Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope you were able to share some time with your loved ones, family and friends!
This could be a long report, but I will try and keep it as short as I can.
Surge Narrows Annual General Meeting
I attended the Surge Narrows Community Association Annual General Meeting on Friday Oct. 6th., at the Surge Narrows “bunkhouse” (comes from the days of the teacher living there so as to teach full time at the school, I believe). About 50 people attended and dealt with all of the usual type of business that one finds at an AGM but since I was there, the discussion broadened considerably to take in just about anything and everything. It was wonderful to talk to old friends and lots of newcomers to the area (the outer islands). Some really good feedback was shared with me on many issues and all of the needs of the community for the near future were conveyed to me. I came away with a huge list of things that need doing and left them with a list of projects that I already have underway on their behalf. So, all in all, a very productive full day with a beautiful country style luncheon of home made foods provided by volunteers.
Evans Bay Wharf
As I have talked about for far too long in previous issues concerning the construction of the wharf and the wranglings over getting it in place, I can now announce that it is complete and in use and we will have a grand opening on Oct. 18th at the wharf. Everyone is invited! We will have a cake to celebrate and Regional District staff will attend with me to help cut the ribbon!
Water lease at Surge Narrows
The lease that has been in place for many years immediately adjacent to the Surge Narrows Wharf is now suspended and I am working with the Ministry responsible to secure it for community purposes. This would give us much needed space at the current facility and also retain the historic Surge Narrows Store, which has been closed for a number of years now. It is the last historic building on Read Island and worth saving. I will be working with the Ministries and Ministers to secure it as a free crown grant for community purposes. This is consistent with my and the community's vision to keep road ends and wharves in public hands and insure that the use and enjoyment of the public continues.
Mt. Seymour Recreation Area
I had a wonderful response from Chief Brian Assu in answer to my last emails asking for a meeting to consult with him and his Council on the concept of a recreation area that would be beneficial to all of us. We are in the process of picking a date in the next week to discuss the details of the concept and I am looking forward to agreement from the Chief to participate in this as a joint venture. I assured him right from the start that we would not proceed prior to consultation with him and we are now at that stage.
Union of BC Municipalities Conference
I returned last week from six days (plus travel) of intensive meetings in Vancouver at the Annual Convention of all local governments in BC. Over 2,000 delegates attended and most of the Government Ministers and ministry staff including the Premier and Andrew Weaver. Many of the Liberal critics were also present to hear our concerns. It was absolutely exhausting getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 am and going until after 10:00 pm daily. My days were filled with meetings with Ministers, their staff, the UBCM scheduled sessions and my duties as a UBCM Executive member. I chaired portions of three days of Resolution sessions where the work of UBCM gets done setting policy for the Executive for the following year. The evenings were supposedly social but were as political as it gets as they gave an opportunity to chat with Minsters one on one and network with colleagues from all over the province on issues of mutual concern.
Officially I met with the Minister of Citizen Services regarding our application to connect to the highest level of internet service. I am bursting at the seems to be able to tell you the details by the end of the month. That is when we will hear the outcome of the meeting and our application. It looks really good! (I can say that much without jinxing it, I think).
I had a great meeting with the Minister of Education regarding our application to acquire two unused school properties, one on Stuart Island and one on Quadra. It was a great meeting and he told me to just get the paperwork to him (which staff are working on ) and he will sign it off! Was I pleased? This was great news since I have been working on this project for probably 10 years.
My SRD colleagues filled in for me in meeting with the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology since I had to be on stage chairing the Resolutions session. This was to try and secure more funding for the Island Coastal Economic Trust fund so we can apply for more projects in the coming years. I am told he was very supportive so that means more money for whatever we deem to be “economic development” in future applications.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Selina Robinson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (our Minister for Local Government) to also talk about sponsoring the free crown grant for the two school properties, which is a step we have to take to get it for free. I also had the pleasure of talking with her at our pre-convention Executive dinner and at other social functions. She is a very personable and capable woman and a previous local government representative. She is willing to sponsor the leases! This is great news as the worth of the two properties would be around a million dollars at market value.
I also met with the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation regarding working with the We Wai Kai on service agreements in the future and on the Mt. Seymour proposed Recreation Area, as they will be an integral part. He is more than willing to support anything that will bring us closer together as indigenous and non-indigenous people living as neighbours on the same island.
The icing on the cake was to have the Premier single me out during his speech at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities luncheon congratulating me on my work on the never-ending Ferry file! It was great with cheers all around! Very humbling to say the least.
So I guess you have figured it out by now that it was a very successful Convention and was well worth the energy expended on your behalf. I think we are going to see some great things happen in the next one or two years in our area.
I was also very pleased to see new synergies develop between members of our Board and our staff with Area C (me)… We had two senior staff in attendance which is a first for us and it was great for them to see what we, as politicians do and how they can support us in our work.
(Like I said earlier, I am going to try and keep this short!)
Golf Course Outcome
The meeting on October 11th dealt with the recommendations of the SRD regarding the proposal to add a residential component to the existing golf course lands. The following is directly from the staff report that the Board received:
"In the opinion of legal counsel, the proposed development appears to be inconsistent with the official community plan and it is unlikely that the Regional District would be able to sustain Bylaw No. 271 if challenged on this basis. Given that opinion, there appears to be little benefit in holding a second public hearing since it is not legally permissible to adopt a zoning bylaw in contravention of an official community plan.
It has also been brought to staff's attention that the applicants had previously advised, when approval for the golf course was initially being considered, that no residential development would be proposed for the site. This information was not offered for public discussion at the recent public hearing and is considered to be relevant to the current development proposal. In light of the above issues it is recommended that, following receipt of the public hearing report, the Board defeat Bylaw No. 271 at third reading”
This leaves the Directors no other choice than to turn down the application and leave it to the applicants how they wish to proceed from there.
I know this has been a very long drawn out process and has been hard on the applicants and on the people that were opposed to the application. I have never laboured over an application as much as I did this one. I have gone over every piece of information and made copious quantities of notes. Now we are provided with a legal opinion that does not allow us to proceed. I feel like a lot of work and energy has been expended by a lot of people, including the four Directors. I hope that this somewhat contentious issue will not divide our community and we will remember that we all live here and we are friends and neighbours with people from both sides of the equation and should keep it that way and move on.
Seniors Housing re-zoning
I am very pleased to announce that our Committee recommendation to move forward with the rezoning has been accepted by the Board and there will be a Public Hearing held on November 6th at 7:00pm at the Community Centre. This has been a work in progress for so long and realizes yet another goal of our Q. Cove Local Area Plan! Congratulations to all of those dedicated people that have been involved in this (sometimes frustrating) process. We are finally nearing the conclusion!
Bed and Breakfast / Home Occupation
We are also putting forward a bylaw to deal with Bed and Breakfast operations and including them in the Home Occupation provisions so that people will be able to operate with a set of guidelines in place instead of the vague and unclear rules that are floating around at present. I put this forward a couple of months ago after so many people expressed frustration with lack of rules that were set out clearly. Hopefully this will do the trick.
Apologies to Quadra Circle
My sincerest apologies to the Quadra Circle group for not being able to attend their tenth anniversary. I was there at the group’s beginning and I am afraid I have to attend our Board meeting at the same time as your celebration. May you have a wonderful retrospective and celebration.
Apologies to our Emergency Service Providers
Unfortunately I am in meetings on the day that you will be having your celebration dinner. I wish you all well and congratulate you for the incredible work you do for us on a daily basis. You are a model to the rest of this province and have been recognized as such many times. Keep up the good work.
That’s it! Feel free to contact me between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends or holidays, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0… or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram…
. If it is important, my cell is 250-830-8005… Lots of choices.
Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!
Director, Discovery Islands-Mainland inlets, Area C, SRD