BREAKING: 3L development vote today

BREAKING: 3L development vote today

Stotan Falls developer tries end run around Regional Growth Strategy

PHOTO: 3L Developments convinced the Comox Valley Record last fall to publish the developers’ opinion article on its front page. It was a breach of journalistic integrity for which the newspaper’s publisher later apologized.

 

By GRANT GORDON

At 4 p.m. today, July 10, the Comox Valley Regional District Committee of the Whole will hear a presentation by 3L Developments to try get their RiverWood proposal classified as a minor amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). Regional district staff have recommended that the 3L proposal be a standard (major) amendment.

If two-thirds of the board’s members vote to override the staff recommendation then their proposal moves ahead to third reading where this inappropriate development could actually come to pass quite easily due to the overwhelming presence of developers’ influence on CVRD board members.

So in case you missed it, a minor amendment classification would allow changing the zoning from ‘two houses per 20 hectares (50 Acres)” over some 400 acres, or 16 total houses, to 740 houses over the same area.

If this proposed amendment doesn’t pass, then 3L’s Riverwood proposal continues ahead as a Standard (Major) Amendment requiring the approval of the all the parties that were part and parcel to approving the RGS Document in the first place: the Provincial Government, the surrounding regional districts, the CV Regional District, local Municipalities and seven First Nations.

Section 5.2 of the Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw # 120, 2010 clearly states that this kind of development in rural areas is well above and beyond all the principals that would constitute a minor amendment: (Pages 108 – 110)

The location is outside of the municipal areas where 90 percent of all growth is to occur and even further out than the reserved ‘municipal expansion’ areas withheld for further growth.

The location is beyond areas with municipal services where water and sewer can be expeditiously supplied.

The location sits astride wildlife corridors where large and small ungulates and carnivores can physically get passed the fenced Inland Island Highway on their way to their prime feeding areas within the Puntledge and Browns rivers and on the dairy farms east of the highway. That’s bears on fish and cougars on deer respectively.

The RGS clearly states that a minor amendment: ” … is not to be of regional significance in terms of scale, impacts or precedence; Contributes to achieving the goals and objectives set out in Part 3; (Regional Policies); and, Contributes to achieving the general principals contained in the growth management strategy Part 4. (Managing Growth) … ”

In my opinion . . . Larry Jangula is for it. Bruce Joliffe (Area A) is against it. Manos Theos is for it. Rod Nichol (Area B) is against it. Erik Eriksson is for it. Curtis Scoville (Area C alt) against. Ken Grant is for it. Gwyn Sproule, Barbara Price and Bob Wells are unknown.

If you think that a 740-house development in an area that has already been excluded from the Urban Sacrifice Zones (Municipal Expansion Areas), with 1,480 vehicles, 740 plus cats and 740 plus dogs and multiple children situated on major game paths is not going to be a major change in the way things have been worked out in the Regional Growth Strategy, then your vision of the Comox Valley is quite a bit different that mine. It is also quite a bit different than the Regional Growth Strategy as interpreted by the CVRD’s planning and legal departments.

Please contact your local representatives to let them know how you feel about this attempt to change the intended Regional Growth Strategy by allowing this proposal to be downgraded to minor amendment status against the wishes of the general public that put so much into developing the RGS and the CVRD staff that are tasked with implementing and overseeing it.

There will be a normal Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at the Comox Valley Regional District Board room.

Then the COW will reconvene a second meeting to discuss this 3L proposal, which goes against the staff recommendation.

Grant Gordon submitted this for publication as part of Decafnation’s Civic Journalism Project.

 

City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum

City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum

PHOTO: 21st Street is in the middle at the bottom, with the car lot on the right side. It crosses Cliffe Avenue and dead-ends at the Courtenay Airpark boundary. Dave Bazett photo

A proposed new bridge would kill the Courtenay Airpark, walkway, Hollyhock Marsh, undermine Kus-kus-sum and add another signal light on Comox Road. So why is the City of Courtenay promoting it? Even mayoralty candidates aren’t sure

 

The City of Courtenay has floated a proposal to build a third crossing of the Courtenay River at 21st Street to alleviate traffic congestion at the 17th Street and Fifth Street bridges.

The proposal, which is part of a study for the city’s required update of their 2014 Master Transportation Plan, would wipe out the Courtenay Airpark, part of the Airpark walkway, destroy the estuary’s last remaining intact ecosystem at Hollyhock Marsh, undermine the Kus-kus-sum rehabilitation project and create another major signaled intersection on Comox Road at a point that regularly floods during winter storms.

Not to mention that Hollyhock Marsh is protected crown land and is an area under claim by the K’omoks First Nation.

It’s an idea that has left many people shaking their heads.

“I thought it was an April Fools Day joke,” said Dave Bazett, a land surveyor whose office is in the proposal’s path and who owns two aircraft hangared at the airpark.

Project Watershed Technical Director Dan Bowen said the study appears to have been done by someone who doesn’t know anything about the area.

“And, who employs someone to pursue an idea that’s not feasible?” he said.

Bazett pointed his finger at the city, which defined the scope of the transportation plan update for the consultant, including a bridge south of 17th Street and the idea that the airpark and the marsh were expendable.

Even the three announced candidates for Courtenay mayor tried to distance themselves from the proposal.

David Frisch emphasized that the proposal is not a plan, just some consultant’s idea. He said there are more environmentally friendly options.

Bob Wells said he didn’t know how a third crossing got in the plan. He thinks its an option the consultant picked up from previous studies, before Kus-kus-sum became a community project.

Erik Eriksson wondered how many millions of dollars per minute of wait time at the existing bridge intersections the public is willing to pay for. A new crossing would cost tens of millions of dollars.

“So we’re not going to see another bridge in my lifetime,” Eriksson said.

Background

The city has undertaken a required four-year update to its 2014 Master Transportation Plan. It held an open house in March and another in mid-June, and is conducting an online survey.

The study and community feedback will be presented to the Courtenay City Council over the summer. Council members will decide what parts of the study get costed out and eventually make it into the 2018 Master Transportation Plan.

Take the survey here

FURTHER READING: See the study’s open house display boards; The city’s Master Transportation Plan webpage

The 2014 plan also examined options for a third crossing. It rejected crossings at 19th and 26th streets, and suggested Eighth or 11th streets for new bridges. The city eventually costed out an 11th Street bridge at around $35 million, and later dropped the idea.

But traffic congestion at the 17th Street east intersection and at the Fifth Street east intersection has worsened as the Comox Valley has grown. But is it unbearable?

Wait times at the bridges may pale now in comparison to the Langford Crawl in Victoria or to numerous choke points in Vancouver, but without an acceptable long-term solution, motorists’ frustration will magnify.

Why 21st Street won’t fly

Bowen, a former BC Ministry of Highways employee in the Comox Valley, said the third crossing proposal and other proposals in the study to build new roads across the Courtenay Flats farmland “fly in the face” of everything Project Watershed has been trying to achieve.

“We’ve been working on projects over the past 20 years to preserve and protect the remaining flora and fauna habitat along the river and K’omoks estuary,” he said. “This proposal has no regard for the estuary. It’s single-minded and not well-informed.”

Local citizens fought Crown Zellerbach from filling in the marsh back in the 1960s and battled them and the provincial government to save the pristine ecosystem, which is unique in the Comox Valley.

Hollyhock Marsh is the model for Kus-kus-sum, a project to restore of the old Fields sawmill site, and the marsh is it’s connection back to the estuary.

“It’s a non-starter for us (Project Watershed,” Bowen said. “And I would expect for K’omoks First Nation, too.”

Decafnation was unable to reach K’omoks Chief Nicole Rempel for this story.

Bazett, a pilot who uses aircrafts in his land surveying business, considers the 21st Street crossing a “purposeful attack” on the Courtenay Airpark.

Bazett says the city has tried to shut down the airport before and neither the mayor or council members have been supportive.

“This crossing was concocted as an excuse to eliminate the airpark,” he said. “The study didn’t even consider air transportation.”

He doesn’t think the city realizes the economic impact and importance of the airport. It brings pilots and passengers to town and the RCMP and MediVac helicopters use the facility regularly.

“It’s a precious jewel,” he said. “There are few private airparks in the province for both float and land aircraft, and within walking distance of town.”

Better options

Bowen said his experience working with the highways ministry taught him there are better options to improve traffic flow.

The primary problem is that there are two northbound lanes of traffic approaching the bridge from the south on Cliffe Avenue and two lanes on the bridge. But whether you turn north or south, you have to merge down to one lane.

It’s the same approaching the bridge from the north on the Island Highway bypass, which is two lanes at Superstore, but merges down to one lane at the bridge.

Bowen believes there should be four lanes of traffic approaching the 17th Street bridge, across the bridge and then all the way to the Shell gas station at the old Island Highway and also part way toward Comox.

The long-term solution, he said, is to twin the 17th Street bridge. The highways ministry purchased extra land on the north side of 17th Street east of Cliffe Avenue to anticipate a widened bridge. That land looks like a park with cherry trees.

The ministry also designed the bypass for four lanes, which is why the shoulders are extra wide through the S-turns.

Bowen agree with Erik Eriksson about also widening the Fifth Street bridge and making it four lanes from the Shell gas station at the bottom of Mission Hill all the way to Cliffe Avenue.

An election issue?

City Councillor Eriksson says the study is flawed in another important way: it only considers Courtenay boundaries.

“Any traffic study has to be regional,” he said. “And Comox people should help pay for any traffic improvements.”

Councillor Frisch wouldn’t rule out a third crossing forever, but he said “city taxpayers are not going to pay $20 million to $30 million for a new bridge.”

The question for him is where to spend the city’s limited funds.

“If we spend it on a bridge now, what’s the lost opportunity to support walkability, cycling, transit and other things,” he said.

City Council candidate Melanie McCollum said the cost of building a bridge across a estuary seems potentially prohibitively high.

“It’s very sensitive habitat. It would also mean building into sediment, which liquefies in an earthquake,” she said. “Of course this is not my area of specialty, but from what I know, building a bridge in an earthquake zone on sediment will incur some very expensive geoengineering.”

McCollum would also like to know if the plan for this bridge had taken into account sea level rise expected in the next 50 to 70 years.

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula did not respond to our questions.

 

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Courtenay parents, nurse petition Ottawa for system to prevent opioid deaths

BY SHANYN SIMCOE

Over 7,000 Canadians died of opioid overdose in 2016 and 2017. Courtenay parents John and Jennifer Hedican’s eldest son, Ryan, was one of them.

He was 26-years-old and a third-year electrician. He had completed eight months of recovery, returned to work, experienced a relapse, and was found unresponsive on his job site in Vancouver during a lunch break on April 24th, 2017.

Relapse is a normal and anticipated stage of the recovery process and the Hedicans believe that if he had access to a safe source of narcotics, Ryan would not have died by fentanyl-poisoning that day.

In Ryan’s honour, the Hedicans have partnered with me to author a petition to the House of Commons demanding that a system be created to ensure a safe source of substances so that people who use drugs experimentally, recreationally or chronically, are not at imminent risk of death due to a contaminated source.

FURTHER READING: How could this happen?

The Hedicans and I believe that access to a safe, regulated and monitored source is the only solution to prevent overdose and fentanyl-poisoning deaths.

We are astounded at the lack of aggressive action by our federal government in response to such devastating, preventable and continuing loss. We are asking Canadians to join their call to action by signing the petition and pressuring their MPs to demand that our prime minister and government make the policy changes needed to save lives now.

We recently held a signature drive in downtown Courtenay, Campbell River and Cumberland, collecting 781 new signatures.

We are also asking that personal possession be decriminalized to reduce the stigma resulting from the criminalization of substance use. They want our government to adopt a model similar to that used in Portugal, which treats problematic substance use as a health, rather than criminal justice issue. Fear of stigma and punishment currently prevents people from accessing health care services and treatment.

The third ask is that the opioid crisis be declared a national public health emergency.

The number of preventable overdose deaths to date has far surpassed the total number of deaths of all other public health emergencies in the last 20 years including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, yet the crisis has not achieved national emergency status. Despite the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program and the establishment of Overdose Prevention Sites, approximately four people die each day from opioid overdoses due to fentanyl-poisoned sources.

Males aged 19-49 are at the highest risk. Sixty-three percent of overdose deaths occurring in private residences. 120 Canadians are dying every month, each one a child, sibling, spouse, parent, colleague, client, friend.

Our online petition has over 2,100 signatures and many paper versions have been mailed in.

FURTHER READING: Sign the online petition here.

MP Gord Johns tabled the petition in the House of Commons for the first time before the summer sitting. You can see his speech here

The online petition closes July 25th and the government is required to respond within 45 days. This petition has recently been endorsed by the British Columbia Nurses’ Union.

Shanyn Simcoe is a Comox Valley nurse activist. She wrote this article for the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at shanyn.simcoe@gmail.com

 

Furstenau Sets Tone at Green Party AGM

Furstenau Sets Tone at Green Party AGM

Comox Valley Green Party members hear about sustainable futures

BY PAT CARL

More than 30 people attending the North Island-Powell River Green Party AGM in Campbell River on June 16 heard from the David who defeated the provincialGoliath and saved the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

Not so David-like anymore, Sonya Furstenau, Deputy Leader of the provincial Green Party and the MLA representing the Cowichan Valley, held listeners enthralled as she related a conversation she had with her 12-year-old son.

When asked by Furstenau how he was feeling about his future, her son responded “not so good.”

“Why not?” Furstenau asked.

“Because of pollution,” he said, “and climate change, and Trump.”

A sobering assessment for one so young. His response, though, prompted Furstenau to think of her own experience in organizing community members. Such organizing in Shawnigan was successful and taught Furstenau the value to hope.

While the federal government continues to “look backward by doubling down on the decreasing returns” associated with resource extraction, Furstenau claims new approaches rooted in education must encourage the development of innovative technologies to secure a healthy, sustainable future for our child and the planet.

To refuse to embrace such a future is to “download the cost of climate change onto local communities” leading to the numerous forest fires and the catastrophic flooding that plagues Canada and the rest of the globe.

Most worrisome for Furstenau is the Trumpian tendency of our elected representatives in provincial legislatures and parliament to “mistrust” each other and to avoid “working together across party lines.” Good ideas die on the vine because our elected representatives see collaboration as a weakness.

The lack of collaboration leads to polarization. Observing this at first hand fuels Furstenau’s support for proportional representation. The provincial referendum, scheduled in six months, gives voters a chance to reform BC’s electoral system.

Such reform will lessen the “community fractures along party lines” as candidates will “no longer seek to destroy the opposition” because they will need to work together, if elected, to develop long-lasting policies that benefit British Columbians.

According to Furstenau, “Fear drives the anti-proportional representation campaign. The antidote to fear is hope.” Despite challenges, Furstenau continues to be hopeful about her son’s future.

Accompanying Furstenau to Campbell River was Sonia Theroux, the Green Party of Canada Director of Mobilization, who describes herself as loving governance, but not politics. She encouraged Green Party members to step-up their organizational and volunteer efforts within their communities. Don’t look to others to do the work. “If it’s your idea,” Theroux said, “it’s your project.”

Business conducted at the AGM included the election of a slate of candidates to the North Island-Powell River’s Electoral District Association.

—-

PHOTO: (Left to right) Members of the Green Party of Canada North Island-Powell River Executive: Doug Cowell, Terry Choquette, Jay Van Oostdam, Mark de Bruijn, Guest Sonia Theroux, Megan Ardyche, Mark Tapper, MLA Sonya Furstenau, Blair Cusack, Cynthia Barnes, and Gail Wolverton.

Pat Carl is a Citizen Journalist with the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at patcarl0808@gmail.com

 

 

“Unbelievable accusations” move water bottling to public hearing

“Unbelievable accusations” move water bottling to public hearing

The CVRD moved a rezoning application for a water bottling plant in Merville to a public hearing later this summer after the applicant complained the process has not been fair or transparent

 

UPDATE, 10:30 am June 18 — In a surprise move, the Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Areas Services Committee did not take a vote this morning (June 18) to reject a rezoning application for a water bottling plant in Merville.

Instead, following complaints by the applicant, Christopher Scott Mackenzie, that his rezoning application process has been unfair and not transparent, Area C Director Edwin Grieve made a motion to take the application to a public hearing. No date has been set.

The CVRD staff recommended the committee deny Mackenzie’s rezoning application — see original story below.

At this morning’s meeting, Mackenzie said the staff report contained “a lot of derogatory comments that lack any real substance.” He called them a “barrage of unbelievable accusations” that have “spiraled out of control.”

Mackenzie submitted documents to the CVRD that he says show fears about depleting the aquifer from which he would draw up to 10,000 litres per day are not true.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. And he briefly noted claims in his submitted documents that the aquifer is actually a catch basin that recharges every year.

He said water levels in the aquifer have increased by 3.2 cm in the last 14 years — the equivalent of more than 300 million litres of water — despite  92 years of water extraction by neighboring property owners.

Before being cut off by the committee chair, Mackenzie alleged that neighboring farms and homesteads had multiple wells into the aquifer, including some that are “free-flowing artesian wells.”

Mackenzie said he doesn’t like how his “simple application” has been represented and that he’s gotten no support from Director Grieve, the Area C representative. 

In making his motion for a public hearing Grieve said, “The applicant is concerned about the protection of his process. I don’t want him to think he isn’t getting a fair shake.”

The public hearing is likely to be held sometime this summer.


The original story ….

The Comox Valley Regional District staff has recommended denying a rezoning application for a Merville area property that would permit a water bottling operation.

But the fight to stop the extraction of up to 10,000 litres of groundwater per day is not over.

The Electoral Services Commission is expected to rely on the staff report at its meeting this morning (June 18) and reject the rezoning application. But that only means the applicants cannot operate a water bottling facility on the Sackville road property.

The water license issued to Christopher Scott Mackenzie and Regula Heynck by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) remains valid.

They can still extract the water and, with an amendment to his license, can sell it by some method other than a bottling facility on the property.

If the couple attempts to truck water off the property to sell and deliver, the case could end up in court over whether “trucking” falls under the CVRD’s rezoning authority.

FURTHER READING: Ministry stalls FOI request; Farmers urge CVRD to reject Merville water bottling operation; Water Bottling project raises aquifer concerns

So the fight to protect the aquifer for nearby farmers has, for now, shifted to the Environmental Appeal Board and a citizens petition.

Bruce Gibbons, who owns and lives on ALR land about 300 metres from the Sackville Road site, has filed an appeal under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA).

Gibbons expects a decision any day on whether he has the right to appeal, meaning whether the merits of his appeal meet the criteria of the WSA. If the board rules in his favor, then he can makes arguments in front of the board for withdrawing or altering Mackenzie’s and Heynck’s water licence.

The Merville Water Guardians, a group of neighboring landowners formed to fight the water bottling operation, is circulating a petition for the BC government to stop approving groundwater licenses for bottling and commercial sales.

“The petition focuses on groundwater,” Gibbons told Decafnation. “With fresh water licences, you can see the effect — a stream goes dry. But with groundwater, you can’t see the impact on an aquifer.”

“The people … must demand … immediate action to stop approving groundwater aquifer licences for bottling and commercial sale to ensure we all have access to good, clean water for our personal needs, to grow our backyard gardens and to supply the farms that grow our food,” the petition reads.

The CVRD staff report echoes that sentiment.

“The proposed land use is incompatible with the surrounding area, and once such land use is permitted through zoning, the CVRD is potentially enabling the use of this property for water bottling at a much greater scale in the future,” the report reads.

K’omoks First Nation

The CVRD reached out to numerous stakeholders and other regulatory agencies for feedback on the rezoning proposal, including the K’omoks First Nation.

In a strong letter to the CVRD, Chief Nicole Rempel noted that KFN had originally opposed the application back in 2017 when the ministry considered the water license.

“I wish to advise you that in addition to the matters that we have raised in our various communications with the province, we are concerned that the actual license has been issued unlawfully,” Rempel wrote. “It is obvious to us that the consultation with K’omoks on this matter has not been meaningful and our substantive concerns have not been addressed.”

FURTHER READING: Read the 206-page staff report, which includes the feedback from K’omoks First Nation and agencies, as well as the public feedback.

 

A caregiver’s hard decision: help wanted

A caregiver’s hard decision: help wanted

Is it okay to strap a loved one into a wheelchair?

BY DELORES BROTEN

So we have come to a point where my love is walking … meandering, staggering … around with his eyes sometimes closed. His legs are buckled, he leans sideways or backwards and it is truly scary. It looks like he could fall any minute, and he could. Not all the time but a lot. And he sometimes does fall, and quite often nearly does. He usually won’t sit down for long.

The care home aides and nurses want … or suggest, that he needs to be strapped into a wheelchair. To prevent falls. They are as terrified as I am when walking beside or behind him. He could hurt himself or them.

And he has fallen a few times … kind of sliding to the ground in confusion when his legs don’t work. No injuries yet. “I don’t know what is wrong with my leg,” he says.

Neither does anyone. It is a guess but probably it is a possible bout of sciatica, part the pain meds, possibly the dementia closing down another segment of the mind, but mostly because he can no longer orient vertical, up and down. That was an early problem. Now he doesn’t know where is upright and can’t tell his legs what to do. The dementia is taking away even that.

Top photo: Don Broten at Miracle Beach in better days. Above photo: A more recent image

So it is a safety issue. But I cannot see the advantage or the care in strapping him down like the worst kind of tortured prisoner and I am refusing to sign the paper.

It is illegal to restrain him without my okay.

And I am NOT okay with this.

Over the two-and-a-half years we have been there I have seen this. The patient starts strapped down for safety but is taken out and up on their feet for a walk 20 minutes a day. At most. Soon of course they can’t walk at all and life becomes a Brody chair. Where they lie swearing and trying to get out, while the care machine rolls on around them and staff gossip and go for breaks.

Then, unlike when they were mobile, the patient-victims really ARE swiftly parked and ignored. Oh fed and cleaned and cooed at from time to time, but that’s about it. No interaction except with family. Even the recreation aides don’t have much to offer once they are parked.

I want to puke. This is not humane.

Many of the parked recognize that I am a friendly face and make some kind of happy contact. But like everyone, I walk on by, with other things to do.

Part of me thinks wildly that i could bring him home, transform our house … foam on the floors and clear out the furniture such as it is, and extra care aides. Let him wander and fall safely in his strange fragmented world. Bring him home.

But foam doesn’t clean well and it is not that simple. It is the 36-hour job.

We don’t have family willing or able to take shifts and we don’t have that much money to get a suitable house, transform it and hire help. That is for the one percenters. For us, we are beyond lucky to have public care. Many don’t.

There is also my own slowly eroding remnant of a life to consider – although at moments like this it doesn’t count for much, and those who depend on my work. That must count too.

On the other hand my own mother was strapped in a chair because she kept trying to walk when she was totally paralysed on the left side, with resultant dementia. And there was no other choice. But she was not drugged and never parked. She had my father with her 24/7.

I have no idea what kind of love and determination that took. After she died he regained a huge amount of mental capacity and resilience. He did see what was coming for my love and me and told me not to do as he had done.

Comments and advice are welcome, here (on her blog), on Facebook, or by personal email. I need some help with this.

Delores Broten is one of British Columbia’s many thousands of unpaid caregivers. She is the editor of the award-winning Watershed Sentinel magazine published in Comox. She wrote this for her blog “CaringCV,” and is reprinted here with permission. She may be contacted at editor@watershedsentinel.ca. 

 

FURTHER READING: Read Delores Broten’s blog, “CaringCV”