CVRD directors will vote again — this time with corrected information on their Regional Growth Strategy minor amendment process — on whether to consider 3L Developments application to amend the RGS as a minor or standard matter. It’s not as confusing as it sounds
When the Comox Valley Regional District voted last week to defeat a motion to consider an amendment proposed by 3L Developments to the Regional Growth Strategy as a “minor” process, it was acting on incorrect information.
The correct information will be presented to the CVRD’s Committee of the Whole (COW) at 4 p.m.Tuesday, July 17, and the directors will vote again on whether the 3L application should be considered a “minor” amendment.
The COW was told at its July 10 meeting that a unanimous vote was required to pass first reading of a minor amendment bylaw. And, if the vote wasn’t unanimous, then the proposed amendment would automatically proceed by the standard process.
The standard process requires more robust consultation with stakeholders and neighboring governments and therefore takes longer. A minor amendment process is streamlined without any required consultations. The board could even decide not to hold a public hearing.
But staff discovered after last week’s vote that a unanimous vote is not required.
FURTHER READING: CAO’s memo to the directors
“While section 437(3) of the Local Government Act [RSBC, c. 1, 2015] does describe such a scenario (unanimous vote), the legislation also defers to the process contained in an RGS where the minor amendment process is defined,” wrote Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson in a memo to the board.
“The Comox Valley RGS in fact defines a minor amendment process and requires that voting on such amendment bylaws would follow normal procedures (meaning a simple majority on first reading is required for approval).” Dyson said.
See minor vs major comparison chart below
The regional district is taking extra care to be precise in its procedures and voting while considering the 3L Developments application. The company has been vocal and litigious in its criticism of the CVRD’s handling of their applications.
3L Developments sued the regional district in 2015 and won an order by the BC Supreme Court, which was later upheld by an appeals court, that the CVRD should have initiated a process to consider an amendment to the RGS, and was directed to do so.
The Committee of the Whole voted last week to initiate an amendment process. It was a unanimous decision.
The COW then voted on a motion by Ken Grant and seconded by Larry Jangula to proceed via the minor amendment (shorter) process. That motion was defeated with only Grant and Jangula voting in favor.
At Tuesday’s meeting (July 17), the COW will vote again whether to proceed via a minor amendment process, after staff clarifies that no unanimous vote is required.
It seems unlikely the resolution will pass given that only Grant and Jangula appear to support the 3L Developments application.
But this time directors will be voting with the correct information, which the CVRD hopes will close any opening for another lawsuit.
3L Development founder Dave Dutcyvich wants to build an entire riverfront community on 550 acres near Stotan Falls, where the Browns and Puntledge rivers converge. It would have 740 homes and a commercial center, and be self-contained with its own water and sewage treatment systems.
The CVRD board has decided in the past that the development doesn’t comply with its Regional Growth Strategy.
The CVRD Committee of the Whole voted to consider an application to amend the Regional Growth Strategy in a way that would permit the 3L Development on the Puntledge River near Stotan Falls, but the majority votes down a motion by Ken Grant and Larry Jangula to expedite the process
The Comox Valley Regional District has voted to consider an application to amend its Regional Growth Strategy that would enable a controversial 740-house subdivision north of Courtenay.
But the CVRD board supported a staff recommendation to follow the more robust standard amendment process, rather than the expedited minor amendment process requested by the developer.
3L spokesperson Kabel Atwall said the company was only willing to move forward on the minor amendment process and claimed CVRD staff had promised that it would. That was contradicted by CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson and Manager of Planning Services Alana Mullaly.
3L Developments has tried for 11 years to develop its 550 acres situated between Browns River to the north and the Puntledge River to the south. The Inland Island Highway borders the property to the west.
It has promised to give the regional district 260 acres of its land for a park that would allow public access to the popular Stotan Falls.
The CVRD has denied 3L’s past requests for development permits because the site doesn’t fit into the CVRD’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), which has already identified three areas for growth outside of municipal boundaries, and all of them are far short of reaching capacity.
The existing three “settlement nodes” are Saratoga, Mt. Washington and Union Bay.
FURTHER READING: Road toll sprouts from dispute; RD loses appeal against 3L; Miscommunication in application; Riverwood
The CVRD’s original denial has triggered a series of confrontations that resulted in a lawsuit, which the regional district lost, and Area C Director Edwin Grieve being barred from future CVRD board deliberations about 3L Developments.
Taking a different tact, the developer has recently applied to have the RGS amended to permit the 3L Development, known as Riverwood.
At its July 11 Committee of the Whole meeting, the board deliberated whether to initiate a process to consider amending the RGS for Riverwood, and if it did so, whether the process should be undertaken as a minor or standard amendment.
The board voted unanimously to initiate an amendment review process.
But there was a great deal of confusion about the difference between following the minor and standard amendment process, by the directors as well as the 3L applicants.
In simple terms, a standard amendment process takes longer because it’s more robust, requiring consultations with surrounding municipalities and neighboring regional districts in Strathcona, Powell River and Nanaimo.
A minor amendment process can move along more quickly and relies entirely on CVRD directors and staff to do its own public outreach and due diligence.
Mullaly estimated that a standard amendment process could take around six months longer.
Comox Director Ken Grant made a motion to follow the minor amendment process, and Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula seconded it.
Grant and Jangula were the only directors to vote in favor of the motion, so it was defeated and, by default, the 3L Developments application for an amendment to the RGS will follow the more robust and longer standard process.
Most of the debate centered on the futility of following a minor amendment process because the B.C. provincial government built in a fail-safe to ensure that any amendment to a district’s Regional Growth Strategy would have the full support of the board.
To pass first reading of an RGS amendment, a regional district board must vote unanimously in favor of it. If just one single director votes no, then the process must restart as a standard amendment process.
Grant said that rule was unfair and made the minor amendment process useless.
It’s a flawed process, to be nice about (describing) it,” he said.
Area B Director Rod Nichol wasn’t so nice.
“It’s stupid,” he said.
But other directors saw the wisdom in giving the 3L Development proposal an extensive review, and planner Mullaly reminded the board that this stage is about their vision, “How you see regional growth unfolding in the future.”
Comox Director Barbara Price clarified that the board was not discussing the merits of the 3L application, but the appropriate process to bring those merits to the public’s attention. She was concerned that following the expedited process would set a precedent for future applications.
“The RGS amendment process is new to us and what we do now will affect our future,” she said. “I’m loathe to overturn the advice of our technical and steering committees for the only reason that we get it done before the (Oct. 20 municipal) election.”
Courtenay Director Bob Wells said the longer timeline for the standard review process gives the board and staff time to “fully contemplate the consequences of our decision.”
“The benefits of doing this properly are significantly more valuable than saving six months,” he said. “It’s worth it for the best possible outcome.”
Alternate Area C Director Curtis Scoville said he wished they could turn back the clock and start the standard review process “before all the obstacles that delayed us.”
“But this proposal deserves a robust consultation,” he said. “I encourage 3L to stay with the process.”
Judi Murakami wants City Council to focus on senior women’s poverty, arts and culture, revitalization and removing blight and protecting green spaces. Plus, she’s prepared to put in the time to make important decisions
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated for the correct spelling of Judi Murakami’s name
Judi Murakami wants to use her education and professional experience to help the Courtenay City Council coalesce around some common goals, something she believes they desperately need to do.
She decided to run for office in January, after meeting with Mayor Larry Jangula, who she says told her the council was not working well together.
That shows up, she says, in the failure of the city’s strategic plan to even mention schools and education, green spaces and arts and culture, and is short on specifics.
“For example, the plan talks about growing the economy, but how?” she told Decafnation. “It doesn’t say.”
FURTHER READING: Read about other Comox Valley candidates
Since moving to the Comox Valley 10 years ago, Murakami has been a tireless volunteer, including a seven-year stint hosting the local cable TV program, Comox Valley Stories.
She has a masters degree in applied behavioral sciences with a focus on organizational development, and worked as a safety advisor for the Vancouver Island Health Authority training staff how to better manage aggressive behaviors.
Before retiring, she also did quality assurance work with the BC Ministry of Health.
Murakami thinks that knowledge and experience will benefit the city by helping the council focus on its four most important issues.
At the top of her list is senior women’s poverty.
“Rising house prices in Vancouver and Victoria have moved up island,” she said. “We don’t have any affordable housing for low-income seniors, particularly women.”
She points to the three-year wait for a vacancy at Kiwanis Village as a symptom of the problem.
Next, Murakami would make arts and culture an economic pillar of the city.
“The city should create a budget for arts and culture, not make these organizations come cap in hand every year for funding,” she said.
She believes the city could do more to market Music Fest, CYMC, the art gallery and The Sid. She envisions maps with walking tours, and more city-sponsored events to promote the arts.
Murakami wants the city to take more aggressive action to revitalize its core areas.
She specifically refers to the vacant lot at England and Cliffe, the site of the old Palace Theatre, which has sat empty for years.
“It’s an eyesore in the heart of downtown,” she says. “The private owners are not being incentivized to do anything … they’re not being fined or taxed enough to get moving.”
She wants to identify that site and other blighted areas and encourage property owners to speed up improvements.
Finally, Murakami wants the city to better protect and enhance green spaces.
She applauds the city for forgiving taxes on the Kus-kus-sum site while Project Watershed raising the funds to purchase the property.
“But waiving property taxes for two years isn’t enough,” she said. “Council should get on board and approve a sizable grant for the project.”
Murakami believes the Comox Valley is a “charity driven” community.
“People consciously go out of their way to attend events and support local causes,” she said, noting that the Valley is one of few communities to support a YANA (you are not alone) organization to help families that must travel to access medical treatment for children.
Murakami says there’s another important reason why voters should choose her on Oct. 20: She’s got the energy, qualifications, time and commitment to serve on City Council.
“I won’t just show up to meetings,” she said. “I’m prepared to put in the time to read and understand the reports and issues that come before council, and ready to make important decisions.”
Murakami sees the role of a councillor as a two-way street.
“It’s a dialogue with people to understand their concerns,” she said. “I’m always learning from people.”
FURTHER READING: Visit Judi Murakami’s Facebook page
Working in an Alberta ministry office taught City Council candidate Deana Simpkin that it’s easier to get things done from the inside. She wants to densify and revitalize downtown, meet growth head-on and keep taxes in check
EDITOR’S NOTE: his post was updated on July 5 to correct that 16 (not 19) additional staff were hired and one staff was reclassified.
Having spent 20 years advocating for the developmentally disabled and also several years in the Alberta Minister of Culture’s office, Courtenay council candidate Deana Simpkin learned that it’s easier to get things done from the inside.
While she’s proud of her advocacy work, she had a greater impact on developmentally disabled children like her daughter, and their families, while working for MLA Lindsay Blackett. Simpkin helped change the system to smooth the transition when a DD child turns 18.
Despite that provincial-level accomplishment, Simpkin says she’s always been more interested in municipal politics. And now, after eight years in the community, she’s ready to get involved.
Simpkin and her family moved to the Comox Valley from Calgary in 2010 to be closer to her parents, who made a stop at CFB Comox in the 1950s and retired here in 1990. She and her husband bought the former Billy D’s restaurant on Fifth Street and rebranded it last September as the High Tide Public House and seafood restaurant.
She’s been active in the community ever since, serving as president of the Courtenay Rotary Club, the Downtown Business Improvement Association and currently as vice-president of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.
“I think I’ve earned my stripes,” she told Decafnation. “And along the way I’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge about Courtenay.”
INTERESTING FACT: Simpkin’s name is pronounced “dean-ah” not “dee-anna.” She’s named after Dean Martin, her mother’s (a singer) favorite performer.
She hopes to help densify and revitalize the downtown core and to steer the city toward proactive measures to deal with its inevitable growth and housing issues.
And she wants to use her accounting diploma and business experience to “keep taxes in check.”
“A lot of people are worried, both business and residential,” she said. “There’s no big industry in the Valley paying for infrastructure.”
She points to the recent hiring of 16 additional city staff and one reclassification at a cost of about $2 million as an example.
“What are those people doing? If they’re not doing anything, then that’s a concern,” she said. “And where is the money coming from? I heard they’re taking it from a reserve.”
Simpkin said once she’s elected and get answers to those questions, “then maybe it will all make sense.”
But she thinks the council and staff haven’t done enough to convince her and others that the hires were necessary.
“I feel like council needs to give more direction to staff and communicate better with the public,” she said. “A lot of people think staff are running council.”
She says she is not a member of the Comox Valley Taxpayers Association.
Simpkin also hopes to spur a revitalization of the downtown area by encouraging more people to live in and around the core. Young people, single people and young couples want to live close, she says, and more downtown housing would help businesses expand and improve.
She says there is no way to achieve that or to create affordable housing generally without decreasing development costs. She envisions property tax breaks and other incentives to encourage developers to build more affordable houses.
“It’s a big ugly circle,” she said. “If there’s no incentives or lower development costs, then all those extra costs go down to the consumer. The builder can’t lose money.”
Simpkin says Campbell River recently offered a long-term tax break for builders of new homes.
Simpkin says she can work well with the other people on council, although four seats are open. And she’s staying out of endorsing anyone in the mayor’s race “… for now.”
The recent paddle board convert believes she can make a positive difference by working within the City Council.
FURTHER READING: Interviews with other candidates on our politics page.
Giving First Nations a stronger legislative voice by electoral reform
By PAT CARL
Usually I like to write about my successes as a teacher. But sometimes it’s healthy to confess failures. So, here goes.
Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.
While instructing at North Island College in Courtenay, I was assigned to teach English 115, which is a basic composition class that all first-year students must take. The English Department encouraged instructors to create themes for those classes.
During one such class, I thought it might be a good idea to follow the advice of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I provided an opportunity for students to think about the way First Nations people have been portrayed in dominant literature and cinema and to consider alternative views from a First Nations perspective.
Now, if I had to describe myself, I’d have to say I’m a chubby white girl, mostly Irish, a fallen-away Catholic, raised middle-class, a social-justice liberal, an environmentalist, a gardener, a sometimes-writer and a lesbian.
Do you see anything in that list that qualifies me by any stretch of the imagination to conduct a class about the biases prevalent in literature and film regarding First Nations, never mind present an alternative view from a First Nations perspective?
That’s right. Nope, nada, nothing.
In retrospect, I realize it was unwise to address such an ambitious theme without consulting and collaborating with at least one First Nations elder at the college.
And that’s the rub. However well-intentioned, too often white Euro-Canadians have decided for First Nations what’s best for them. Think residential schools. Think the Indian Act. Think of all the recent decisions made by Canada’s federal and provincial governments regarding pipelines and the building of dams.
Unlike Canada, other countries, at least recently, have managed to engage more respectfully with Indigenous peoples.
For example, look at the Maori Party in New Zealand.
When the Maori Party helped to form government, it introduced traditional approaches to New Zealand’s social services and child welfare systems; the party influenced government expenditures that targeted poverty abatement and the elimination of homelessness; the party improved the delivery of education among Maori youth; the party defended and expanded treaty rights; the party secured monies targeting the environment in order to improve Indigenous lands; and the party worked to place the delivery of the Maori language and culture in the hands of Maoris.
To be clear, all of these Maori political achievements were accomplished since proportional representation replaced first-past-the-post as that country’s voting system. While New Zealand provides a federal example, there’s nothing that limits that example from being applied provincially in BC. The New Zealand example shows how a proportional electoral system can be a change-maker for Indigenous peoples that first-past-the-post doesn’t provide.
And there I go again.
It’s so easy for privileged people like me to forget that, even with the best examples at hand, like those offered by the Maori in New Zealand, it’s not up to me to decide. It’s not up to me even to suggest.
With that in mind, let’s consider How We Vote: 2018 Electoral Reform Referendum, the report and recommendations which was released on May 30 by Attorney General David Eby. And let’s consider specifically the results of a survey conducted among an admittedly small number of Indigenous leaders and youth as well as among members of two Bands. The survey results are documented in Addendum I, “Indigenous BC Elections Referendum Survey Results.”
Of the 132 respondents to the survey, “73 percent do not feel that Indigenous voices are currently adequately represented in the Legislative Assembly” in Victoria. Additionally, First Nations leadership called for “designated Indigenous representation in the Legislature.”
Further, more than half of all respondents to the survey want “better representation of groups that are currently under-represented in the Legislative Assembly.” Another 38 percent want members of the Legislature to “cooperate to make decisions,” and a total of 81 percent want a spirit of greater compromise to inform Legislative decision-making.
All of these assertions are overlaid by 81 percent of respondents who either strongly agree or agree that a “greater diversity of views” should echo throughout the halls of provincial governance.
Most telling are the narrative comments made by 20 of the respondents at the end of the survey.
Some were concerned about how MLAs and parties receive funding from corporate and wealthy interests, which causes legislators to be unduly influenced by the privileged one percent rather than being concerned about the interests of their constituents.
Others were concerned about how little attention the legislature pays to ensuring that Indigenous peoples, especially those in remote locations, have easy access to the polls.
But, what struck me the most were the multiple respondents who believe that First Nations need to be included in the Legislative Assembly as MLAs. This may require, as some suggest, the establishment of First Nations’ Legislative Assembly set-aside seats. Additionally, respondents assert that the Indigenous people who occupy those seats be selected by Band members in transparent elections.
A system of voting that represents the will of people, a system that provides a way for making sure everyone can vote, and a system that finally hears the voices of the most excluded voters in Canada.
Sounds like support for the principles of proportional representation to me.
Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and a Citizen Journalist for The Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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