A new suite of permitting requirements and prohibitions have come into effect in municipally managed places on Bowen.
The new regulations affect areas owned or managed by the municipality including “wharves, parks, trails, beaches greenways, playgrounds and streets.” (This does not include Metro Vancouver-owned Crippen Park, the Crown lands or private property). Listed among the prohibitions or activities requiring permit: allow one’s animals to damage vegetation; abandon possessions; create or modify pathways or trails; smoke or use a vape; place or keep possessions in public places so as to be unsightly; post ads, bills or posters other than in designated areas or community notice boards; set off fireworks or pyrotechnics; camp; and hold organized sports or organized activities (pre-planned, limits public access to a public place and involves a group of 20 people or more). The bylaw also limits temporary shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
The bylaw went three readings with few public comments but prompted a slew of letters ahead of its planned adoption at the regular council meeting July 26. Concerns voiced from the public included: the bylaw targeting and further marginalizing people experiencing homelessness, municipal overreach and concerns about permitting costs being prohibitive (councillors noted that the BIM CAO has discretionary power to waive permit fees).
The intent of the new regulations isn’t to “dissuade enjoyment and recreational and casual use,” nor to “create barriers” to use of public places said interim bylaw manager Bonny Brokenshire at the July 26 meeting.
Staff and council made a few adjustments to the bylaw to clarify permits would not be required for gatherings of “non-exclusive and casual purposes.”
The majority of councillors chalked the public outcry up to misconceptions of what the bylaw imposed and was trying to achieve.
“It’s a protection of municipal spaces for the general public,” said Mayor Gary Ander, “And as we get larger, we’re going to find that not everybody is easy to get along with.”
Coun. Rob Wynen is the one councillor who has been consistently opposed to the bylaw – “It is a big thing to tell people that this is not allowed on your public property,” he said. “I think we have a really broad community consensus that a lot of these areas are not where we should be moving on Bowen.”
Councillors agreed the bylaw should have a review in short order to see that it’s achieving what it’s meant to achieve.