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General News · 3rd July 2022
Brian Hayden
            I would like to support the Sawmill Road neighbourhood alarm about the industrial development on Sawmill Road.  The Cortes Official Community Plan (OCP) that was adopted in 1995 enshrined the non-industrial values of Cortes residents.  Key parts stated that the principal aim of the OCP was:
"To provide a fair, spacious, neighbourly, and comfortable life in a rural environment for
those choosing to live and work here."
The first two goals of the OCP were:
"1. To preserve the rural quality of the area while protecting its ecological integrity.
2. To provide for forms of development which are mindful of the capacity of the
land to support development, and do not disrupt the area's rural character."
It is important to examine how "rural" was viewed.  The Appendix to the OCP stated that:
"'Rural' comprises the availability of space for residents, in which they can enjoy quiet, solitude and sufficient privacy to allow them to follow the lifestyle and occupation they wish, without interfering with neighbours." (my emphasis).
To that end, the OCP further listed as its objectives:
• · "To protect coastal areas from development deemed to be inappropriate by
• reason of location, form, scale or density.
• · To permit small-scale, industrial activities which are compatible with the Island
• environment.
• · To allow for a broad range of activities on private property provided they do not
• interfere with neighbours' enjoyment of their own property in the context of a
• rural environment.
• To resist development densities which result in an unwanted change in the character of the area concerned."
Most of these concerns were retained in the revised 2012 version of the Cortes OCP.  Thus, a clear concern for Cortes residents in the 1990's was to prevent industrialization from intruding into the rural lifestyle on Cortes.  This was considered the "normal" lifestyle for Cortes Island and a normal level of economic development.
            In order to ensure that this rural lifestyle was protected, bylaws were enacted in 1970 (Bylaw 41).   These bylaws fundamentally enshrined the rural lifestyle and small-scale economic practices as normal for Cortes Island and excluded industrial-scale activities from residential areas.  This is what good zoning bylaws are meant to do:  avoid incompatible land uses.  Zoning Bylaw 2455, which is still in effect, reiterates the major goal of the OCP in its introduction (Section 102):
"It is the intention of the Cortes Island Zoning Bylaw to reflect...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...maintenance of the rural character of the Island... Regulation is intended to support the health, safety and welfare of Island residents."
            Given the complaints arising in the neighborhood of Sawmill Road, it would seem that the industrial operation implanted there is in blatant contravention of the Cortes Official Community Plan - its, goals, aims, and objectives - as well as Cortes bylaws, and that its operation should be discontinued.
            Similar objections were raised over the last 20 years by residents around Gorge Harbour about the installment of industrial-scale shellfish operations in their residential neighborhood.  However, the Strathcona Regional District failed to uphold the Cortes OCP or its bylaws that attempted to enshrine the rural and comfortable lifestyle that was supposed to be protected here.  Instead, they upheld industry's right to mechanize Gorge Harbour.  Hopefully, this situation will not be repeated on Sawmill Rd.