,000 toward these upgrades including a $40,000 Federal Enabling Accessibility grant that requires our $21,000 matching funds to retain the $40,000 in hand.
The third project component, at the request of the Cortes Gas Tax Advisory Committee, is up to $30,000 for a new generator back-up power system to run the hall’s essentials when the power is out – which is a regular occurrence. This generator will allow community events to continue when the power is out and also will much better equip the hall to be of assistance to the whole community in emergency situations.
An earlier version of this application came to the Cortes Gas Tax Advisory Committee in June and has been notably revised based on their input, including a reduction in both the kitchen and accessibility budgets and associated Gas Tax contributions as well as the inclusion of the generator project. This revised application has received their support and I was therefore quite happy to advance it at the Regional District board. To see the full application please click here
That’s all for now. Many thanks for the opportunity to serve.
Regional Director, Cortes Island