Originally published November 4, 2015 written by Edna Thomson
Our recent past council focused their attention on Lot 2 of the community lands. They succeeded, just immediately before a new election in November 2014, in gaining bylaw approval for Land Use rezoning to change from “village/residential/institutional” to “village/commercial/institutional” for the area.
Their purpose for doing this was to accommodate sale of Lot 2 for subsequent development for an extremely extensive and density-ambitious proposal.
Lot 2 provides many important ecological functions: it is a wooded area that the wildlife, the birds, and the children benefit from. Lot 2 is land that lies next to the school campus, and as well, it has a very steep slope at its eastern border. The many trees provide a root system that acts to absorb water, and hold the bank, while their branches provide the carbon sink that keeps the air fresh. That steep slope is also directly behind about 12 properties that benefit from the sound buffer provided by the trees. Similar, and some, ecological benefits apply to Lot 3.
Recently, November 2014, islanders elected a new council with the expectation of full and transparent planning and inclusion of public input in accordance with democratic principles of government for and by the people.
Our current council took immediate steps in addressing many previously expressed concerns of the good citizens of Bowen; and good things began to happen. As for example, Council declaring, “The right of local residents to a healthy environment.” Part of that decision states, “…the rights of every resident to participate in decision making that affects the environment.”
That sense of security, resulting from those commendable steps taken, seemingly announcing ‘participatory democracy’ in action on Bowen, has been disappointingly damaged though, by the summer ‘charge ahead’ approach. Unexpectedly, this was evident in the proposal for, first, a new fire hall complex, AND then, ALSO a parking lot; all on Lot 3. Disturbing evidence of that approach has been the immediate “site suitability testing” for the Fire Hall complex, (mid July).
Equally astonishing, and while discussion was still taking place regarding a parking proposal on Cardena Dr., work was seemingly started at the proposed entrance site for the proposed parking lot in Lot 3. Entrance and exit in-roads that are in the design, (as posted recently by council) to go on either side of the mailboxes off Miller Rd. would require moving the mailboxes. This actually WAS DONE on September 17th. . No signage was provided at Lot 3, as was done at Cardena. Why?
A “BIM Plan Park Update,” recently introduced, when eventually effective, would of course, be too late to have Lot 3 of Crippen Park given the consideration it deserves, if it isn’t left standing!
Here is my belief: First, it is that the principles of democratic governance must take precedence over any development proposals, and thus council needs to provide adequately for fair and complete opportunities for public input. Second, it is for acknowledgement of the concerns already expressed in two letters put to council regarding development on Lot 3. And, 3rd, it is for signs that show the plan!
In those letters, the concerns expressed are regarding the two proposals under consideration. Should either or both be adopted, it would really mean the eventual loss of possibly the entire Crippen Park park. The number of trees that would have to go down for construction, promises that, by extension, others would follow simply through a weakening via the loss of their root systems and complimentary structural support systems, and through probable damage to the root systems of trees left standing during the construction period. And, there would be subsequent predictable loss through the advent of windstorms, and heavy snow falls on those left-standing, weakened trees. All of those forces, and simply ‘over use’ of a damaging potential, would complete the rest of the destructive process that will have been set in motion.
I request the application of fundamental equality in the observance of citizen’s rights. And, it is for serious, open discussions as to how the benefits versus impediments to Bowen’s future would be affected by the developments proposed for Lot 3.
I ask that Council please open up to the community of Bowen, adequate discussion opportunities as to the the worth of Lot 3, as a carbon sink and an important service-providing intact natural environment of enormous eco-value, a wildlife sanctuary, and a thing of beauty and enjoyment at the entrance to what many describe as a living, breathing island paradise.
What we need now is less pandering to outdated concepts of how to ‘develop’ in the Cove. Now it is important to get educated and more able and ready to meet the new challenges of a changing climate. Equally important is embracing input from the larger community into ALL development planning that would so dramatically affect the island entrance area. In the interests of a healthy environment that supports the rights of citizens to that environment I’m asking that, now, more than ever, the concept of the Islands Trust mandate to protect and preserve be our banner.
– Edna Thomson