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General News · 15th July 2022
Mercedes Grant
I recently spoke on the phone with John Gelacio, the by-law officer who is responding to complaints filed against the land development and destruction at 298 Sawmill Road in Whaletown. He last visited the site on June 24th, following multiple noise complaints, and prior to the expansion of development this past week that has impeded one of the last shore-line access points for neighbouring residents. The forest trail has been razed and expanded by a machine. Another forest trail leading up to the bluff was partially destroyed to make space for a 30+ foot “man-camp” trailer.

I asked Mr. Gelacio to clarify whether or not the developers were in violation of the zoning by-laws for that particular piece of “property”, as there has been much contention around this issue since the project began. He explained that under the current system of governance, there are seven “areas” on the island that require owners to apply for a “development” permit, and the “property” on Sawmill Road is not a part of these “areas”. In addition, while Cortes Island currently has a by-law under “general provisions” stating that nuisance and noise are not permitted if said nuisance and noise “kills” enjoyment of the island for residents, unfortunately, this by-law is not a “ticketing” by-law, meaning that the by-law officer cannot issue a “ticket” aka a monetary fine but can only “advise” the “property owner” on that “property” that they have to minimise the volume and construct within reasonable hours - in short, there are zero legal consequences for the actions taken by the so-called property owners and even if there were a “ticketing by-law”, it would likely also be of little consequence, as we are well aware of the financial resources that these folks have at their disposal.

I benefit from having access to this land, and so do my neighbours. I believe we’ve all made efforts to live respectfully among the ancient cedars, swimming in the pristine waters and treading lightly, doing our best to respect the healing properties and wisdom that is offered from having access to this land and shoreline. For 4 years, our lives have been increasingly disturbed by the noise of industrial machines tearing up forest habitat, massive gravel trucks driving back and forth all day, and large trucks hauling “man-camp” trailers, in addition to verbal abuse, half-truths and increasing surveillance from land developers. It feels important to note that the “landowners” continue to maintain that they are building one large residential family home, despite visible evidence of development to the contrary. If you haven’t had the privilege of visiting this beautiful spot, imagine your most beloved corner of the island being taken over by industrial machines and surveillance cameras - and then consider the impact this would have on your health and safety.

We can harp on about by-laws and zoning and legal consequences, but the reality is that this colonial system of governance is doing *exactly* what it was created to do: to protect the interests of wealthy “landowners” while subjugating one of the world’s most sensitive ecological habitats. There is so much that this land has to offer us, if we are willing to listen with humility; if we are willing to sit with the uncomfortable reality that many of us are uninvited guests; if we are willing to understand that we have more to learn from this land than it does from us. I’ve had the privilege of building a relationship with this land, which has become a sacred space for regeneration and healing. As someone managing chronic health conditions, it has been a gift to be able to walk to the sea from my home with relative ease. Dear friends and chosen family have found sanctuary on this land and in the sea, finding solace and healing in the freedom to be their full selves. It is not unreasonable to consider the destruction and inaccessibility of this land as a great loss, and one that comes at an incredibly precarious time for the future of this island. We are facing a growing housing crisis, supply insecurity, a rise in nationalism, and unprecedented habitat loss amid climate and ecological collapse. The intersection of these dynamics have created the conditions ripe for the kind of commercial and industrial development that we see happening at so-called “Springboard Bay”.

As I dig deep for glimmers of hope and imagine an outcome that would allow us to continue to safely access the shore line and build a gentle relationship with this land, I am keenly aware that local governing bodies remain apathetic to this situation, and are at the mercy of much broader systemic issues. With the upcoming regional election, it would be wise for those campaigning for the role of Regional Director to consider their position on this issue, and more broadly, how we can shift the current power dynamics on this island to include respectful, open and honest dialogue that centers care for both each other and the environmental landscape that we rely on to survive here above and beyond the constraints of what is considered “legal” and “acceptable”.

In the meantime, I ask anyone who has the capacity to do so, to flood the SRD with complaints, as it’s been implied to me that this is *one* way to push the issue to the upper levels of “management” and potentially force a public hearing on the matter.

If you want to issue a complaint but lack the capacity or technology to do so, I would be happy to assist you by supporting you through the process and/or creating a simple template that you can use to send online or via mail. Please contact me at 250-935-8598 and/or email me at

Attached is a PDF complaint form that you can fill out and auto-send in. Further avenues to issue an official complaint are listed below:

Mail A Letter To:

990 Cedar Street
Campbell River, BC
V9W 7Z8

By-Law Officer Contact Information:

Aniko Nelson
Senior Manager, SRD Community Services
Phone: 250-830-6708

John Gelacio
By-Law Officer
Office Phone: 778-346-9142
Cell Phone: 250.203-1976