The following are brief reports of issues raised at the hour-long joint meeting of Bowen Island council and the Islands Trust Tuesday afternoon.
A hearing date has been set for November 16 and 17 for a lawsuit filed by two property owners on Cape Roger Curtis against the municipality.
The landowners want the courts to set aside Bylaw No. 381, 2015 which does not allow the building of any further docks at Cape Roger Curtis. They received permission from the province to build their docks 10 days prior to the adoption of the bylaw.
Mayor Murray Skeels said “I was very unpleasant to my MLA” because the province allowed the docks. “The goofy thing is I [now] don’t know whether to get mad because [the province has] placed conditions on the dock that might make the engineering impossible.”
Skeels says he’s certain the bylaw will be upheld but warned trustees not to expect that public interest has anything to do with provincial approval. “It’s no longer the case,.”
To incorporate or
not to incorporate?
Is incorporation worth it? Fifteen years later, Skeels said, it depends on who you ask.
“A lot of people on islands don’t want things to change. NIMBYism is very strong. We have some people who lament, ‘I don’t care what you do, just do something.’ And other people say ‘We’ve managed to keep things the way we should.’”
In 2003, after property values “went through the roof”, Skeels said some Bowen Islanders left for the less expensive islands. Of those who remain, “we have one group that thinks they’ve moved to the Gulf Islands and want to have a barn-raising to build a new municipal hall and another that are Country Club Republicans…. I don’t know how you move something forward on an island.”
Councillor Sue Ellen Fast said that with incorporation came more local autonomy “because we don’t have people from other Gulf Islands or Metro Vancouver telling us what to do.”
Success is hard to judge. The municipality has its own night-sky and no-idling bylaws, Fast said, but no money with which to enforce them. Bowen has an updated Official Community Plan but, she says, less contact with the preserve-and-protect mandate of IT. It has surplus lands but must pay for its roads.
Councillor Maureen Stephenson said when she moved here she was baffled by the various jurisdictions that apply to Bowen Island. “My sense of the complexities has not changed; it’s confusing. Our village is surrounded by park and there are severe constraints in terms of what we can do in that area. The flip side is we have a village within a park.”
Skeels said other islands considering incorporation would be wise to get some Crown land going in. Municipalities need assets and land is worth an incredible amount. “We want to build a community hall. What’s the land going to cost us? We want a new fire hall. What’s the land going to cost us? Our main road is built on rotten logs; we did 100 yards and said ‘Hold on, let’s just live with it [because of the cost.]”
When asked if there a definitive answer on how Bowen Island’s property taxes compare to rest of the Islands Trust islands, Skeels said, “As long as your land values are low, you’re ahead of the game.”
Councillor Alison Morse said, “Once you’re incorporated, you choose what you spend the money on. Someone’s not making that choice for you.” To try to compare tax rates with other jurisdictions, “It’s a lot of apples and oranges.”
“I would think municipality is more expensive,” said Councillor Gary Ander. “The trade off is the autonomy and it’s a nice balance.”
Even though Bowen Island is geographically very close to Gambier and Keats Islands, there is very little that binds them together, said one Islands Trust trustee who hoped there could be better communication and, when needed, co-operation.
“It’s like we’re in different universes; there is no connectivity unless you have your own boat or water taxi,” said trustee Dan Rogers. “I think sometimes that, between us, we must have issues that are common but there’s actually very little connection. Do you even know the other islands are out there or is there a lot of consciousness about our islands and communication about issues we should be talking about together?”
Mayor Skeels said, “You’re right. A lot of people go to Gambier frequently but we don’t. We’re an island, we’re insular. That’s the beauty and strength of Islands Trust — all of these insular islands coming together. We’d love to have interaction with you.”
Morse noted that council will be discussing strategies on how to deal with derelict boats at its meeting at the end of the month. BIM’s bylaw department has GPS mapped all of the locations of derelict vessels and other islands might be interested in attending the meeting.
The Islands Trust has booked a meeting with transportation minister Todd Stone at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
Gabriola bridge study
Gabriola residents became concerned about the province’s study into the possibility of a fixed link after they heard it was going to cost $200,000 at a time when the province was cutting ferry services. While some residents supported the study as a way of getting information with which to make a decision, the Bridge-Free Salish Sea petition has garnered 2,000 signatures.
“There’s a lot of agitation on the island,” a Gabriola trustee said. “The study was much ballyhooed and then disappeared.”
The study results, which were first promised for February, might now be available later this fall.
Take a ride on BS Con
The cables that will pull a car ferry to Denman Island are proving to be a navigation hazard, a trustee said. During the current test runs, the cable isn’t sinking as deeply as expected and there are no warning signals for boaters.
There’s no set date for when the service will start. BC Ferries is calling it the Baynes Sound Connector, which locals have shortened to BS Con.