RDN committee approves parks plan for Potlatch donor parcels

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, September 27 2016

Donor lands: yes.

Receiver lands: maybe, with some particular requests.

Mallet Creek pond and dam - the applicant should keep them.

That’s the recommendation being given from the Gabriola Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC) to the Islands Trust in regard to the Potlatch Density Transfer application.

Members of POSAC held a meeting on September 19. POSAC is an advisory committee of the Regional District of Nanaimo and is chaired by Howard Houle, RDN Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge Decourcy).

Elaine McCulloch, RDN Parks Planner said the discussion was around a referral by the Trust to ask if the donor lands and receiver lands as outlined in the application were acceptable as potential RDN Community Parks.

“We’re [the RDN] not doing the subdivision or rezoning at this time.”

The discussion was split into discussing first the donor parcels adjacent to the 707 Community Park and Coats Marsh; and then the receiver parcels adjacent to the Cox Community Park.

Donor Parcels acceptable ‘as-is’

In agreement with the staff report, POSAC members had no issues with the donor parcels being added to the 707 Community Park, noting that doing so would complete the blanks spaces between the 707 and Coats Marsh Regional Park.

An RDN project to have trails put around the perimter of Coats Park has been put on hold, as the RDN staff has said if the adjacent properties become part of the 707, that would change whether trails would be put in through the sensitive ecosystem of Coats.

In the application, there is a small piece of the southern lot being excluded from the application.

Houle said RDN staff has talked to the applicants and have asked that if that 18-acre piece cannot be included in the donor parcels, the RDN would in the future like to be able to purchase that piece, as it is part of the headwaters of Coats Marsh.

McCulloch said when the 10-year 707 Community Park management plan comes up for renewal in 2020, there would also then be a discussion on whether to continue using the name ‘707’ as the new park. If the donor lands do end up being added to the Community Park, it will be 1,043 acres in size.

Receiver Parcels less straightforward

For the receiver parcels, staff noted the majority of the portion being proposed as park is formerly logged, and is now starting to grow back in, similar in age to the 707 Community Park and the proposed donor parcels.

Lots 6 and 7, intended on the current subdivision proposal, retain the only mature forest, staff is recommending the RDN request the boundaries of the parkland be adjusted to capture more of the sensitive ecosystem on those properties.

McCulloch said overall, the proposed park on the received parcels is, “nicely situated next to Cox Community Park - we like to see that adjacency as it  provides connection - from Descanso Bay Regional Park thru Cox and all the way down thru the Village Core.”

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POSAC is not advising the RDN accept the dam and pond as part of the park.

Houle said the cost of accepting the dam is just too high.

“We believe the dam may be made from clay - worried that in a shaker [earthquake] it could be gone, take out Taylor Bay Road. 

“If we take this land, we’d need to have a study done by an engineer.” He said that would cost roughly $50,000.

If the dam was found to be too high of a liability, the RDN would then have two options: either naturalize Mallett Creek, or spend more tax dollars on building a replacement dam.

There are three water use licenses on the pond water, one of which is to the Fire Department to provide water for the Taylor Bay Road fire hydrant.

Houle said, “I’m not sure the community wants to take that on because of the costs, which would be ongoing for a number of years.”

POSAC member Randy Young said he understood, if the Trust and the RDN did not accept the dam and pond, it could be retained within the strata of the development.

Houle said that has been brought up with the proponents, and that would be the RDN’s preferred option.

POSAC member Megan Walker said if the pond can’t be included in the park portion of th subdivision, she would like to at least see a trail or some kind of public access to the pond happen, if that was possible. She also asked if it was possible to have some kind of trail kept public along the ridge on the eastern side of the receiver parcels. The current proposal has the ridge overlooking Horseshoe and Daniel Roads as subdivided private lots.

Walker said, “obviously that’s the most valuable part of that land, but I’d like to see some effort to public access to that view - potentially accessible from the northern trail connection.”

Houle said there could be an issue because of privacy. The ridge is not the border of the lots, a public trail through there would have to cut those lots into portions.

Walker said, “it is a rare opportunity, there is no other ridge trail on Gabriola, if it could be considered, bringing public access to that. I think a trail would be challenging, but at the minimum, if you could put in a viewpoint there, that would be great.”

Houle said if the applicants like that idea, it is up to them to include it in the subdivision plan.

Young also noted that there will be a requirement within the receiver lands park to have tree height limited in the area around the helipad - Transport Canada regulations require a corridor be kept open for landing at the pad.

Houle said, “if we were to obtain these lands - there is a line the helicopter has to come in on, we’d have to clear around there.”

Conceptual maps of the two proposed park area were included in the staff report, which can be downloaded from the RDN web site here: POSAC AGENDA

For those without access to the internet, the Gabriola Library has computers available to library members.