- Our Town
Dock application highlights oversights in ammended bylaw
Prior to seeing an ad in the Undercurrent a few weeks ago announcing that the International Buddhist Society had applied to build a large dock, none of the long-time property owners around Grafton Bay had any knowledge of their new neighbours’ plans. The Buddhist Society had purchased two waterfront lots and started construction on a large residence overlooking the Bay, with a steep set of stairs down to a sun-deck at beach level. Karen Cowper says the dock plans she and her neighbours have recently learned about have come as a shock, and they highlight the gaps and problems which remain with the regulations of dock construction on Bowen Island.
In November, the Bowen’s Municipal Council passed amendments to the Land-Use Bylaw 335 in an effort to establish a clear set of rules on what’s allowed, and what’s not, when it comes to dock-building plans on the island. The amendment limited the length of private docks on Bowen’s shores to 40 meters (approximately 131 feet). However, the amended bylaw allows for exceptions to this limit to be made for “Group Moorages.”
The dock proposed to be built by the International Buddhist Society will be made up of four aluminum sections, each 50 feet long, with a 32 foot-long concrete float at the end (roughly 70 meters).
According to Cowper, the Municipality has said that this length is acceptable because the proposed dock will be a “group moorage.” What qualifies the dock as such is the fact that the International Buddhist Society owns two properties side-by-side.
Cowper says she does not think Council realized the potential problems that might arise from this part of the bylaw amendment.
“Unfortunately, the permissive wording in that amendment allows for virtually any two people to get together and decide to how big a dock is going to be, without any Municipal input at all.”
Cowper’s grandparents bought a large chunk of land around Grafton Bay alongside Enoch and Olive Broom. The land has since been subdivided among the two families’ children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. The three houses overlooking Grafton Bay, not including the house being built by the International Buddhist Society, belong to Karen Cowper and her husband Geoffrey, Karen’s parents Joan and Kip Anastasia, and Mark and Leslie Churchland (Leslie is a Broom).
Grafton Bay itself is extremely shallow. When the tide is out the Bay is completely empty and its extensive mudflats are exposed. Joan Anastasia says the flats and tidal pools serve as both a playground and sun-lounge for birds in the summer. This long and shallow intertidal zone is also part of what complicates any dock design for the area.
The Cowper-Anastasia family has a dock along the western edge of the Bay, where the shoreline drops-off more steeply. The family also keeps boats moored in a deeper part of the bay, and they rely on a small dinghy to access them.
While there is no public access to Grafton Bay from the shore, the area’s residents say the Bay is a popular resting place for people kayaking around the area.
They say the new dock, if it is built, will block access to the mooring buoys and kayakers who want to paddle around the Bay.
“If you lived here and you loved the place it’s a plan you would never suggest,” says Karen Cowper, of the dock application. “But if you’re in the business of selling docks, of course you would suggest it to your clients.”
Beyond the issue of access, Kip Anastasia fears the new dock, if it is built, will be an eyesore.
“It will look similar to the large new dock at Cape Roger Curtis which is a blot on the sea-scape.” says Anastasia. “I’ve seen it from shore and I’ve seen it from the water and it looks much worse from the water, because you can see it from so far away.”
Karen Cowper says that if the International Buddhist Society were to propose building a different style of dock, it might be more well-received by the neighbourhood.
“This sort of thing is happening up and down the whole British Columbia coastline,” says Cowper. “I think we need to consider that there might be a better way to approach this that would be friendlier to the scenic nature of our coast. So I think its worth talking to the province about the situation that has arisen since the new dock-building technology has come into play. We have a beautiful foreshore and we should have a conversation about what happens upon it.”
Cowper says that she is hoping some kind of compromise can be reached with the International Buddhist Society over their dock-building plans.
“We want to continue to be good neighbours, so I’m hopeful that we will find a way to work this out.”
Anyone wishing to submit a comment on the dock application can do so by writing to the land officer working on this file (Land File No. 2410953):
Land Officer, Resource Authorizations, South Coast Regional Office
200, 10428 - 153 Street,
Surrey B.C. V3R 1E1