Island Trustees creating new ecological protection zone

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 24 2019

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) has approved a project which will see the creation of an Ecological Protection (EP) zoning for Gabriola Island.

This would create zoning which, rather than being human-use oriented like Park or Residential zoning, would instead be created to protect the zoned property for the sake of the ecosystem itself.

Two properties are being looked at on Gabriola for the zoning, one being Burren’s Acres Nature Reserve, a five-acre piece of property owned by the Islands Trust Conservancy; the other is Coats Marsh Regional Park, a 44-hectare piece of property co-owned by the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Nature Trust of BC.

The conversation on EP zoning goes back to when the rest of the RDN parks on Gabriola were rezoned as Park, either P2 (passive) or P3 (active).

At the time, it was identified that neither Park zoning accurately reflected the management plan set out for Coats Marsh in consultation with the Gabriola community.

Trustees noted that the different history and different ownership of the two properties may make it difficult to come up with a zoning that works for both properties, as well as other future potential EP properties.

Trustee Scott Colbourne said he would prefer to create the high level EP zoning to be as restrictive on human use as possible, and then make site specific allowances for each property.

He asked if that would be possible.

“Take something like Burren’s right off the map - have the top level zoning as restrictive as possible - then use site specific zoning to open up some uses.”

Trustee Kees Langereis asked if site specific would mean amending the bylaw each time for each site. 

“Or can there be exemptions from the restrictive overview? How do you manage the exemptions?”

Staff said the draft EP zone could be created, with separate re-zonings for the two properties, using specific language for each property.

If any subsequent properties were to come along, the LTC of the time could then choose between the high level EP zone, or tailor the zone depending on what is involved in the future property’s purpose.

Colbourne pointed out that the ecosystem for Coats Marsh does not stop at the property line - it follows ecological boundaries, rather than human ones.

The new section of the 707 Community Park added in 2018 between the original 707 and Coats Marsh contains the ecosystem which feeds into the marsh.

Colbourne asked if the EP zoning could or should be extended into that addition to the 707.

Vanessa Craig, Regional District of Nanaimo Director for Gabriola, was in attendance and pointed out that Coats Marsh is a regional park, whereas the 707 is a community park.

There was also a question of whether EP zoning could be applied to the new parkland, as it was acquired through a density transfer.

The project charter was amended to include an investigation into whether it is possible to include the 707 Community Park addition into the Ecological Protection Zone.

Staff were directed to prepare draft bylaws to amend the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw to establish an Ecological Protection Zone with site specifics, and that the Gabriola LTC direct staff to prepare draft bylaws to amend Bylaw 177 to establish an Ecological Protection Zone with site specific provisions for Coats Marsh and Burren’s Acres.