Degnen dock rezoning application to head to Advisory Planning Commission for consideration

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, August 1 2018

The owners of a dock in Degnen Bay have not been approved - so far - to operate as a commercial dock by the Gabriola Local Trust Committee.

The dock, privately owned by Tim and Donna Melville, is adjacent to the government wharf.  

They have filed an application proposing to rezone a 0.5 hectare water lot from “water general” (WG) to a site-specific WC “water commercial” zone in order to legalize the current use of the marine lease area as a commercial marina.

The Melvilles are not proposing to change the form or function of the dock as it currently sits and is operated, they are applying for the rezoning due to an investigation by the Islands Trust Bylaw Enforcement and by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).

According to the Trust staff, the current commercial use of the lease area as a marina for up to 23 berths is inconsistent with the Group Moorage Lease with FLNRORD, as well as the WG zoning prohibiting the commercial use of floats, wharf or docks.

At the Gabriola Local Trust Committee meeting held on July 12, Trustee Heather O’Sullivan removed herself from the discussion as the decision made at the LTC would have financial impact on her - she currently has a boat moored at the dock.

In 2010, the owner signed an agreement with the Province to make the tenure on the water lease “group boat moorage.”

According to Trust Staff, this kind of tenure is for non-commercial use.

Staff at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development note that a “group boat moorage” facility means a multi-berth moorage similar to a private moorage facility but for the personal use of a group or association of residents from the surrounding community, and not intended for any commercial purposes or uses. 

Commercial activity is prohibited at group moorage sites, including the renting or selling of berths and hydro, but excluding any necessary membership fees to cover maintenance and administrative costs. 

FLNRORD is concerned that the inclusion of 30-amp metered electrical service and use of this facility by transient boaters constitutes a commercial use and scale.

Melville said, that in his mind, the use of the dock has changed since the 1980s.

“There’s no development or change to what everyone’s been looking at for 20 years. If it can’t be a marina, or can’t be group moorage, I don’t know what options we have.”

He said he knows there are issues on Degnen Bay Road around parking - but doesn’t see that his docks are to blame.

“I know [our] dock space has increased by four boats since 2010, yet the parking has exponentially become a problem. 

“The beach is littered down there with dinghys, there are people living on DeCourcy; I like to think we’re helping, not causing that problem.

“I need some direction, I’m not going to pull the pilings, I think that’s untenable.”

Trust staff said that typically a group moorage is run by a non-profit group.

Any kind of fee that is charged is to go straight to membership for maintenance and membership costs.

This is standard for group moorage across BC.

When Trustees asked what is different at Melville’s dock, staff said the applicant is charging for a space that is at a rate in excess of the provincial standard, and there is provision for hydro power on site.

Trustee Melanie Mamoser said she understands where Trust and provincial staff have defined the Melvilles’ dock as a commercial marina, “but in considering this rezoning, I feel like our OCP (Official Community Plan) does want to encourage people to share, rather than everyone having their own docks. 

“So I am reluctant now to object to it - maybe there needs to be a different scale of definitions.

“This is a place for people to dock their boats.

“I understand the ideal would be a non-profit, but I think the community may desire to have an option that is where someone organizes it.”

Mamoser said she wanted to get more public input, and requested the file be sent to the Gabriola Advisory Planning Commission (APC) for feedback.

“This is within the definition of commercial, but it’s more of a group moorage than a marina...I see this as a small business providing a service - this is different than a large commercial marina.

“The need is there, I would like further discussion about whether there is an appetite for this, rather than a large commercial marina.”

She said in sending it to the APC, the direction she would like to go, is do the APC members think the marina should get rezoned to be a marina like Silva Bay?

Staff suggested in the report that if there were provisions - such as not requiring the parking which is required for a commercial marina - a site-specific zoning would be required.

Staff cautioned putting specific requirements on the site is “not like a housing agreement where you can say you can only make a little money.”

Only use and density can be controlled through zoning.

“That’s why we use the term marina - the use of those berths at a commercial level is the distinction. Large or small, doesn’t matter.”

Mamoser asked if the Trust could specify the dock being for Gabriola residents only.

Staff said that would require some legal review, and there would need to be cost recovery from the applicant.

Tim said, “It’s never been operated as group moorage - the idea that we’re making a killing here, I need to dispel that. 

“Rates have not changed for three years...moorage rates are less than any commercial marina, and if they were too high, people wouldn’t go there.

“This foreshore is immediately adjacent to the [Degnen] government dock, which is a marina. There’s no parking, no washroom facilities. 

“Not sure why we would require them and they do not. The parking is an issue, the government dock offers the same.”

He pointed to the Moonshine Cove Yacht Club on Mudge Island, asking how it was able to operate as a private group moorage.

Trust staff said they would be looking at other marinas in the area as part of following up on the Trustees’ requests.

In addition to sending the file to the APC for comment, Trustees requested staff send the application to the Gabriola Archeology branch and local First Nation for comment.