Two Bowen Island residents are petitioning the courts to either stop the Bowen Island Municipality's Official Community Plan update process or force the municipality to hold more public consultation meetings.
The petition by Wolfgang Duntz and Richard Underhill was expected to be formally filed on Thursday afternoon in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
In the petition, they say that the municipality has failed to comply with its obligations under the Local Government Act. They say that while the community was fully engaged in the process leading up to the first reading of the update in July 2010, this has not been the case since then.
The petition outlines reasons why they believe that the vote for the second reading of the OCP update was invalid and concludes that any steps leading up to third and final reading are void.
They say that starting in October 2010 there were substantial changes made to the OCP update and that public consultation about those changes effectively stopped. The OCP update steering committee, which had created the first draft, was also no longer involved since its official role stopped in July.
Some of the changes made to the OCP update were based on comments from the public but those changes were incorporated by staff and council alone, Duntz and Underhill say. They say that while there was some public input, a substantial amount of new material was put into the update without consultation, contrary to the Local Government Act and an April 26 resolution by council. That resolution said that consultation about the update would be early and ongoing in all respects, the petition says.
During this process, Duntz and Underhill say the municipality also shifted focus to the creation of three bylaws to be enacted as guidelines or exemptions relating to development permit areas designated in the OCP update. They say these bylaws - steep slopes, environmentally sensitive areas and watershed, aquifer and stream protection areas - could constitute "significant change" to the OCP update and therefore may have required that a new OCP update be introduced for first reading.
They say that these bylaws were directly linked to the OCP update and that there was not proper public consultation about the contents of the bylaws. They say that the public did have opportunities to comment on the draft bylaws during open houses, public meetings and some council meetings. As a result, the bylaws' wording was changed. However, there were eight versions of the steep slope bylaw, making it difficult for the public to follow the evolution of the bylaw.
In March 2011, information was published about the OCP update, but they say some of the information was misleading and the way it was presented was confusing. Amendments were made up to and including the June 6, 2011 meeting, at which time second reading was passed. However, Duntz and Underhill say so many changes had been made, it was in effect a new bylaw. As well, they say there was no public notice of the June 6 meeting until June 3 and that the second reading draft of the OCP update was not available to the public prior to the meeting. June 6, they note, was the night of the Stanley Cup playoff game in Vancouver.
Changes were made after that, such as corrections to the maps, final versions of which were not available until June 16. A consolidated version of the second reading draft was not available until June 23.
They say council did not adhere to its obligations under the Local Government Act when it came to second reading of the OCP update bylaw. They say council also contravened the Bowen Island Procedure Bylaw by not providing a printed consolidated bylaw to consider and that maps, schedule changes and other insertions were made after June 6.
They also say that in an ad in the June 24 Undercurrent, referring to the public meeting on July 9 at BICS, says that the purpose of the bylaw is to repeal the existing OCP bylaw and adopt an entirely new OCP that will govern future development and land use applications throughout the municipality.
Duntz and Underhill are also asking that the court order the municipality to pay their costs of the petition.
None of the allegations in the petition have been proven in court.