Greetings to all. Mudge Islanders,
This quick note will try and provide an update on our on-going land use bylaw (LUB) saga. Yesterday eight Mudge Islanders attended the Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting on Gabriola Island. As advised in an earlier note, the Islands Trust Planning Staff had prepared draft bylaws that would amend both our LUB and Official Community Plan (OCP).
Like most of you who read the document, I was astounded at how far from our original LUB objective this paper seemed to take us. Please recall that all we asked for was a simple change to our LUB to increase our maximum lot coverage from 10%, and redefine what a “Structure” was. A simple analysis of the August 16 Staff Report showed that if adopted, we would be mired in more bureaucratic regulations than we already are. This, the opposite to the preferred manner in which we both like, and are proud to live by. Our mission yesterday was to stop any plan to initiate an action that required opening up our OCP for amendment. That process is time consuming, costly and in many respects, contrary to your wishes.
We went to the meeting with two objectives. The first to request that our Local Trustees reject draft Bylaw 301 out of hand as being unnecessary, and second, to have them give first reading to LUB Draft bylaw 302. This was the amendment that provided a tiered system of maximum lot coverage. We wanted the first reading done yesterday as we were made aware earlier this week that neither of our Trustees, Melanie Mamoser and Heather O’Sullivan are seeking re-election this fall. This is horrible news to Mudge Islanders as Heather and Melanie have been ardent champions for Mudge Island initiatives. We felt that if the process was delayed past the election, we would be compelled to start again.
We spoke at the meeting about what, and how we felt things should progress, stating our goals to all in attendance. We knew it was more than a long shot that we would be successful. Elected officials must rely on the professional advice of their Staff, no matter how much we may disagree. There was a closed “in camera” session at yesterdays meeting where we learned that a legal opinion was presented regarding the Mudge Island OCP/LUB amendments. Once back in session, it became pretty apparent to us that our Trustees were troubled by the legal advice. While not privy to what was actually advised, the gist was that the Trustees could not simply reject one draft bylaw and accept the other. They, by necessity, went together. Moreover, we were advised that even if the Trustees did as we asked, the chance of having the Bylaw approved by the Islands Trust and other legislative agencies was nil.
Sounds really bad so far, however Melanie and Heather came up with an alternative suggestion to relook at the draft Bylaw 299. That was the Bylaw we discussed at our community meeting on Mudge last month. They asked advice from the Planners if this was appropriate, and whether they could make some small amendments to that document. Planning Staff advised that this action was appropriate, and when asked if these proposed changes would require an OCP amendment, they advised that they wouldn’t. While not great news, I admit to feeling more confident that we were again moving in the right direction.
The amendments adopted were (in this I am relying on memory alone so may not have the exact wording correct) to remove the limit on pervious driveways (740 square feet) to simply reflect that pervious driveways, walkways and parking spaces were excluded in the calculation of structures; increasing the size of a wood shed to 150 square feet; and adding another building not to exceed 150 square feet for home agriculture and or food production. Again, these are simply from my notes and may not be exactly the same as what was adopted. Things were happening pretty fast at that point.
Draft bylaw 299 was amended to include these amendments, and received first reading. A motion was made to hold a Community Information Meeting (CIM) on Mudge Island (not sure date but very soon I hope while the weather is still good.) This is really good news for us, at least in my opinion. If the CIM is held soon enough, there is a very real possibility that proposed bylaw 299 could receive second and third readings while Trustees Heather and Melanie are still in office. At this point I think that must be our goal.
So, where are we exactly? The short answer is that we are a lot further ahead than we were one year ago. Did we get everything we wanted? No, but neither did we really expect to. Will the changes satisfy everyone? Probably not, nor did we ever expect to meet that objective.
Our primary goal at the beginning was to increase maximum lot coverage from the current 10%. We soon found that the bigger impediment to us was the very narrow definition of structure which reads, “means any construction and human made land alteration fixed to, supported by, or sunk into land or water; for clarity septic fields, septic tanks, absorption fields and related appurtenances, concrete and asphalt paving or similar surfacing of the land, and retaining structures are considered structures.” Adoption of Proposed bylaw 299 would fix that huge problem.
Frankly, this has been a very long and at times a very frustrating journey to get where we find ourselves today. I am hopeful that we are finally near to completion.
Once we hear the date for the meeting, be assured that we will contact you and let you know the where and when.