Density Transfer application given third reading

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, April 4 2017

Amendment bylaws bylaws 289 and 290 for the density-transfer application GB-RZ-2016.1 (Williamson & Associates - Potlatch Properties and Pilot Bay Holdings) have been given third reading by the Gabriola Local Trust Committee. 

That happened at a special meeting of the LTC held on Thursday afternoon last week, the day after the bylaws’ public hearing took place at the Haven’s Phoenix Auditorium.

Both Trustees Mamoser and O’Sullivan said they were in favour of the proposal - though they both wanted to see the remainder parcel (3.8 hectares in size) of the donor lands be included with the donation as it formed a critical ecological part of the Coats Marsh ecosystem.

The applicants have said in the past they were not willing to include that portion as a donation but have now agreed to a first-right-of-refusal to be set up on the property, with the Trust, the Regional District of Nanaimo and potentially with the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust having the rights to purchase the property before it goes on the open market.

LTC Chair Laura Busheikin said she has not been comfortable with the density transfer calculation which resulted in 25 lots being formed on the receiver parcels of the application.

“I would have preferred 23. I feel it is generous to interpret this as 25, and given that generosity, I would have liked to have seen the remainder parcel [on the donor lands] given as part of this.”

As members of the public at the hearing pointed out, the southeast portion of the donor lands will not see a shift in density - it currently has one, and if this application goes ahead, that 3.8 hectare piece will retain a single density.

Deliberating over whether to give the bylaws third reading, Trustees Mamoser and O’Sullivan said that while they could always use more time to think about it, they were ready to make the decision.

Mamoser said one reason she supported the proposal was that it increased Gabriola’s park area from 9 per cent to 12 per cent - still less though than the 15 per cent target set by the Islands Trust Fund.

It increases the number of lots on Gabriola by 0.5 percent.

She said she had heard the concerns about potential impacts on neighbouring wells.

“We did the due diligence - water is always an issue on this island for everyone. 

“We’re always thinking about our water. I have confidence in what we have seen. We relied on professionals to look at this.”

She and O’Sullivan expressed a desire to continue moving forward, although there is still work to be done on the covenant before it is presented prior to the final reading of the bylaws.

In terms of waiting for another meeting before giving third reading, Mamoser said, “I’m inclined to support third reading...we are not getting new information from the public. I don’t think more time will give us more information. I’ve spent the last year really thinking about this application and that’s what is giving me comfort moving forward.”

O’Sullivan said, “We all know that no matter what the decision, there will be some that are happy and others that are disappointed, perhaps bitterly so. And having conducted a fulsome process, once the decision is made it will be important to move forward, heal the rifts, and work towards re-establishing a spirit of mutual support and co-operation. If the proposal succeeds, then it is my hope that islanders will pull together and participate in initiatives like RDN park management planning and other advocacy to help ensure that any changes are realized with the maximum benefit to our island. If the proposal fails, then it’s time for us to think of new and creative ways to obtain community benefits.”

At the public hearing, and in correspondence to the Trustees, islanders have said there is no need for yet another park on Gabriola, but the idea of having the lands between the 707 Community Park and Coats Marsh as an ecological zone has been promoted.

At the LTC, the Trustees passed a motion requesting staff add to the project list the creation of a new ecological protection zoning in the Land Use Bylaw - to date it has been referred to as P4 zoning (P2 is passive park as with the 707; P3 is active park as with Rollo McClay and Huxley Park).

The bylaws will now be sent to the secretary of the Islands Trust for approval by the Islands Trust Executive Committee.

For final approval, the bylaws will need to come back to the Gabriola LTC.

As per a motion passed at the LTC meeting this past week, proof of registration of the restrictive covenant for the application is to be provided to the LTC before the final reading of the proposed bylaws.

This will include a “substantial” plan for the subdivisions of the receiver parcels.

According to Trust staff, that site plan is specific and the subdivision needs to be in substantial accordance with the covenant.

If at the time of subdivision approval with the Transportation Ministry there were major changes to road alignment, lot layouts, access points, parkland, any of those things, the referral response from the Trust would be that this is not a match to what was registered on title.

Staff said there are different ramifications for any of those things getting changed.

If water cannot be proved for the 25 proposed lots, there would be a reduction in the number of lots; some would be larger than proposed at the time of covenant.

For that to happen, the Ministry, RDN and Islands Trust would need to be in agreement and would be brought back in to take part in the changes.

While not expressly spoken as a reason for the Trustees making their decision to pass third reading on Thursday, staff was recommending Trustees give consideration of the bylaws on March 30 if they were not anticipating changes to be made to the bylaws prior to the next LTC meeting scheduled for May 11.

Part of the reason for staff recommending this was because there was a chance the proposal would not be available to do anything with on May 11 - as there was an offer pending on the current Lot 1 of the receiver parcels, which would expire or be accepted by the applicants on March 31.

As staff pointed out, if Lot 1 sold, the entire application would become non-viable.

As the public hearing has concluded, no written or oral representations will be received by the Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee or its individual members. 

Anyone with questions about the application, the process, or the proposed bylaws is asked to contact planning staff directly.

Helicopter flight path

A new part of the application discussion was introduced at the Community Information Meeting and carried through to the public hearing. According to Transport Canada, there will be a requirement for the helicopter flight path for the Community Health Clinic helipad, and that flight path includes a portion of the area proposed to be the park dedication of the receiver lands subdivision.

Responding on Friday, Natasha Gauthier, Senior Media Relations Advisor with Transport Canada, did not say who would be financially responsible for keeping the flight path clear - the clinic as owner of the helipad, or the owner of the proposed park area.

The RDN has not formally said it would accept that area as park, and will be deliberating that and associated issues with the park (such as the flight path) at the next meeting of the Gabriola Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Commission (POSAC) meeting, currently scheduled for May 15.