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December 1st Zoning Meeting
General News · 16th December 2016
Noba Anderson
December 1st Public Meeting – Bylaw Review Launch
I huge hearted ‘thank-you’ to the 80 plus (yes 80 plus!!) people who turned up on December 1st at the Klahoose Hall for the public launch of the Strathcona Regional District’s (SRD) Cortes Zoning Bylaw review process. This kind of turn-out is obviously indicative of your high level of interest in our zoning bylaw and the changes that will come. As you can see in the attached photo, the turn-out included a wide range of Cortes ages and demographics – very heartening indeed! This first meeting was introductory to the whole review process, an issues-identification meeting designed to get an overall sense of where you see the need for updates to our zoning bylaw. Your input was captured by SRD staff, Karin Albert and Aniko Nelson, during the meeting and those notes are attached below along with the fact sheet that was presented at that meeting. You can also check the Regional District’s webpage soon for these notes as well as future notes about the review process as we proceed - www.strathconard.ca/corteszoning.

The theme that dominated the public discussion on the 1st was that of housing affordability and the associated need for economic opportunities. An interest in provision for tiny homes was raised as well as a desire to review the size of the cabin allotment and also a recommendation to see the cap on the number of permitted dwellings on un-subdivided lots increased or lifted. An interest in keeping a diversity of ages housed on the island was expressed and the associated need for rental accommodation. There was also interest in good data to help inform the discussion and an expressed awareness about the social, economic and environmental impacts of increased density.

Associated concern was raised about septic contamination and grey water systems, especially connected to increased density around water bodies. The need for a better balance, regulation and enforcement respecting aquaculture operations of course came up, especially in the Gorge Harbour. Concerns about zoning bylaw enforcement generally were raised (more about this below) as well as discussion about creating an enforceable nuisance bylaw that could regulate general nuisance, unsightly property, accumulation of junked cars etc. and possibly a provision for excessive noise control. The courts have found that the current nuisance provisions embedded in our 2002 zoning bylaw must be in a stand-alone nuisance bylaw to have any teeth. I am strongly leaning toward the need for a simple such nuisance bylaw. For an example of one, please see the attachment to my last article.

Gorge Harbour Discussion
Because the Gorge Harbour is a place of overlapping and sometimes incompatible uses and because tensions are high, the Regional District hosted a professionally facilitated, by-invite meeting, also on December 1st, with key Gorge Harbour stakeholders. This meeting, which was limited to representatives of the upland owners living on the Gorge Harbour, shellfish farmers, the Gorge Harbour Marina and the Harbour Authority, was held with the intent of providing an atmosphere where key issues in the Gorge could be explored and discussed in great detail and where potential solutions could be offered by key players. One of the aims of the meeting was to get issues out in a respectful way before we hit the public realm. The number of participants, being limited to 20, allowed for an in-depth exploration of long standing issues in the Gorge that need to be resolved.

The group discussed how to improve communications between residents and the shellfish farming industry when concerns arise, importance of protecting water quality and education of boaters to prevent sewerage discharge into the Gorge, seasonal closures, speed limits for boats, protection of the Gorge marine ecology, reduction of noise from shellfish farming operations, and infrastructure improvements needed such as upgrades to the boat ramp and need for a pump-out facility. The group also provided input on the zoning bylaw update; however, that was not the only focus of the meeting. The stakeholder group committed to continue to work together to improve communications and resolve user conflict. A follow-up meeting to advance toward specific solutions is tentatively scheduled for spring 2017. A broader open public discussion regarding aquaculture will also be held in early 2017 as part of the Cortes zoning bylaw review process.

Advisory Planning Commission
The Cortes Advisory Planning Commission has, and will continue to be, consulted by the Regional District throughout the zoning bylaw review process. So far, their opinion has been sought primarily about the best process for the review. They are not the body that will be receiving individual submissions from community members about suggested changes. Rather that will be the job of Karin Albert and her staff team at the Regional District. To send letters with your content suggestions for the review, please address them to planningstrathconard.ca. Many APC members will be present at the various public events where they are free to speak as private citizens and where they will also be listening to all your comments. The APC will eventually also be referred the revised draft zoning bylaw for their comments on its content and how it reflects with the Official Community Plan as well as public sentiment expressed in this process. The current APC is: Kristen Scholfield-Sweet, Corry Dow, Carrie Saxifrage, Rod Lee, Mike Manson, Chris Dragseth, Ester Strijbos, Kim Christensen and Frances Guthrie.

Bylaw Enforcement
The Regional District can and does enforce its bylaws. There are a couple situations where we are very challenged to do so, including in the Gorge Harbour, where bylaws are very out of date, where there are complex overlapping jurisdictions or where legal presidents have been set that override our ability to enforce. However, in the vast majority of circumstances our bylaws are solid and enforceable. That being said, our enforcement regime is entirely complaint-driven, and we receive very few complaints. Cortes Islanders generally do not want proactive enforcement with bylaw officers looking for violations, so we do not fund this level of activity. Instead we rely on you reporting instances where bylaws are being broken when they are of concern to you. If you file a complaint, your anonymity is guaranteed (unless the matter goes to court and that information is requested by the judicial system – which is very rare). When a violation is confirmed, the bylaw enforcement officer will work with offender to resolve the matter in a voluntary way, which could include an application for a variance or re-zoning. If this fails, and depending on the violation, the offender could receive a compounding financial penalty (or ticket) that if not paid would go on the property tax bill, or the matter could go the Regional Board who may choose to take legal action. We could, during this zoning bylaw review, make recommendations for an update of our ticketing bylaw so that we could ticket a broader range of offences including such things as more buildings than permitted, illegal use, illegal suite etc. I am also advocating that we allot a slightly increased budget for enforcement starting now.

Next Steps
Over the next few months, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD)will continue its consultation on the Cortes Island Zoning bylaw to ensure the zoning bylaw is compliant with the 2012 Cortes Island Official Community Plan (OCP) which provides direction for the zoning bylaw update. As part of the Cortes Zoning Bylaw update, the SRD will be organizing a number of community meetings to consider input from Cortes islanders regarding required or suggested updates. The new bylaw needs to reflect the vision, goals, objectives and policies of the OCP, and given the age of the zoning bylaw, updates need to be made to ensure the bylaw is compliant with changes in provincial legislation made since 2002.

The SRD will post an on-line questionnaire (with paper copies to be available at the library and post offices) to learn more about Cortes islanders’ views on those topics. The questionnaire will be available at www.strathconard.ca/corteszoning and at cortesisland.com for the month of January. Following review of the questionnaire responses, the SRD will host meetings on topics of interest most likely beginning in February. Based on input received at the first public meeting, as well as discussion with the APC, it is suggested that one meeting will focus on density and environmental protection, and another meeting on aquaculture and a nuisance bylaw. Bylaw enforcement will be discussed at both meetings as related to each topic. Based on the meeting discussions and input received through the questionnaire, SRD staff will draft proposed updates to the zoning bylaw and present a draft to the public for further comment in spring/summer 2017.

For public meeting dates, summary of public meetings, and background information, you can always visit www.strathconard.ca/corteszoning. Meeting dates will also be announced in the Tideline (cortesisland.com) as well as the Cortes Marketer and on Cortes bulletin boards. Paper copies of all documents will be available at the Cortes library starting in January 2017 and electronic copies of many documents are attached here.

To review the current zoning bylaw, Official Community Plan and associated maps, please visit www.strathconard.ca/planning-bylaws

Many thanks for your keen interest in this process.

Noba Anderson,
Regional Director

250-935-0320, directorcortesisland.com