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Muni Morsels: Regulating public spaces and space for the after school club

One of Bowen Children's Centre's best-used programs could be getting its own space soon and council addresses camping and other uses of public spaces
Bowen Island Municipality sign
While islanders have long assumed camping is banned on-island, there's no formal bylaw to that effect.

The following is the rest of the coverage from the Bowen Island Municipality March 22 regular council meeting.

More than banning camping

Council unanimously passed first reading of a sweeping bylaw regulating public spaces on Bowen Island.

The bylaw came out of a January direction to staff “to develop a bylaw to restrict camping or and/or the creation of encampments on public places.”

While it has long been the assumption of Bowen Islanders that camping isn’t allowed on-island, it’s not specifically addressed in bylaws, BIM CAO Liam Edwards told the Undercurrent back in January. 

The bylaw has provisions for people experiencing homelessness, limiting temporary shelters to between 7 p.m. of one day and 9 a.m. of the next and that they not be “located on or within any structure, right of way, access road, Access Area, street, sidewalk, municipal playground, bike park, skateboard park, disc golf course, playscape, or 10 metres of any structure or building.”

The bylaw also gives the municipality authority to remove and dispose of items or shelters remaining as of 9 a.m. 

However, the bylaw goes a lot further than restricting camping.

The bylaw requires one acquire a permit for activities such as: destroying, altering or damaging vegetation or structures; smoking and vaping; organized sports (more than 10 people on a regular basis) or organized activities (pre-planned with more than 20 people and limits general public access to a public place); concerts, meetings, performances, assemblies or other formal or informal gatherings; posting, painting or affixing ads, bills, posters, pictures; setting off fireworks and lighting any fire. (The list is much longer and available on the meeting agenda.)

While there was general support for the bylaw, just how much regulation is appropriate was up for discussion.  

“It looks good to me,” said Coun. Sue Ellen Fast, “coming from a parks management background and a little bit of enforcement and education around managing people in parks.” Fast noted that there may need to be tweaks here and there. 

Coun. David Hocking was generally in favour but wondered if requiring a permit to hang an event notice in the cove was a bit extreme. 

“Maybe that is over the top. It’s an extra step for someone that wants to advertise an event or concert, that sort of thing,” said interim manager of bylaw services Bonny Brokenshire. “But it would [be] a conversation. And it does leave some discretion to the departmental manager who issues the permits.”

Mayor Gary Ander agreed that the bylaw is “sort of overreaching” but spoke in favour. “It’s better to have too much than not enough. It’s about the enforcement.”

“I really do think it goes beyond what we were looking for,” said Coun. Maureen Nicholson. “The direction from council was to deal with camping and erecting shelters and public spaces. This goes way past that.

“I think that putting something in place that requires...enforcement that isn’t going to happen is not a wise strategy.”

BIM CAO Liam Edwards said he saw this bylaw more as a housekeeping measure to bring BIM in line with other municipalities’ public spaces regulations. “When [staff] started talking about it, it was recognition that there was a lot of work that was wanting to be done around the use of public spaces that had never been gotten to.

“When looking into it and researching other municipal bylaws around regulating public spaces and the use of public spaces, this is a very standard suite of authority and regulations and that most if not all municipalities have.”

“I would argue that these are just tools and whether we use these tools or not, they are in place because there’s people have had to use them in the past,” said Ander. “That’s all. 

“I think the more the better.”

Fast agreed. “I like the idea of having bylaws…you can always not enforce parts of it, can set a bylaw enforcement policy that prioritizes this, that and the other. 

“It’s not necessarily like you have to enforce every one of them to the same degree.”

Brokenshire said that over her 10 years working in bylaw, what’s listed in the bylaw are all issues they’ve in her tenure. “We’ve had no tools to deal with them,” she said. “We’re not going to go out when kids are making daisy chains [but] someone goes and cuts the flowers all down in the garden gateway, then we have a tool.”

Council passed first reading and it now goes to public consultation. 


A space for the after school club

After nearly a decade of work, plans for a designated after school space could be nearing fruition. 

Bowen Children’s Centre representatives presented council with plans for a modular building on the Bowen Island Community School property for its after school club. 

“This is one of the most used programs that the Bowen Children’s Centre offers,” said Andrea Bastin, who heads up the after school club. “We have been successfully renting space at Bowen Island Community School for years but we have really outgrown the space.”

“Offering programming for up to 60 families, so we have 40 - 42 children a day, in a space that doesn’t belong to you is pretty difficult,” said BCC’s executive director Ann Silberman. “We have one cupboard to hold materials and everything else has to be brought in every day.”

COVID-19 has put further limitations on the use of BICS rooms.

Since 2012, BCC has been working toward a designated space, Silberman told council and have considered many options. “But really, after school care, and before school care, has to be at the school.

“To our delight and surprise, SD 45 welcomed us with open arms,” said Silberman. “They have  before and after school care at every school in their West Van District.”

The project is contingent on grant funding, for which BCC hopes to apply in coming months. Following funding and signing with a builder, the mod could be built within a few months. 

Silberman also stressed the need for this kind of care to council. 

“[That] the population of the after school club has gone up so much points to the fact that usually…two partners in the family need to work,” said Silberman. “Gone are the days when most families had the privilege of having one person stay at home.”

See the entire agenda on the BIM website.

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