June 2015

NAPTEP and Bowen Island

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Originally published June 30, 2015 written by Peter Frinton

Ask Bowen Islanders about NAPTEP and you will likely get either a quizzical look or allusions to diapers and sleeping aids.

In reality, NAPTEP is an acronym for Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program, a voluntary conservation incentive found only in the Islands Trust area.

Under NAPTEP, landowners may apply to permanently covenant eligible portions of their land in exchange for a 65% reduction in property taxes on those areas so protected.

Owners cannot disturb NAPTEP lands through such things as construction, vegetation removal or terrain alteration.

Since its inception ten years ago, about 25 parcels of land have  successfully entered the program, and are administered by the Islands Trust Fund.

However, it has hitherto been unavailable on Bowen Island. Due to quirks in the original drafting of the covering Provincial Act, island municipalities were not included. That was amended by order-in-council in 2012 and subsequently approved by Metro Vancouver.

But then it hit a brick wall, as the previous Bowen Council rejected its adoption here despite ‘support in principle’, for what can only be viewed as ideological resistance. The fact is, Bowen has nothing to lose by welcoming NAPTEP as a land conservation initiative. The tax shift from a property registered would average about $1 for each of Bowen’s 2200 folios.

Now it is back for review and likely adoption. Trust Area Services Director Lisa Gordon addressed Council as a delegation in late May, and answered questions on program details. She characterized NAPTEP as “difficult for landowners to get into, difficult to get out of”. Lands for inclusion must have significant ecological value, not be in the ALR or developed in any way. There are fees, assessments and species inventories plus legal surveys. Costs to the applicant can approach $10,000, and to remove land from NAPTEP at some future date would require both paying all back taxes plus receiving assent from Islands Trust and BIM (if Bowen Island Municipality chose to co-sign as a covenant holder). So- not for the faint of heart, but a nice way to rule from the grave.

Lisa Gordon suggested that Bowen Council may wish to put limits on either the value or number of parcels accepted into the program. Other islands haven’t done this (and none have been overloaded with applications). However, Bowen’s incorporated status creates a direct local tax impact, whereas other unincorporated islands come under the provincial rural tax, so the tax shift is dispersed among a much larger inventory of properties.

Still, the cost to individual taxpayers on Bowen would be a very minor peril. Compared to ecological gifting, something done at least twice on Bowen, the cost is miniscule. As well, there are no land use offsets so often associated with conservation tools, such as park dedication or other amenities in exchange for subdivision and additional dwellings.

It will be interesting to see how quickly this comes to a vote, and whether it will be unanimous. Alison Morse was against it last time around, but the optics of her opposing it now that she is again a sitting Trustee would be somewhat akin to a church minister declaring a disbelief in God.

As Lisa Gordon said in her presentation, we (Bowen) already pay for the program through our contributions to Islands Trust; we may as well take advantage of it. All administrative costs and the bulk of staff time needed accrue to the Trust.

I do hope this gets through expeditiously. It represents a truly positive and measurable benefit of being within the Islands Trust federation. Plus, it’s pretty easy for Bowen to get onboard. After all, the program is up and running, it works, and has been well received on the other islands.

It’s time to relinquish our status as the last hold-out.

– Peter Frinton

Earth Day Every Day II

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Originally posted June 17, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

A couple of sixteen-year-old sweethearts out for a late-evening walk around the lake. They had all the summer ahead of them, and no time to keep. They stopped for a long kiss on the boardwalk. Maybe it was a very long kiss, because somehow night fell, just then, and as they carried on along the trail, the forest closed around them and they were enveloped in darkness. He reached for her hand and she felt responsible – after all, this island was her home, and she should know the way back even with her eyes closed. Which they may as well have been, for all that she could see. She slowed the pace. She felt her boyfriend’s arm on one side, the springy root trail beneath her, and to her left, a small log.
Oh! Wait! The trail builders had recently put these logs here, and she was sure they were all on the uphill side of the trail! She must have led him to the wrong side of the log! Thankful for the night concealing her blush of embarrassment, she said, “Just step over this little log, here…” and she did – into mid-air. Well, the mid-air part was a fraction of a second long, before she crumpled down past roots and stones and salal, came to rest on the ground and clambered quickly to stand again – this time aware of his knee in front of her face, as he stood there on the path, confused.
“Um. Actually not that way.” He helped her back up, never laughing at her, and thankfully never noticing the scrapes on her legs that she felt swelling up as they walked, this time much more slowly, along the trail. She closed her eyes. Given the fresh opportunity to be lost in her own environment, she used her free hand to navigate, feeling about at the warm summer air, the leaves, branches, and trunks as they went by. She discovered that she recognized some of the trees. She discovered that she knew by the change in slope that they were closer to the road, and by the smell of water that they were nearing the gravel spit. She became attuned to her senses in a way to which she wasn’t accustomed, and delighted in the sound of her boyfriend’s feet on the ground, the feeling of the breeze passing between their arms, and the glimpses of light as they neared the open alder forest. She loved the smell of the forest floor.
That was me, twenty-three years ago. I remember this often, and now try to make a habit of falling – at least metaphorically – off the beaten path. After all, falling lacks purpose, so the places I find myself are so much more surprising.
Last week, walking on the south side of the island, I picked my way carefully between thigh-deep snarls of blackberries toward the parched and crumbling moss deserts of the dry hillside. Even the blackberries were drying up, their vines like desperate brittle arms, reaching out to grab my clothing. I was so focused on the area immediately around my ankles, that I came unexpectedly upon a stand of cattails – a little marsh tucked into the rocks. What? I looked around: Pines, Douglas Fir, yellowing grass, moss and bracken, some cedars approaching death as their roots sought water in the dusty ground; insects resting on the brown-stemmed flowers. And the little stand of cattail. Their roots found some hidden source of water in the fold of the bedrock.
I looked up and discovered I was so far off the trail as to have to follow my senses back through the blazing white sun. So I stood and listened. Crowned sparrows called from various perches and the wind whipped the foxgloves so that they flopped against each other now and then. The grass whispered and my feet crunched the dried plants on my way home. I felt the stinging heat of the sun. Each of these experiences was a gift, like falling off a trail on a dark night. It is a gift just to give ourselves opportunities to discover.

– Emily VanLidth de Jeude

In the Neighbourhood

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Originally posted June 3, 2015 written by Lesley Gaunt

“…and there’s always construction work bothering you in the neighbourhood…“
(Tom Waits).

Disputes between neighbours are nothing new, not in Canada, not anywhere else in the world. The libraries are full with case studies and history is replete with famous examples of warring neighbours.  The massacre of the Donnelly family, in the township of Biddulph (near London, Ontario) by an armed mob may be an extreme example as this immigrant family from Ireland was bludgeoned to death by their neighbours on February 4, 1880.
More commonly and closer to home many of us will have had occasional problems with neighbours involving noise, untidy premises, dogs, fences, trees and hedges, second-hand smoke, water issues, or trespass.
For most of these conflicts there are bylaws in municipalities that deal with these types of problems. Also on Bowen. The extensive catalogue of Bowen Island Municipality’s (B.I.M.) bylaws and policies is an interesting read and contains, amongst others, a noise control bylaw and a noise control bylaw exemption policy, a dog bylaw regulating leashes and poop pick-up, a heron nesting policy and numerous water system bylaws.  There is no shortage of regulation on Bowen Island and in all likelihood typical neighbourhood disputes can be referenced to precedence, an applicable bylaw or policy.
Of course, in most cases, it is advisable to first try talking to the neighbour that causes the problem. After all he or she may not be aware of the effect they’re having on their neighbours and talking to them may solve the problem. However, if speaking with your neighbour is not possible or if speaking has not solved the problem, there are always other options.
Usually I would not have thought about the brewing dispute between Cape on Bowen (C.O.B.) and several property owners and dock proponents at the Cape and B.I.M. as a neighbourhood issue.
I do not agree with C.O.B.’s views and more docks at Cape Roger Curtis (C.R.C.). But I get it. Mr. Ho may have painted himself into a corner.  As President of C.O.B. he is accountable for the shareholder value and to C.R.C. property owners to deliver on the terms and conditions agreed in their purchasing agreements.
On the other hand, our municipality has a mandate to uphold our community values and to protect the public interest.
C.O.B. and C.R.C. owners threaten to sue. In their perception of reality the public interest in an undisturbed shoreline doesn’t measure up to corporate and private interests in maintaining high property values. The bylaw draft is labeled unfair, prejudiced and threatening the annihilation of newcomers. No doubt, strong words, but I get it.
I believe in justice and when it comes to litigation I like to remember Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” So sue if you must. Business as usual.
The matter becomes personal when we are being told that protecting public interests on Bowen Island is not neighbourly.
Mr. David Chen of CNS Law Corporation spoke on behalf of Mr. Shu Lin Dong and Ms. Zhen Wang, the respective owners of lot 17 and Lot 3 at C.R.C. Basically his clients wanted him to address two things: ”…
one is called neighbourliness and the other is simply unfairness of the proposed bylaw…” He continues: ”Throughout the discourse of this dispute, my clients Mr. Dong and Ms. Wang, have only been referred to as property owners at Cape Roger Curtis or tenure applicants. I submit that those words they annihilate a person…” Mr. Chen goes on to remind us: ”They are in fact your neighbours, they are newcomers, and they are moving into the neighbourhood of Cape Roger Curtis.”
Being patronized by one of the legal representatives of CRC property owners on our neighbourhood values is condescending. His statement is designed to shame us all into submission. It is designed to create confusion and clouds the issue at hand by personalizing it. All of a sudden I feel that I am being accused of being unfair, prejudiced and plotting the annihilation of newcomers. And so are you and so are your neighbours.  We are all being patronized and moralized. And painted in a bad light.
In my life I have moved often and lived in many foreign places including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, China and Singapore. Each move made me a newcomer. After a while I picked up some of the do’s and don’ts of that role. “Take some time to absorb the new culture”, usually served me well.
As far as Bowen Island goes, our neighbourhood values are robust. The community is resilient and respectful of the rights of others. We know who we are and we look after each other.
“It seems that often when problems arise our outlook becomes narrow“ (Dalai Lama)
There will always be differences in the neighbourhood. Solutions can be found or forced in different ways. In my experience mutual respect, kindness, honesty and genuine consideration go a long way.

– Lesley Gaunt

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