Briefs from the April 26 regular council meeting:
Ecclestone Beach controversy
Friends of Ecclestone Public Beach – a community group dedicated to a pocket beach on Miller’s Landing – is proposing a staircase to circumvent private property and allow public access to Ecclestone Beach. They are proposing financing and building the staircase as a group.
The proposal comes as owners of a property neighbouring the beach have offered public trail access to the area in exchange for a dock. (It’s complicated – the dock location would be within 10 metres of the abutting road right-of-way, which isn’t allowed under the Land Use Bylaw. So the owners need a development variance permit from the muni to reduce that setback requirement. The owners then need to get permission from the province to allow the dock as the foreshore is provincial land.) The development variance permit is set to come before council May 10 but the community group is asking for a month’s extension to get their proposal ready.
A spate of 11 speakers Monday evening pled against the dock deal. Arguments included necessity of preserving public access to and free use of shorelines; that the public access to the sea arguably already exists (arguing that the decades of accepted access and municipal signs indicating “public path” in recent years establish a common law path dedication); the visual and environmental effects of a 37 metre dock; the privatizing effect of a dock on public space; and that it contravenes the Official Community Plan, Land Use Bylaw and Islands Trust Policy Statement (this is why it needs a DVP).
Council didn’t respond to the comments as the DVP is scheduled to be considered at its next meeting.
The community centre lot is set to get bigger
Council voted to add 1.2 acres to the north of the school-bordering parcel to accommodate building expansion and parking.
The building design has grown and changed to accommodate municipal staff, accessibility and a few other details. The parking situation has also changed, the area in front of the centre becoming a more of a drop-off zone with parking spaces moved to the north. Much of the additional land would be used during building construction as a staging area (for equipment, supplies and vehicles).
The proposal was controversial for council. Councillors Sue Ellen Fast and Rob Wynen were adamantly opposed, citing among their concerns: the climate emergency and need to move away from car culture; cutting down trees for a parking lot; and approving major design adjustment without community consultation.
Coun. Maureen Nicholson voiced concern that that the land had been earmarked for housing and wanted assurance that lost housing land would be recouped.
Coun. David Hocking conveyed that while he’s sensitive to the climate emergency point, Bowen Islanders are spread out and the current situation is we need parking.
On the other hand, Coun. Michael Kaile wanted to make sure that the committee had asked for enough space as there’s often a shyness on asking for space.
While council approved the land increase (with Wynen and Fast opposed), they didn’t direct staff to make the Land Use Bylaw amendment to formally designate the land as part of the lot.