Council is delighted that Brent Mahood, our Interim Chief Administrative Officer since July, will take on the full time role of CAO. One of Brent’s primary responsibilities will be to continue to direct staff efforts on Council’s strategic plan. The core of Council’s plan is to complete the OCP update, complete a new Snug Cove marshalling plan, decide on the merits of a National Park on Bowen Island, launch a fund-raising campaign for our Community Centre, create a plan to upgrade the Fire hall, and complete expansion of the Snug Cove sewer plant. This article focuses on Snug Cove, the OCP, and the National Park initiative.
Updating our Official Community Plan has been the top planning priority for this council. The public consultation that led to the draft OCP update has brought the OCP in line with community aspirations. The update was given first reading in July 2010, and has since been reviewed by various agencies, the Bowen public, and our municipal solicitor. Our planning staff led by Hap Stelling has done a very thorough job compiling the received comments and recommending necessary changes. The changes focus largely on improving clarity and consistency within the document, highlighting the fact that the first reading draft was of very high quality. This is a credit to the public process managed by the OCP steering committee and consultant planners. I would take this opportunity to thank the members of the OCP steering committee, chaired by Sue Ellen Fast, and planners Dave Witty and Linda Allen for their excellent work on the OCP update.
The work items that remain are completion of maps and guidelines for Development Permit Areas identified within the OCP: Steep Slopes, Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Watersheds, and others. To accomplish this, planning staff will be bringing forward recommendations for the OCP and Land Use Bylaw for council and public review.
The second topic I wish to cover is Snug Cove where Council has entered into an exciting design stage. Our planning department and consultant James Tuer have prepared two major reports full of outstanding visuals that propose options for an invigorated Snug Cove village. We are looking to redesign ferry marshalling within a more pedestrian-oriented village. The reports are available on the municipal website (Current Topics, Ferry Marshalling). Council has asked staff to develop several hybrid options that present a range of road and village concepts, from modest redesign to ambitious change. This report is due back in spring 2011 and we look forward to inviting public comment on these options. Based on input, Council intends to make a decision on a final design by the summer of 2011, opening the door to detailed infrastructure planning in the Cove.
The feasibility study for a National Park on Bowen Island has grown into a vibrant island discussion since its announcement last summer. From the start, Council’s intention was to ensure that the opportunity for a National Park received full and fair consideration by the community. There has been significant progress to date, beginning with the well-attended introductory presentation by Parks Canada in August. In September, a group of islanders toured the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve to learn first hand about Parks Canada’s operations and to hear directly from local islanders. In October, this tour group reported back at a public meeting at the BICS gym, and island facilitator Chris Corrigan led a half day discussion with an agenda set by participants. In November, Parks Canada held two workshops with representative islanders; one to develop a draft vision, and the second to develop Park Concept Plan options. Parks Canada and the representative islanders reported back on those workshops at a public meeting. Parks Canada will present the draft Park Concept Plan options at the December 13 council meeting, and these will be available on the BIM website and Parks Canada website (firstname.lastname@example.org) for public review and comment.
Even with the successes of these meetings, tours, and workshops, it is clear to Council that more needs to be done to engage the Bowen Island community. This is essential because we have committed to bring the question of a National Park on Bowen Island to a community vote in April 2011. We are therefore establishing an outreach committee, representative of our demography and island organizations to inform and engage islanders. This committee will be appointed in early December and start work immediately. The Committee will report to Council on the public’s interests and concerns in the new year. This report will guide Council in framing the questions for the community vote.
I have now worked with Parks Canada staff for a year and am very impressed with their professionalism, quality of work, and openness to collaboration with BIM and our community. While on our tour of Gulf Island National Park Reserve, I was struck by the quality of Parks Canada planning, community engagement and facilities. What they do, they clearly do well. Local islanders offered us diverse opinions from high praise to frustration. But when asked “Would you do it again?” we heard the answer “yes”.
All of this tells me that a National Park is a very significant opportunity for Bowen.
We need to consider both the shorter term impacts as well as the longer term legacy. How do we protect and promote the best of Bowen far into the future? What do we have to offer - to our region, to Canada? There is much to think about.
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