Courtenay Chief Administration Officer David Allen at the city’s first ‘complete street’ project | Photo by George Le Masurier
City CAO David Allen focuses on sustainable asset management
Wide-ranging urban expansion has left municipal taxpayers with growing unfunded long-term debt for the infrastructure required by water, sewer, stormwater and other services. But a relatively new framework for management of public assets hopes to change that.
Courtenay Chief Administration Officer David Allen was part of a small group in 2008 that developed this system for managing public assets that provides for service and financial sustainability. It is now used by almost every municipality in British Columbia.
“The goal is sustainable service delivery; to avoid service failures,” Allen told Decafnation. “By moving to a proactive rather than reactive approach to maintenance, we can keep the infrastructure in good shape based on what the community wants and can afford.”
The provincial and federal governments regulate water and sewer standards through statutory regulations. But other things that have value, like quality of life services and stormwater, have not been regulated and the standards are discretionary.
“Therefore, City Council and the public must agree on what services are provided and at what levels of service, compared to the price the public is willing to pay,” Allen said.
Green infrastructure, for example, reduces a municipalities’ dependence on hard engineering in the future, and it does not depreciate and requires less maintenance, he said.
“It also does not have to be replaced in the future,” Allen said. “So it also extends the life of existing infrastructure.”
The city has been working with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), which attempts to place a value on a municipalities’ natural assets. The Public Sector Accounting Board is working on a shift in official accounting methods to allow for this approach.
“We are using these methods to develop ways to use a combination of engineered assets and natural assets to replace our existing stormwater and flood management systems,” Allen said.
Infrastructure has no value by itself; its value is the service it provides, Allen says.
In 2009, the Public Sector Accounting Board required municipalities to record the value of their tangible assets, not including their natural assets, and only the original or historical costs. It did not consider replacement value in today’s dollars.
The whole Comox Valley has somewhere near $400 million in unfunded infrastructure liabilities, the backlog of foregone capital renewal and maintenance.
“Consequently, those numbers are not realistic and grossly undervalued,” Allen said.
It’s like owning a house or a car, according to Allen. Regular maintenance means no surprising big bills and inevitable down time later.
The Asset Management BC framework corrects this misunderstanding and allows for improved long-term financial planning by identifying what truly needs to be renewed, when that should happen and how much it will actually cost.
The infrastructure deficit is related to the municipal share of the property tax bill, which is about eight percent.
“It’s too low,” Allen said, “because the nature of the services that municipalities deliver are far more dependent on capital assets than other levels of government.”
“Those numbers are not realistic and grossly undervalued”
For example, in most western nations the national governments use capital assets to deliver their services that are valued at approximately the same amount as their total annual revenue. Provincial or state governments have capital assets worth approximately three times their total annual revenues.
But to deliver local government services, municipalities typically own capital assets worth 10 or more times their annual revenue.
Some communities — like Victoria and Richmond — have created new utility functions for stormwater to fund the maintenance and replacement of its infrastructure. In most communities, however, those bills are paid out of general taxation, and most years there hasn’t been enough.
But the Asset Management BC framework, which Courtenay has adopted, guides the city to undertake infrastructure conditions assessment, and to assess each asset’s risk of failure. This way, the city can prioritize its maintenance schedule and avoid a major service failure.
When city workers recently dug up a street in one of Courtenay’s oldest neighbourhoods, they found the stormwater pipe under the street they needed to repave was in good condition; it would last for another 30 years. Since pavement only lasts for 20 years, they left the pipe in the ground and plan to replace it the next time the street needs repaving.
Understanding the actual condition of stormwater pipes, Allen says, can prevent premature replacement, so available resources can be directed to those assets that need replacement or to reserves for future renewal when it’s necessary.
“We want to replace infrastructure only when necessary,” Allen said. “Otherwise, we’re wasting money.”
THE MUNICIPAL NATURAL ASSETS INITIATIVE
The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.
Asset management—the process of inventorying a community’s existing assets, determining the current state of those assets, and preparing and implementing a plan to maintain or replace those assets—allows municipalities to make informed decisions regarding a community’s assets and finances.
Unfortunately, local governments lack policies to measure and manage one class of assets: natural assets. Natural assets are ecosystem features that provide, or could be restored to provide, services just like the other engineered assets, but historically have not been considered on equal footing or included in asset management plans.
Read more about MNAI
WHAT IS A NATURAL ASSET?
The term ‘Municipal Natural Assets’ refers to the stocks of natural resources or ecosystems that contribute to the provision of one or more services required for the health, well-being, and long-term sustainability of a community and its residents.
WHAT IS THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS (EAP)?
Ecological Accounting Process — “The EAP approach begins by first recognizing the importance of a stream in a natural state and then asking: how can we maintain those ecological values while allowing the stream to be used for drainage,” says Jim Dumont, Engineering Applications Authority with the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
ASSET MANAGEMENT BC
Learn more about this organization here
With tension thick in the boardroom, with accusations of lies and corruption, slander flying back and forth, and despite 3L Developments’ last-minute tactic through Mano Theos to salvage their Riverwood subdivision, the application to amend the Regional Growth Strategy failed on a 6-4 vote
Tomorrow: In moments of high drama, directors reveal themselves
It took a dramatic three-hour board meeting fraught with accusations of lies, corruption and slander, unruly citizens standing and shouting from the gallery, several points of order and a last-minute, desperate power play, but the Comox Valley Regional District finally denied, with a 6-4 vote, an application by 3L Developments to amend the Regional Growth Strategy in their favor.
The tension was already thick in the cramped CVRD boardroom when Kathleen Pitt stepped to the podium to speak in favor of the 3L application, and then her animosity toward the board took the atmosphere to a whole other level.
Pitt attacked the board for fumbling 3L’s bid to build about 1,000 houses in the Puntledge River triangle, near Stotan Falls, suggesting there were “back room deals” and said directors told “lies” and insinuated widespread “corruption” at the CVRD.
When Pitt referenced a human rights violation by a director not at the board table, Cumberland Director Gwyn Sproule called for a “point of order,” suggesting the comments crossed over into slander. Area A Director and Board Chair Bruce Joliffe paused the meeting and Pitt eventually apologized.
But the dramatics were just getting underway.
Speaking against the 3L application, Lisa Christensen accused 3L of bullying and other nefarious tactics to force the CVRD into approving their Riverwood subdivision. That caused a man in the gallery to stand, point at the speaker and shout, “This isn’t slander?”
Joliffe stopped the meeting again to tell everyone to “calm down.” The man grabbed his coat and left the room, and not long after that Pitt also left with other 3L supporters.
The board eventually got down to business and the gallery quieted down, temporarily.
On the table were reports from the CVRD Technical Advisory Committee and the 3L Steering Committee that both recommended the board deny the 3L application at first reading. You can read the reports here or here.
But 3L had also asked the board to postpone first reading and extend the timeframe for considering their application by around six months. Company spokesperson Mark Holland said the company had applied in 2014 when certain studies on traffic and environmental concerns weren’t required as they are in 2017. 3L has not completed these studies.
That’s when Alternate Area C Director Curtis Scoville brought a sharp focus to the board discussion.
Scoville said it sounded like the board was discussing two separate issues: one, the application by 3L to amend the RGS to create a new settlement node; and, two, a desire by some directors to review and update the RGS.
“Shouldn’t we treat these two separately?” he asked.
Alana Mullaly, the CVRD’s Manager of Planning Services, responded that the key difference between Scoville’s two issues was that an RGS document would be reviewed when the board felt key principles were no longer valid, that it’s goals weren’t current or that the community no longer shared a value expressed in the RGS.
But, she said, the CVRD’s Regional Growth Strategy is the only RGS in the province that allows applications for amendment from a private third party, such as 3L. In the other regional districts, only a member municipality — for example, Comox, Cumberland or Courtenay — could apply to amend an RGS.
Comox Director Barbara Price then made a motion to approve the staff recommendation to deny the 3L application.
But before the board finishing discussing the motion and called for a vote, Courtenay Director Mano Theos suddenly announced he had “new information from the applicant.”
That surprised everyone because it was the first indication from Theos that he had such information. He was seated directly in front of the 3L owner and representatives, about three feet away.
Theos asked the board to allow 3L spokesperson Mark Holland, a Vancouver urban planner hired by the company just days before the meeting, to speak.
Holland told the board that if it proceeded to a vote on first reading, as per Price’s motion, without first considering 3L’s request for a postponement and extension, then 3L would withdraw its application entirely. He said the company didn’t want to be judged on 2017 requirements when they had applied in 2014.
The gallery, which by that time comprised mostly 3L opponents, rose back to life with rumblings of delight: “Perfect, withdraw,” and “exactly what we want.”
After much more discussion, Erik Eriksson voted with Larry Jangula, Mano Theos and Ken Grant to oppose the motion, but the six other directors voted in favor.
3L Developments can still reapply to amend the RGS, but they have a narrow window to do so.
The CVRD is itself in the process of amending the Regional Growth Strategy to no longer allow private party applications to amend the document. That will bring the Valley’s RGS in line with the province’s other regional districts.
That amendment could pass as early as next month.
PHOTO: Andreas Ruttkiewicz and student pilot land an ultralight at the Courtenay Airpark. Ruttkiewicz runs the Air Speed High Ultralight flight school at the airpark.
Courtenay abandons 21st Street river crossing thanks to Mayor Jangula, but city staff and council temporarily ground his proposal to give long-term certainly to airpark business owners at Monday’s meeting
This article was expanded Tuesday (Aug. 21) morning to add a response from the Airpark Association suggesting that Councillor Lennox made an erroneous statement regarding the airpark’s tax status.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula took a conciliatory approach Monday night to concerns raised by members of the Airpark Association and successfully landed a unanimous agreement from council to abandon all discussions of a third river crossing at 21st Street.
But his attempt to address the larger issue of the airpark’s long-term viability crashed on takeoff.
A city proposal for a road through the airpark leading to a bridge through Hollyhock Marsh, and staff comments that all airpark leases would be converted to a month-to-month basis, has angered Courtenay Airpark Association members and aviation business owners.
FURTHER READING: Courtenay mayor fails to assuage airpark closure fears; Courtenay airpark touts its economic, lifestyle benefits; Battle brewing over city’s transportation master plan; City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum
They see the two issues as an attempt by the city to shut down the airpark.
Jangula tried to calm the airpark association’s fears last week, but his comments fell short.
This week, Jangula stepped down from the mayor’s chair to clarify his position with a motion that City Council officially abandon all consideration of a bridge at 21st Street. It passed unanimously.
Then Jangula tackled the bigger issue and proposed that the city offer the Airpark Association and aviation businesses 25-40 year leases on the city-owned property.
That got applause from the standing-room only audience, but less support from city staff and several council members.
Chief Administrative Officer David Allen derailed Jangula’s intentions to give the airpark immediate long-term assurances by suggesting council wait for city staff to do a report on the viability of offering long-term leases.
Councillor Doug Hillian made a motion to direct staff to do such a report, preferably by the Sept. 4 meeting, which passed, but not without some hesitation by councillors David Frisch, Rebecca Lennox and Hillian.
Hillian said council has “a responsibility to consider the implications of long-term use of city-owned properties.”
Frisch and Lennox seemed more reluctant in their comments. At one point, Lennox even referenced the Airpark Associations “tax-free status,” which is an erroneous statement, according to association president Morris Perrey.
“She is totally wrong,” Perrey said. “The businesses pay land taxes and lease fees and all the fees that every business pays, all the city insurance costs, everything and the city still gets their fees.”
Perrey said because the Airpark Association is a society and not supposed to pay taxes, the city charges the association fees in lieu, which have increased about 15 percent in the last five years.
Earlier in the meeting, Frisch appeared opposed to taking a 21st Street bridge off the table, although he ultimately voted in favor.
“We still have to move people around,” he said, referring to growing traffic congestion around the 17th St. and Fifth St. bridges.
CAO Allen said one of city staff’s strategic priorities for 2016-2018 is to assess city-owned land, and they have already identified several properties to start the review. He said it would be a “long and rigorous” process, and that discussions have already taken place in-camera.
Besides Jangula, two other council members, Bob Wells and Hillian, apologized to Airpark Association members.
Hillian called the public document showing a bridge through the airpark a ”mistake.”
Wells apologized for “the angst, stress and uncertainty we’ve put people through.”
He said the city acted without full consideration of how the 21st Street crossing proposal impacted the aviation community.
CAO Allen said the bridge proposal was never expected to be a fait accompli, and a staff member said the idea arose from the public consultation process about the city’s transportation plan.
That staff member termed the consultation process a “success” because it got the strong reaction from the Airpark Association. That comment caused eye-rolling murmurs among the audience.
Finally, Jangula made a motion to break from the agenda and let Airpark Association spokesman Dave Mellin speak and respond to the council discussion so far. That required a two-thirds vote, which it received, with Lennox and Frisch opposing it.
Referring to the uncertainty of short-term leases, Mellin said jobs and job security were on the line. Up to 90 people are employed at the airpark, depending on the season.
He said several business expansion plans have been stalled by council’s lack of clarity, and that five-year leases are of no value to the aviation businesses seeking long-term security.
“People are hanging out on a limb here,” he said.
PHOTO: Dave Mellin inspects a de Havilland Beaver float plane being reconstructed at International Aeroproducts Inc., a widely known business in the aviation community located at the Courtenay Airpark
Courtenay Airpark Association members say City Council members don’t fully appreciate the depth of their concerns and were disappointed Mayor Larry Jangula didn’t “clear the air” and give them unequivocal support
The Courtenay Airpark Association told its story to City Council Tuesday afternoon, of how the aviation community benefits the community, as a means of ferreting out the city’s long-term intentions for the Airpark.
But council members either didn’t fully comprehend the association’s concerns or they are not as committed to preserving and supporting the Airpark as they were when writing the 2016 Official Community Plan (OCP).
Courtenay Airpark Association (CAA) President Morris Perrey hoped the meeting would give aviation business owners and private aircraft owners clarity about their future. Fears that the city is trying to close the Airpark run deeply through the association, and among pilots around the B.C. coast who use the airport.
He was disappointed that didn’t happen because of what appears to be a disconnect between council and city staff.
Council apparently thought the issue was only a third crossing proposal that would dissect the Airpark, when the real issue is what association members perceive as a broader, coordinated scheme of small steps to squeeze the Airpark out of existence.
FURTHER READING: Who is trying to close the Airpark?
In response to a presentation made by Dave Mellin on behalf of the CAA, several council members downplayed the so-called “Option B” in the proposed 2018 update to the city’s Master Transportation Plan.
That option shows a third crossing that runs a road through the Airpark and a new bridge through the middle of a provincially protected wetlands in the heart of the K’omoks Estuary, known as Hollyhocks Marsh.
Council member and mayoral candidate David Frisch said the 21st Street crossing idea was not much more than an arrow on a map.
“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here,” he said, referring to, in part, the concerns of an overflow crowd of Airpark supporters spilling out of the council chambers.
Councillor Doug Hillian said he was as surprised as the association’s members to learn about the 21st Street proposal, and said he had no intention of jeopradizing the Airpark or the estuary.
“Sometimes mistakes are made,” he said. “This is one.”
Council members kept their remarks brief so Mayor Larry Jangula could read a prepared statement, which he prefaced by saying it would answer all their concerns.
Except it didn’t.
Jangula addressed the third bridge crossing by saying it was only a study and that no part of the plan, including the 21st Street bridge, would become reality without extensive stakeholder process and council’s approval.
But he did not say that “Option B” was off the table.
And he added a claim that no commercial or private tenants on the Airpark had been converted to month-to-month leases. The city was merely trying to align all the various leases to expire at the same time for administration efficiency.
That caused rumblings in the audience and prompted Mellin to contradict the mayor.
“We have several people in the audience who are on month-to-month leases now,” he said. “I can have them come up (to speak).”
It was obvious the council had misjudged the mood of the CAA and its supporters.
“The mayor had an opportunity to clear the air and put this to rest,” said Dave Bazett, a land surveyor who owns a building in the 21st Street path and hangars two aircraft that he uses for his land surveying business. “But he didn’t do it.”
Bazett said association members wanted to hear council say they will protect and encourage growth at the Airpark, as per their OCP, and “despite what pilots may have heard from staff, council supports you.”
“Instead, we got a rather aggressive statement (from the mayor),” Bazett said, adding that it seemed like Jangula was blaming staff for the disconnect.
And Bazett said in an earlier private phone conversation with Jangula, the mayor said the Airpark was going to get developed sooner or later.
Decafnation asked Jangula about that conversation, but he has yet to reply.
Several association members pondered whether city staff was going in a direction of shutting down the Airpark without the full consent of a divided City Council.
CAA President Perrey said that Courtenay Chief Administrative Officer Dave Allen told him, with two other association members present, that all leases were going on a month-to-month basis when their terms come up.
Allen is currently on summer vacation.
From the association’s perspective the monthly leases, the bridge proposal, denials of commercial building expansion and construction, red tape that has stalled float plane ramp reconstruction and other issues all add up to an effort to close the Airpark.
Perrey said the CAA didn’t get the clarity and unequivocal support they had hoped from City Council.
“This is going to be an election issue, for sure,” he said, reiterating a statement Mellin made during his presentation.
FURTHER READING: Battle brewing over transportation plan; City bridge proposal would harm Airpark, Kus-kus-sum
An overwhelming majority of directors defeated a motion to consider an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy via the”minor process” to enable 3L Developments 740-house community near Stotan Falls. But this is still an early round in the 11-year saga
NOTE: this story was updated July 26 to report that 3L Development has decided to proceed with its request for an amendment to the RGS despite the CVRD board deciding it would only do so via the standard amendment process, and to correct the vote total as 7-3 against.
Common sense prevailed at the Comox Valley Regional District board meeting yesterday, July 24, as directors voted 7-3 to reject considering a proposed amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy via an expedited process.
Only Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula, Courtenay Councillor Mano Theos and Comox Councillor Ken Grant voted in favor. The vote required a two-thirds majority for passage, so it failed overwhelmingly.
The CVRD did, however, vote unanimously to initiate the amendment process, which 3L Developments requested as a first step in a long process to build a 740-house new community near Stotan Falls.
3L spokesperson Kabel Atwall has said repeatedly that the company would only proceed via the minor amendment process, but it announced on July 25 that it would continue with its application via the standard process, which involves consultations with neighboring regional districts as well as local governments and the public.
3L said after the meeting it would make an announcement this morning, July 25.
The two votes yesterday, were narrowly focused on whether to consider amending the RGS at all, and, if so, whether it qualified as a minor or standard process by the rules the directors themselves have written into the bylaw.
It was not a vote on the merits of the proposed development, known as Riverwood.
That point seemed to escape directors Larry Jangula and Mano Theos who argued in favor of going the minor process based on a shortage of available building lots, job creation and 3L Developments offer to donate land for a public park surrounding the popular Stotan Falls swimming area.
“Think of the jobs and housing we’ll lose if we shoot this down,” Jangula said.
Area B Director Rod Nichol, who voted against the minor process, set Jangula straight.
“We’re not here to shoot it down,” Nichol said. “We’re deciding to go minor or standard.”
Grant at least kept his comments in support of the minor process on topic.
But it wasn’t only Jangula and Theos who didn’t understand the question before the board, all seven of the pro-development speakers also argued based on housing shortages and a desire for a public park, not whether the 3L application met the minor process criteria.
Only long-time Comox Valley realtor Dale McCartney even mentioned the minor versus standard amendment process question. He dismissed the standard process because he said the decision should be made solely within the Comox Valley.
How we got here
3L Developments first proposed a new, self-contained community on 550 acres between the Browns and Puntledge rivers in 2007. The CVRD rejected it while developing its Regional Growth Strategy, but was later told by the BC Supreme Court to give the proposal a fuller consideration.
Because the Riverwood community isn’t included in the Regional Growth Strategy, 3L applied to have the RGS amended.
The CVRD is the only regional district in the province to allow developers or other private parties to apply for RGS amendments. In all other regional districts, only another government entity can apply to amend the RGS.
The CVRD passed first reading of its own amendment to the RGS at yesterday’s meeting to change that element of its growth bylaw, which will bring the Comox Valley in line with the rest of British Columbia.
At two previous Committee of the Whole meetings, which are not full-board meetings, a majority of directors first rejected recommending the minor process on July 10, then voted in favor of recommending it to the full board at a second meeting on July 17.
Yesterday was the first time the full board had considered the amendment issue.
Courtenay Councillor Bob Wells, Nichol and Area A Director Bruce Jolliffe changed their votes from pro-minor on July 17 to against it yesterday and swung the majority toward a standard process.
Wells, Nichol and Jolliffe probably heard from constituents aghast at how they could ignore clearly written criteria for a minor process, none of which the 3L Development proposal meets.
Their votes also rankled Mayor Jangula, who told radio station 98.9 The Goat, that he found it “amazing” the directors would change their vote due to “I think, the psychological pressure of all the opposed people.”
Jangula reportedly said he didn’t consider that good leadership. By “that,” he seemed to refer to listening to other points of view.
Record number of delegations
At the top of yesterday’s meeting, the board agreed to hear more than its usual number of delegations, including several that had applied to speak after the deadline.
Seven of those spoke in favor of the minor process by way of supporting the Riverwood development, and the five who were opposed stayed mostly on topic.
Diana Schroeder, a 10-year Valley resident asked for clarification of the issues before the board. She asked if the question was whether to allow the development or to accept the park land. She was told no, the question is about the process.
“Oh,” she said, “because I was confused. All the previous speakers were talking about parks.”
Kabel Atwall, speaking for 3L Developments, not as a delegation, said it’s been 11 years and many confusing missteps, which concerned him because “it’s our side that has to point them out.” He said without an amendment to the RGS, 3L would not offer up land for a Stotan Falls park. He said Riverwood would address the Valley’s housing shortage. He read a letter of support from Central Builders Home Hardware.
Atwall claimed the company will make a $780 million capital investment in Riverwood. If they develop 1,000 lots, that’s an investment of $780,000 per lot before house construction and operating profit.
D. Eliason, who owns a home improvement company, said his family was “pigeon-holed to a lot in Crown Isle” when he moved here because there wasn’t anything else available. If Riverwood was available, he would have preferred it. He praised the parkland offer and asked the board to expedite the process.
Greg Hart, the managing broker of Royal LePage, said the Valley has had a critical shortage of houses on the market since 2016.
“If you want to talk affordable housing, we to talk about supply,” he said. “Because local people can’t afford them”
Hart said the Valley “needs product on the market.”
Dale McCartney said there was no such thing as urban sprawl in the Comox Valley.
Ken and Gladys Schmidt, who live near the Riverwood site, says the Stotan Falls area is a parking nightmare now, with garbage strewn around and toilet paper hanging from trees. A developed park with parking lots and sanitation would improve that.
N. Strussi, who described himself as a sportsman, offered directors a tour of the area he has roamed since he was a kid. He wondered why we have to have so much bureaucracy.
P. Walker, a retired airline pilot, complained about how the CVRD handled his own small land development project south of the Trent River. He called 3L founder David Dutcyvich “a visionary” who is handing the CVRD a complete package. He urged the board to fast track the proposal before there’s a “ferris wheel” on the property.
L. Wilson has lived in the area for 45 years and called herself an avid hunter and outdoors person. She said a park near Stotan Falls would provide sanctuary for wildlife, such as deer, that are being driven into cities by diminishing habitat.
“People love to see deer in their yards,” she said.
Diana Schroeder was the first of several speakers to address the issue before the board. She said there was no “wiggle room” in the criteria for a minor amendment to the RGS. To consider the 3L proposal via the minor process “mocks the intent of the Regional Growth Strategy.”
She raised questions about water, fire protection, public transit, compatibility with Courtenay’s Urban Forest Strategy, and other topics.
“These are questions that can only be answered by the standard amendment process,” she said. “And it should take time. The 3L proposal will change the Comox Valley forever.”
D. Bostock suggested the rural Official Community Plan offers other means of preserving land for a park at Stotan Falls. She called the Browns River watershed critical, and, with the Puntledge, provides a natural urban containment, which preserves the rural character surrounding our cities. She disputed 3L’s claims of job creation, saying they can only transfer density from other existing settlement areas, which would then lose construction jobs.
Grant Gordon said the old north Island regional district was divided into two, creating the CVRD, because Courtenay, Comox and Campbell River didn’t like north Island directors interfering with their planning. He said the compromise was the Regional Growth Strategy to sustain our rural areas. He said all the pro-3L speakers were out of order because they didn’t address the issues at hand, and he claimed the municipal directors have too much power over Area A, B and C directors.
Lisa Christianson said she opposes developments that skirt proper procedures for expediency. Since Riverwood would have a major impact on the Valley, she said there’s no way it should qualify for a minor process. She questioned a concern of some directors to get the amendment process completed by the Oct. 20 municipal elections. She was confident that new directors will be competent to deal with the issue.
Wendy Morin, who has lived her entire 55 years in the Valley, said while she’s sympathetic to the affordable housing argument, she said it’s “unfathomable” that the 3L application could fit the minor process criteria. She noted the staff report that said the current settlement areas are not close to capacity and she worried about issues such as water consumption and the city’s Urban Forest Strategy.
The CVRD will immediately notify neighboring regional districts in Nanaimo, Powell River and Strancona of an upcoming RGS amendment proposal for their comment.
CVRD staff will begin working on a consultation plan and time frame for the board to review at its August meeting.
The City of Courtenay may recommend a third bridge as part of its 2018 transportation master plan, but Project Watershed will oppose any crossing of the Courtenay River south of 17th Street
A battle is brewing over how to improve the flow of traffic through Courtenay and across the Courtenay River without destroying established businesses and key portions of the K’omoks estuary.
The fight could pit the city against Project Watershed, K’omoks First Nations, business owners at the Courtenay Airpark and others over a proposed third crossing at 21st St., which would close the airpark, destroy portions of the estuary and have devastating effects on the Kus-kus-sum restoration.
The city is developing a much-needed transportation master plan that will guide City Councils over the next 20 years on where to invest in new infrastructure and how to meet the transportation needs of a growing population.
The plan is long overdue, and the failure of the city to develop such a plan in the past has limited the city’s options today to meet future transportation requirements.
Mayor Larry Jangula and some council members have downplayed a consultant’s report that recommends the 21st St. crossing as simply “a concept.” But Project Watershed and airpark business owners worry that a ho-hum attitude could result in the “concept” being enshrined in the master plan.
In a strong letter to the mayor and council, Project Watershed has said it will oppose any third crossing of the Courtenay River south of 17th St.
“This route, which would go through wetlands, across agricultural lands and creeks in order to hook up with Comox Road and then eventually Macdonald Road, is ill advised in the extreme,” wrote Project Watershed Chair Paul Horgen.
“The permanent damage that would be done to sensitive ecological areas, including Hollyhock Marsh, Glen Urquhart and Mallard Creeks, as well as Dike Slough by such a project, is unacceptable. This additional crossing would also affect those that enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded by the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon trails, Horgen said in his letter.
Horgen said the city should appreciate the sensitive habitat values of the area and the importance of conserving key eco-assets.
The city is a full partner with the nonprofit and K’omoks First Nation in the restoration of the old Fields Sawmill site, known as Kus-kus-sum.
In response, Mayor Jangula seemed to indicate there was no cause for alarm.
“I understand your concerns. This was simply a report on transportation plans with suggestions on where to place a third crossing,” Jangula wrote. “The City has no plans at this time to build another bridge. The idea is conceptual.”
That provided little comfort for Project Watershed.
“Thanks for your early response Mayor Jangula. Our deep concern is that this non-viable and ill-informed Option B crossing, being a conceptual report or not, will continue to persist in future planning documents, as these things have been shown to do in the past,” Horgen responded. “Our preference would be to see it removed entirely from this process.”
How was the recommendations developed?
According to a fact sheet published by city staff, the City has explored several alternative crossings of the Courtenay River beyond the 5th Street and 17th Street bridges since 2005.
Public feedback has indicated that growth pressures on the crossings, downtown and northeast areas, as well specifically Ryan Road and Highway 19A Bypass were areas of concern.
But most of the city’s options for a third crossing have been eliminated by a “combination of previous decisions and studies along with technical review in 2018 … due to impacts and/or changes to localized conditions (including 3rd Street, 6th Street, 8th Street, 11th Street, 13th Street, 19th Street, and 20th Street).”
That left crossing alternatives at 21st Street and 29th Street, but “preliminary investigations and stakeholder meetings resulted in eliminating 29th Street from further review largely based on the reduced traffic diversion that would be expected, as well as the significant costs and high environmental impacts.”
That last statement is ironic according to Project Watershed Technical Director Dan Bowen.
“Project Watershed has worked hard to secure the old sawmill site to restore the shoreline of the Courtenay River. The option B flies in the face of all the city’s support of the Kus Kus Sum,” Bowen has said. “The wetland salt marsh ecosystem must be kept as a unit for connectivity of plant species and fish channels.”
Morris Perry, a spokesperson for the Courtenay Airpark, says the community benefits from the facility and supports it. He points to a May 2015 poll by the Comox Valley Record in which 93.7 percent of respondents said the Airpark should stay.
“Lots of votes here and, yes, lots of retired air force families that love the airpark and the green space it provides,” Perry wrote in a comment on Decafnation. “Oh yes, and no cost to the taxpayer as its 100 percent maintained by volunteers and of course all the jobs it provides working on aircraft from companies all over North America, not just Harbour Air.”
Courtenay city staff will present final recommendations for the transportation master plan in the fall. The current council will consider the plan, including any changes they want before final adoption.
However, future council members will decide to proceed with specific recommendations in the plan and fund them through the annual budgeting process.
FURTHER READING: City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum; Project Watershed, K’omoks First Nations to restore sawmill site