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Opposition packs Municipal Hall to have their say on Bylaw 335

Members of the public packed the Municipal Hall for Tuesday evening's public hearing on Bylaw #335, Bowen Island's Land-Use bylaw, and those who could not find seats stood listening in the hallway.

Members of the public packed the Municipal Hall for Tuesday evening's public hearing on Bylaw #335, Bowen Island's Land-Use bylaw, and those who could not find seats stood listening in the hallway. Two former mayors, and a former mayoral candidate joined group of more than twenty speakers stating their opposition to bylaw. Only one speaker offered his support for it.

Bruce Russell stated that his roots on Bowen stretch back to the 1890s, and offered historic examples of how docks have benefitted the island.

"My comments are not intended to be provocative or focused on the details of the bylaw, but to support it in a general manner as I believe it is wrong for council or members of the public to be totally or unreasonably restrictive on the dock issue," said Russell. "As a waterfront owner I believe we are somewhat unique, not because we are any better than anyone else or more privileged, but unique because by definition of waterfront property our properties face onto the ocean and as such we should, if we choose to install a waterfront patio, jetty or dock system, in order that we can better enjoy that property, that we paid more for to acquire and more for by the way of property taxes, all things being considered we should be able to do so."

Waterfront property and dock owner Ross Beaty said that if the process he had to go through in order to build his 15 meter dock had been followed on Caper Roger Curtis, the docks there would never have been built. In order to get his dock permit, Beaty said he had to get environmental approval, conduct an underwater survey, an archaeological survey and offer the public a chance to state their opposition to the project. In total, he said, that process took a year and a half.

Beaty said he supported the council's efforts to put the process of dock approval into a bylaw, but the amendments to Bylaw 335 did not go far enough to protect the public.

"Docks are not a right," said Beaty, "No owner of waterfront has a right to a dock. It is public land, public land for all the people who do not have waterfront to enjoy. If a person wants to make a dock and has an application that's unopposed I say let him build a dock, but if it is opposed heavily then it shouldn't be allowed to be built. I support this, but 60 meters for a dock is too long, and beaches should be no dock zones."

Other speakers echoed Feeney's statement belief that the bylaw should not allow docks as long as 60 meters, and that docks are not an a right for owners of waterfront property.

Brenda McLuhan called Bylaw 335 a "how-to guide" for anyone wanting to build a private dock on Bowen.

Sue-Ellen Fast stated that well before council started amending Bylaw 335, there was a strong process in place to regulate dock construction.

"If you had a good design that met everyone's needs you got approval," said Fast, prior to listing dock projects which did not gain approval under the previous system.

"There was one project proposed at Konishi Bay, by Alder Cove beach. I see that it's up again for review. I wonder what will happen with that now?"

Lisa Barrett, Bowen's first mayor and a former municipal councillor, said Bylaw 335 does not conform with the Bowen Island Municipality mission statement or the Community Charter.

"This is an enabling bylaw that will only serve to protect the private interests of a very small numbers of owners of very valuable private property. They may expect their property values to rise because of these private structures on public land. This amounts to a public subsidy of private interests."

After the final speaker finished his presentation, Mayor Adelaar asked the public if anyone had further comments to add. Danielle Parent stood up to state her support for her neighbour, Nerys Pool and her opposition to Bylaw 335. Nineteen members of the public followed suite, stating their names, addresses, and opposition to either the entirety of Bylaw 335 or the bylaw in its present state.