Advisory Planning Commission is doing its job
To the editor:
On March 11, I attended a public meeting of the Advisory Planning Commission (APC). One item discussed was a resolution asking council to withdraw its November 26, 2012 adoption of the Plan Q ferry marshalling plan for Snug Cove.
I can understand the APC’s concern. Plan Q was adopted by council over four months ago and is estimated to cost $5.5 million. It will be the municipality ’s largest cash expenditure ever and will require major increases in taxes, and will impact nearly every resident and business on the island. Yet council chose not to refer this plan to any community advisory group (including the APC) or gather input from Bowen Islanders before adopting it.
During the discussion of this resolution, I was very impressed with the conduct of the commissioners and the quality of the debate. It was obvious that the seven members have been frustrated with the actions of council.
In response, councillor Daron Jennings, the Commission’s council liaison, spoke at length about the need for caution and the potential that a resolution of this sort would be perceived as the Commission “picking a fight” with council. Jennings admitted that the process to date has been convoluted and confusing. He said that Plan Q was not a “fait accompli” and to trust him when he assured them that Plan Q would not be proceeding and that council had new ideas (also arrived at without public consultation or input from the APC). However, to-date there has been no indication from council in any public meetings that Plan Q is not going ahead.
APC members discussed the wording of the original resolution with some in favour and others not. There was much discussion about the mandate of the APC, particularly as Jennings had expressed the view that, as this was not an issue referred to them by council, they should not be passing a resolution on it. Several members felt that council needed to hear them on this issue; if they were not being asked to comment on a major land use planning issue such as Plan Q, why are they serving on the Commission? In the end, the group unanimously approved a motion paraphrased below.
• council passed resolution 12-254 on November 26, 2012, which commits the Bowen Island Municipality (“BIM”) to a ferry marshalling plan (“Plan Q”) that will shape the long term design and development of the Snug Cove corridor;
• and the Plan Q motion deals with a fundamental land use planning issue for Bowen Island, as there is an inextricable link between ferry marshalling and the revitalization of Snug Cove;
• and the APC has the mandate to provide advice and recommendations to Council on land use planning issues for Bowen Island;
• and council’s 2012 strategic plan calls for a public consultation process to determine a ferry marshalling concept;
• and due process for major land use planning issues, such as ferry marshalling, should be sent to the APC and other council committees and then to the public for consideration and comment prior to being passed by council;
The APC hereby recommends that council provide the APC and the public with appropriate opportunities to comment on any ferry marshaling plan before council makes a decision to adopt it or not.
The debate and the gradual building of consensus in reaching this resolution was certainly something our current council could learn from. And it was all done in a public forum at an evening meeting, so the public was able to observe and understand how the decision was made – something that is sorely lacking with the present council, with the unfortunate consequence that no one really knows what council is planning with our tax dollars or why, or how council even reaches decisions on issues facing this community.
Thank you, APC members, for your service to this community and for expressing what many in the public have been feeling about the lack of consultation by this council.