George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Vexation without representation plagues Comox Valley rural areas

Apr 26, 2019 | Commentary

By George Le Masurier

H appy Friday. It’s the last one in April of 2019. And the climate is warming up around here, which farmers and gardeners can celebrate, although the lack of precipitation doesn’t bode well for growing or forest fire prevention. Here are some things we’re thinking about this week.

 

Vexation without representation

Residents of Curtis Road may have uncovered the resolution for “Vexation Without Representation.”

For 35 years, the noxious odours emanating from the Courtenay-Comox-CFB Comox sewage treatment plant on Brent Road have annoyed these Area B residents. They have worried about their property values and the future livability of their homes.

And the lack of concern shown by several decades of elected officials from Courtenay and Comox that have comprised past regional Sewage Commissions has frustrated them.

The reason for that is simple: there is no Area B representation on the Sewage Commission.

As a result, problems arising from the commission’s past flawed planning have festered without a voice, and were only heard after considerable citizen angst … and anger.

There may be legal reasons why the Sewage Commission can’t add a voting member from Area B — a staff report will analyze that issue — and it’s unlikely the treatment plant and its sewer pipes will ever be relocated entirely within the municipalities it serves.

In the alternative, the Curtis Road Association has proposed that Courtenay and Comox taxpayers, along with the Department of National Defense, pay them for hosting the “crappy treatment plant” in their neighborhood.

There is precedence for this.

All taxpayers on north Vancouver Island now compensate the Village of Cumberland for hosting the region’s landfill, recycling and composting operations. Both the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts pay Cumberland for the privilege.

Why should Area B residents be treated any differently? Granted, the residents don’t pay for road maintenance and other costs that Cumberland might incur by having a landfill within its boundaries, but they pay in other ways: reduced property values and the enjoyment of their homes.

It is an interesting approach to resolving the clear lack of democratic representation.

 

For the record

Decafnation has learned a Comox representative on the Comox Valley Economic Development Society is giving the organization credit for the Cannabis Innovation Centre currently under construction near the Comox Valley Airport.

That’s not accurate.

Here’s what Dr. Jon Page, the founder of Anandia Labs, told Decafnation, last fall:

Jon Page could have built his new breeding and genetics centre anywhere. In fact, he first considered the Delta and Richmond areas of the lower mainland. But when he discovered both municipalities would require zoning changes and public hearings to allow cannabis facilities, he looked elsewhere.

“Getting a development permit for warehouse space in the Lower Mainland where people are more suspicious of cannabis businesses would take way too long in the furious race to market that exists in the cannabis world,” he said.

Through Comox Valley realtor Jamie Edwards — a friend of people Page knew from growing up here — he discovered the Town of Comox had already zoned land for cannabis uses.

“Whoever in the town decided to include cannabis in the airport industrial area zoning as acceptable uses was thinking way ahead of the potential of this industry,” Nick Page said. “It was the key to bringing us here.”

 

Old Building vs. Old Trees

There was a worldwide outpouring of grief when a fire damaged part of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It showed that most people recognize the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations to appreciate and understand.

At this point, we could make a comment about the Town of Comox’s lack of appreciation for its heritage buildings.

But let’s talk about old growth forests, instead.

There are trees in British Columbia that predate Notre Dame by 100 years. We have ecosystems that are thousands of years older than any cathedral or city in Europe. And these ecosystems play important roles in sustaining life on Earth.

But we cut them down every day. There’s no worldwide outcry. Billionaires aren’t lining up to throw money at their restoration and preservation.

These old trees and the forests they inhabit are our best defenders against climate change. They have been called “the lungs of our planet.” They are the providers of immense biodiversity.

There’s a new movement to set a moratorium on old-growth logging in British Columbia. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver supports it.

In spite of that, the NDP provincial government plans to auction off 109 hectares of old-growth forest near the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. If allowed to proceed, timber companies would harvest an estimated 55,346 cubic metres of old-growth from an area known as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada.

That’s roughly about 1,300 loaded logging trucks. It’s bigger and more important to our future than Notre Dame.

So where’s the outrage?

 

Now, for the good news

A large group of Comox Valley-wide stakeholders have partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative to understand and quantify the value of the entire Comox Lake Watershed.

The watershed provides drinking water for a large portion of Valley residents, but it also supplies aquifers, replenishes our streams and supports biodiversity.

Put another way, losing this natural asset would cause a public health and economic catastrophe for the Comox Valley. Recognizing its importance is a solid step toward making intelligent decisions about how best to preserve it.

 

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