The development proposal for 560 &570 Laburnum Road (Aldermuir proposal) needs careful consideration and public consultation if wise and responsible community planning are desired. I have spoken with residents who are familiar with the Aldermuir proposal and heard questions and concerns about OCP non-compliance, precedence setting, environmental stewardship, greenbelt protection, provincial guidelines, due diligence on part of the Town, transparency, amenity contributions, West Qualicum property owner inequity, buffer zones, and the Town's commitment to Environment Canada.
A contributing factor to the complexity of the Aldermuir proposal is the fact that the Town did not complete their plan for West Qualicum as directed in OCP policy 14 Section 2.2.6.
As part of the decision making process concerning the Aldermuir proposal, Council will be reviewing the OCP guidelines and policies. Provincial environmental guidelines must be reviewed as well due to the sensitive ecosystems in West Qualicum.
The Aldermuir proposal is for a residential development on rural land. Some OCP policies related to residential and rural development that do not support the proposal are:
Policy 11 Section 2.2.2
Policy 5 Section 2.2.6 as well as objectives in Section 2.2.6
I am wondering about how much value Council will apply to the natural capital of West Qualicum?
Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory (SEI) number N0409 extends from Grandon Creek to Little Qualicum River and south of Claymore Road. 560 & 570 Laburnum is part of this SEI polygon. The property is also zoned RR1. If the property is removed from the WQBOSDA in order to facilitate the proposed development, it will still contain some of polygon N0409 and retain the RR1 zoning.
Qualicum Beach is fortunate to be in the position of having the option to protect their wetlands.
Only 1.7% of the land base of Gulf Islands and east coast of Vancouver Island have natural wetlands remaining. Wetlands are ranked as one of the three most important life support systems on earth.
Some of the free services that wetlands supply:
- critical part of municipal green infrastructure
- source of groundwater recharge for aquifers
- filter pollutants
- carbon sequestration
- ease drought conditions
- flood control
- healthy environment
- manages storm water
"In 1988 Environment Canada estimated that Canada's wetlands provided $1.35 billion annually in water purification services. Recently it has been estimated that the waste-cleansing services of natural wetlands in lower Fraser Valley are worth at least $250 million each year - many times that amount if replacement infrastructure costs are added." ( "Wetlands in British Columbia a Primer for Local Governemnts.")
In 1991 the Canadian Government adopted the Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation. The goal is to achieve "no net loss of wetland function on federal lands and waters."
The Provinces' updated 2014 Develop with Care guidelines for developers and local government. This helpful planning tool is about "objectives, requirements and guidelines for local governments and other approval agencies in environmental planning at a community level." I encourage council members to review the relevant guidelines as they pertain to West Qualicum and the Aldermuir proposal.
Another significant land use decision according to recommendations from planning department is whether the subject property shall be removed from the WQBOSDA.
Properties within WQBOSDA are mainly zoned RR1 with minimum parcel size of 20 hectares allowing two dwellings per parcel. According to the OCP policies and guidelines, the only opportunity to increase density beyond 2 dwellings per parcel is under policy 13 section 2.2.6 for West Qualicum. If subject property is removed from WQBOSDA, the only way to permit more than two dwellings on subject property is to undermine the OCP by contradicting OCP goals, objectives and policies.
Another consideration is cumulative impacts. In 2011, the West Ridge property was removed from the WQBOSDA and re-zoned for single family residential. Now, five years later, the Town is considering removing another 8 hectares from West Qualicum greenbelt. If the removal is successful, it would mean that a total of 12 hectares will have been removed from the WQBOSDA - the total allowable development potential of WQBOSDA. This style of land-use planning gives me a sense of foreboding for the fate of West Qualicum's forested wetlands and other rural lands in Qualicum Beach.
There are a few other items of note for Council to consider regarding Aldermuir proposal and West Qualicum's valuable resource greenbelt. West Qualicum also contains a part of SEI N1210 Older Second Growth Forest Ecosystem. Other parts of this forest polygon outside the municipal boundary has been 'disturbed' or logged.
Perhaps our next OCP will include policies for a "Green Infrastructure Conservation Strategy."
It is local government that has the greatest influence over how land is used and natural capital is maintained and used sustainably.
Thank you for your time and considering my comments
For more information on development in sensitive areas go to the government site Develop with Care.
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