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Metro Vancouver closes land purchase at Cape Roger Curtis

Metro Vancouver is seeking to build a regional park on the 97-hectare space
The view south from one of the waterfront lots at Cape Roger Curtis.

The sale of 24 Cape Roger Curtis lots to Metro Vancouver is officially complete.

Metro Vancouver confirmed the sale, which finalized earlier this month, in a press release Tuesday afternoon. The 97 hectares of land, which the organization plans to develop into a regional park, were purchased from the Cape on Bowen for $40 million.

The sale concludes a process which lasted more than a year. Metro Vancouver first publicly announced their pursuit of the land in August 2022, though they’d been in discussions with the municipality and the Cape to acquire the south Bowen sites since February that year.

Awaiting confirmation of the sale did not stop the park process from undergoing several developments in the last few months however, the most consequential being a rezoning application by Metro Vancouver to allow overnight camping on the land. The area is currently zoned Rural Residential 1, and would need to be changed to Passive Park to allow the approximately 100 campsites Metro Vancouver is seeking for the space.

During Bowen council’s April 24 meeting, the application took an initial step forward as both amendments to the Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw passed in matching 5-2 votes.

A second reading is not expected for several months. The plan is now headed to Bowen committees for further discussion, and a restrictive covenant is being prepared to manage phasing-in of the park. Metro Vancouver has proposed a three-stage implementation of various park features.

Metro Vancouver says they’re planning to begin Phase 2 of their own public consultation process later this summer, having completed the first phase earlier this year. In the meantime, they say the area is not open for visitors in order to protect the local ecology.

While a final decision may not come until next year, it’s an issue which has caused sharp division on the island. Metro Vancouver’s own survey results from the first round of public engagement in February and March showed a majority of island residents (590/1,029, 57%) didn’t support the project in its then-state, compared to 198 in support (19%), 152 needing more info (15%) and 89 remaining neutral (9%).

A local petition devoted specifically to opposing any camping at the site presented to council last week by resident Julie Vik claimed around 1,300 names, representing a sizeable portion of Bowen’s approximately 3,200 adults. The last two council meetings have seen nearly 200 letters submitted on the park topic, along with many residents speaking to it during public comments section.

Calls for a referendum or opinion poll on the park have grown in number, in order to more fully gauge how Islanders feel about it. The municipality said this could be an option but they’d like more information on the project before considering it.

The local opinion gulf is a reality Mayor Andrew Leonard addressed following last week’s public comments, as he attempted to cool some of the rhetoric which has developed in the community.

“The face-to-face contact is so much more important and worthwhile than some of the pieces that I’ve seen online,” he said following the speaker list, noting comments on social media have “been very challenging, it’s been difficult, it’s been dehumanizing in some respects.”

“We are hearing you. We are constituted of passionate people in this community who are your neighbours. Many of us campaigned on this notion of integrity and process – wanting to hold clear, open, transparent governance – and we’ve been doing that,” added the mayor.

“Integrity and process demands that we take our time… through that foundation of process we can get at solutions, instead of knee-jerk reactions, instead of name calling, instead of acrimony, instead of frustration. Because I can feel the frustration and passion in this room. Everybody’s here because they friggin care. And we do too,” says Leonard.

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