Updated: tonight's not-to-be-missed council meeting cancelled due to weather

Community Lands debates come to a head as the fire hall project could advance or falter tonight and council will likely call a referendum for the community centre (if it doesn't the project could be in jeopardy).

Updated: 4:50 p.m. Mayor Gary Ander made the call to cancel tonight's meeting. The meeting is rescheduled for Tuesday, February 19. 

As islanders brace against the late winter chill, a few hot topics are brewing for tonight’s council meeting.

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Fire hall

On the one hand, there’s a recommendation on the agenda to authorize Johnston Davidson (the engaged architectural firm) to proceed with working drawings and cost estimates for the new fire hall.

On the other hand, councillors Sue Ellen Fast, David Hocking and Rob Wynen are proposing that council take a step back and establish a major projects working group to oversee the proposed capital projects for this council term.

These include:

  •  Fire hall
  • Community centre
  • Affordable and diverse housing
  • Health centre
  • Water treatment plant
  • Cross-island multi-use path

They are particularly interested in re-examining the fire hall.

“The fire hall plans have been developed in isolation from the new major projects that are planned or under way, and is ahead of them in its timing,” reads their report to council. “An analysis of the full costs of the proposal is needed to ensure that moving forward with the current plan does not unduly stretch municipal resources.”

In 2017, Bowen overwhelmingly voted in support of borrowing $3 million to build a new fire hall. While some say it was clear at the time that Lot 3 was the chosen location, many others say they voted in favour of the project, not the location. 

The current Lot 3 placement is contentious as the land is unusually flat for Bowen and close to the Cove, therefore valuable and ideal for housing. The three drive-through berths and nearly 30 parking spaces have also raised hackles. Fire Hall proponents say that the more popular location, near the public works yard on Mt. Gardner Road, is not only more expensive to build on but would necessarily send fire trucks past the school. They also say that the plan’s current features (the set back from the road, drive-through berths) are recommended for fire halls today.

Islanders submitted 32 letters to mayor and council in favour of the fire hall on Lot 3 and submitted 37 letters against said location.

Community Centre Referendum

We could be ticking ballots for the second time in a year. Another recommendation before council tonight is a proposed referendum to allow the municipality to borrow up to $4 million for the new community centre.

The referendum would take place before the end of April.

The accompanying staff report explains that to remain eligible for the $7.96 million Canada infrastructure grant BIM applied for in January, the municipality needs to call a referendum before February 19 and needs a positive referendum result.

It also explains that of the $4 million, only $2 million would affect property taxes. If the municipality borrows the entire allowed amount, the report says there would be a two per cent increase in property taxes.

The report says that the referendum will cost $20,000 and will come out of the project's fundraising budget. 

Committees re-examining the Community Lands (including Lot 3 uses)

A recommendation from the Finance Advisory Committee echoes Fast, Hocking and Wynen’s above report.

Stemming from a closed committee meeting (which is not unusual when financial matters are at hand), the recommendation reads, “Whereas the Community Lands are a resource for the Community, that Council investigate and understand the market value of those Community Lands before they are assigned for use.”

Accompanying the recommendation is an information package listing council’s resolutions to allocate portions of Lot 3 to the Health Centre and Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing.

 

And as if everyone had the same thought, a recommendation to revise the Mayor's Select Standing Committee on Community Lands terms of reference is coming before council.

The committee is to advise council on Community Lands-related topics (its former goal was to figure out how to sell some of the lands, which was unsuccessful as none has yet been sold).

“This will include the development of a market valuation process, the identification of community lands to be retained as natural areas, future community purposes or for development, lease and sale,” reads the accompanying report.

 

The meeting starts at 6:15 p.m. at Municipal Hall. 

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