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General News · 21st November 2016
Michelle Glickman
For consideration of bylaw review by SRD. While we support the light industry of the shellfish farmers located in Gorge Harbour, the current processing practices of Island Sea Farms makes it difficult to provide a desirable vacation environment beside their heavy industrialization. Please read the attached letter of our formal response to the SRD request for bylaw reviews.

An open letter from the Glickmans to the Cortes Island Community

Hard to believe but Richard and I are entering our twelfth year as members of our community, Cortes is an amazing island and a very special community that we are very proud to be part of. We appreciate the tremendous support and heartfelt friendships that we share with so many of you. Richard and I have always believed in transparency and our vision of building the marina was based on a simple tenant that creating an environment that gives more than takes would lead to a sustainable asset for our community. We and many members of our community have diligently worked together to support that dream.

We write this letter as we believe it is a critical time for the residents and businesses that make Gorge Harbour their home. This last year saw a major change occur in the harbour that has hurt many people in different ways, both in terms of their health and wellbeing and in real economic terms.

Imagine living in a quiet community neighborhood and waking up one morning and finding someone brought in a rock crushing machine that destroyed the very quality of life that you sought when you moved there. Of course, I am referring to Island Sea Farms (ISF), aka Salt Spring Island Mussels new mobile mussel processing barge. This machine is incredibly loud, runs 10-12 hours a day twice a week on Sundays and Tuesdays.

In a single season, it has destroyed the trust and stability we have shared as a community within the Gorge. Families living on the Gorge near where this machinery is operating can’t even sit outside their homes, since it’s too hot to close windows, these residents have had to leave their properties and seek peace elsewhere and they have lost the sanctuary of their own homes. Shellfish farmers working out on the rafts have been exposed to dangerous levels of noise (WHO guidelines) and often choose not to work their leases when ISF is operating. Residents whom rely on summer tourists, such as owners of Bed and Breakfasts are losing their long time guests and many boaters are simply pulling up anchor and leaving the Gorge. There is no doubt that the financial value of homes along the Gorge have been significantly and negatively affected by the noise created by the processing plant. Imagine your life savings in your home being destroyed at a time when you might need it the most.

We had struck a good balance in the Gorge, not perfect but functional, the growing of shellfish and their harvesting is not quiet but all of us have adapted. The introduction of processing plant equipment has seriously destroyed that balance. Of course, Richard and I are aware that the resort itself generates noise, we do much to try to abate that noise, such as the use of electric leaf blowers and curfews. Our music program which is open to all islanders can be loud at times, but I can assure you that if our neighbors complain about it we would act, as we have respect for the community we are part of.

As many of you are aware, we are coming up to review of the zoning bylaws related to the OCP. We believe that machinery required to grow and lift mussels or other shellfish are a reality of a working coast. We also believe that the use of processing plants such as the one being operated by Island Sea Farms does much more harm than good. We are urging the community to work together to address this issue.

It’s easy to hide behind the idea that this is about jobs, it’s much more complex than that. We know the importance of jobs to our local economy as the marina continues to be the largest employer on the island. In fact, we share many of the same employees as ISF and are very protective for their wellbeing.

This is about ISF showing leadership and working to find a solutions that remove the processing plant from the enclosed Gorge to a more appropriate location elsewhere and return to the balance of growing, harvesting and transporting these products.

This is a community issue as it affects so many of our friends and neighbors. That said, it materially affects the operation of the marina and resort. Our goal to create a sustainable asset for this community is put severely at risk by the presence of this plant. For the sake of transparency we have decided to share openly some of the financial reality of operating the marina and its role in the local economy.

Since, 2005 we have invested $6.4 million into facilities that are open to the community as a whole. We have generated $17 million in total revenues of which 100% have been put back into the operating costs of the marina resulting in the money staying on the island for jobs and supplies. This means the marina has not yet broken even on a fiscal basis mainly because we believe in job creation for the island and reinvesting in the community as opposed to taking the money off the island. Our goal of having the marina was to create and maintain a recreational business on Cortes Island that provides an unique family vacation experience and helps sustain tourism dollars on the island. In order to facilitate this goal, over the years we have put an additional $500,000 to the yearly shortfalls the business has had operationally to ensure that the jobs would still be there for the island. The marina employs up to 55 people in the summer and we try to ensure that there is enough employment to allow employees to secure government benefits. Since owning the marina we have spent over $4.5 million dollars in direct employment. We serve as a hub both socially and economically as we sell local product in our stores and support craft and food markets. We have never taken money out of the Gorge and put 100% our resources back into the operation on Cortes.

We are proud that we have achieved sustainability as a result of the support of our community and guests. We are providing this information as we feel that it is essential in helping one understand the implications of ISF activities in the Gorge. We can’t afford to go backwards and we believe that having this processing plant operating within the Gorge will destroy the balance we have all worked so hard to achieve. It is difficult to provide a desirable vacation environment beside heavy industrialization.

Richard and I have been huge supporters for shellfish farmers here in the Gorge, we have run education programs for boaters and have invested heavily in environmental systems to protect our shared resources. We also have personally helped to ensure our activities either directly or indirectly at the marina have kept a healthy growing environment for this valuable food source.

It is our hope to introduce the concept of amending the bylaws as they relate to acceptable levels of industrial activity within the Gorge as an enclosed body of water. That they be designed to protect the wellbeing and financial security of those that live and work within its boundaries. Compassion and goodwill should allow for sustainable employment and financial success for all parties.

Sincerely, Michelle Glickman
Our support!
Comment by Gina on 22nd November 2016
I hope, together–all Cortes Island residents, we can do something to preserve the natural beauty ( pristine waters, beautiful forest, quiet surroundings) of Cortes Island.