By Mike Hager, Vancouver Sun May 21, 2013
Clamour at Cape Roger Curtis, Bowen Island
When construction on the first of four private docks began at an exclusive waterfront development on the southwestern tip of Bowen Island earlier this month, some residents of the idyllic island were shocked.
Now, roughly a quarter of the island’s residents have signed a petition to “Stop the Docks” being built by those set to move into four of 14 waterfront estates at Cape Roger Curtis, an area best known for its prime picnicking and panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia.
“There’s nowhere else on Bowen where you can travel for a kilometre along the shoreline, because most of it’s highbank,” said the Stop the Docks movement’s spokeswoman Melissa Harrison. “There are beaches, but they’re not big and where they are big they’re very developed.”
The 42-year-old said she has enjoyed walking the rocky beach with her two boys since moving to the island four years ago and is worried the docks, some as high as six metres above the water’s edge at low tide, will impede the public’s enjoyment of the area.
“It will be a massive man-made structure on a beach that is currently totally natural,” Harrison said.
The movement’s website claims each of the four proposed docks are “as long as the Queen of Capilano, the ferry which connects Bowen Island to the mainland.”
Harrison and her coalition acknowledged that the four property owners applied “through proper channels” to build their private docks and received the necessary environmental and leasing approvals from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
For almost 40 years, Bowen Island has had no regulation of its residential docks, with foreshore leases regulated by the provincial government.
A staff review of Bowen Island’s dock and moorage bylaws was initiated by councillor and Stop the Docks supporter Andrew Stone with the hopes of rewriting the planning bylaw and stopping further dock development.
The staff review will be presented to council next week, but Stop the Docks coalition isn’t waiting.
It is asking developer Don Ho — who kicked off the uproar by starting his dock earlier this month and whose Trans City Group is building the $118-million development — to “be a good neighbour” and voluntarily abandon the project. The 14 oceanfront estates are the first phase of what will eventually be 59 lots of single-family homes.
Ho said the campaign against his company and the other property owners is spreading misinformation and that he has no plans to stop building his dock, which will have a 36-foot float to moor his 37-foot boat.
“Why should I (stop)? I’m not going to stop because I know my own rights and I know I’m not doing anything negative to the environment,” he said. “We have been guided by the consultants as to what we should do and they have confirmed already that all these concerns have been addressed and there is no mitigation necessary because of what we have done.
“So we won’t have any negative impact on the environment by our construction.”
After buying the property in 2004 for $16 million, Ho had been looking for significant density in exchange for reserving a large portion of the property as a park. (In 2010, B.C. Assessment valued the property at $27.7 million.)
Ho said the islanders opposing his dock are the same ones still smarting from his development of the waterfront after his application to rezone 248 hectares on Bowen’s southwestern tip for 600 housing units failed in 2009.
“They have been using the land for the last three decades and considered it as their own private land or a public park, but as a matter of fact we did have the right to develop in accordance with the zoning and all the bylaws.”
Bowen Island Mayor Jack Adelaar said some former councillors now behind the petition are the same people who “gave up control of the foreshore, all of the foreshore” when they failed to negotiate on Ho’s earlier, denser development.
“As a municipality they’ve done us great harm, these people who are now doing this petition,” Adelaar said. “And it is harm in perpetuity.”
Adelaar said Ho’s dock is “being painted as a project that could be halted by the municipality, but what are the reasons that we’d be halting it?”
“We’ve done everything we can to ensure that there’s the least amount of disruption to the foreshore, but we don’t have control over anything else.”
Harrison said roughly a quarter of the island’s 3,362 residents have signed the petition and are now hoping that council stops future dock construction by the 10 other owners with waterfront property on Cape Roger Curtis.
“They need to rezone as quickly as possible for that piece of shore to be a no-dock zone,” Harrison said.
She said it’s their prerogative to rezone, pointing to West Vancouver, Belcarra and the district of North Vancouver as leaders in protecting their foreshore.
“(They) have put moratoriums on dock construction and now have specific targets with residential moorage because they recognize the value of the foreshore to the public, including the waterfront owners,” she said.
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