Draft bylaw amendment

Another mile stone for the MICS building project

Draft Bylaw 299

July 8, 2018

Good Afternoon Mudge Island neighbours,


This memo is a follow up to the short note I sent on July 6, 2018 where I posted a copy of the Draft Bylaw 299, a bylaw to amend Mudge Island Land Use Bylaw 2007.  I have been asked by a number of you if I could provide thoughts on this draft bylaw, given my involvement from the beginning of this process.


As stated in the memo of July 6, I admit to being profoundly disappointed with the draft in its current form.  I recognize that this is simply a draft as recommended by the Planners, and that the Trustees have the discretion to either accept, modify or rejectanything or everything as presented.  Saying that, I truly felt that we were a lot closer to finding a mutually agreeable solution to our maximum lot coverage, than has been presented to the Trustees, and us.


From the onset of this initiative, it was apparent to all of us that two specific actions were needed to bring our bylaws into more real, and livable realities.  The first was to increase the maximum lot coverage for the lots under one acre in size to 20%.  The second was to redefine what constituted a “Structure” with specific exceptions being identified.  This was the work that a tremendous number of you partook in.


The planners have looked at only one piece of these needed changes.  In short, it is recommended by the Planners that the maximum lot coverage be held to 10%.  As a reminder, to the best of my knowledge, there is no other Islands Trust Local Trust Area that is held to this 10% for the small RR lots.  The norm for small Rural Residential (RR) is 20%, with significant exceptions to what is actually factored into the maximum coverage calculations.  It is not my plan to rehash all previous arguments in this memo.  That is something we can all do at the public meetings.  However, let us all be reminded that Gabriola Island has a RR density of 20% and use that as a starting point.


The draft does in fact correct a lot of errors or omissions made at the time Mudge Land Use Bylaw (LUB) 2007 was adopted.   For ease I have listed these changes below as they appear in the draft bylaw, with comments as needed.  A few of theses changes were in fact recommended by the Mudge Island APC.


3. PART 5. ZONE PROVISIONS, Section 5.1 Rural Residential (RR), is amended by adding the

following as Subsection 5.1(4.1):


(4.1) For the purpose of Subsection 5.1(4) above, the following buildings and

structures shall not be included when calculating lot coverage:


(a) cisterns, dugouts, ponds, and similar catchment systems for the collection and storage of water;   This change is absolutely needed and supported and recommended by the APC.
(b) Fences;  While a nice change, to my thinking it was ridiculous that this is currently counted.
(c) Fire-fighting water towers;  I get it, though am not sure we will see enough of these to warrant a change.
(d) Garden beds;  The fact that we have to identify gardens as being excluded again speaks to the truth about how ridiculous that these were counted as being structures to begin with.
(e) Up to 68.75 square metres (740 square feet) of pervious ground-level foot paths, driveways and parking spaces;  While our community supported excluding pervious driveways and walkways, we saw no need for a maximum square foot allowance.  A number of people on this island will continue to exceed this number simply owing to the configuration of their lots.
(f) On lots less than 0.40 hectares (1 acre), up to 100 square metres (1076 square feet) of outdoor, unenclosed decks;  Discussions within the APC and by our community centred on whether decks, enclosed or otherwise should be listed at all.  Either included or excluded.  The decision was to exclude any reference to decks as whatever was built would fall into the definition of structure, and be subject to the 20% maximum.  I think our community chose the correct path as the way I see this as written now, is that those with larger lots (close to, but under one acre), are actually disadvantaged.  The second really strong argument against this proposal is that there is no stipulation about whether these are ground level or not, whether they are constructed of pervious or impervious material.  You will recall that this was one of the main reasons why we rejected addition of any reference to decks in our recommendations.  A third argument against this proposal is, what happens if I don’t want a deck, but would rather construct a much needed storage shed of the same maximum square feet?  The answer is that one is permitted, yet the other rejected, which is confusing as both impact lot coverage.  
(g) Pump/utility houses;  This proposal is in italics as Pump/utility houses are listed in the definitions section of our current LUB.  As with other points on this list, a pump/unity house is pretty much mandatory on this island.  We all felt that these should have always been exempted.  It is important for us to understand that pump/utility houses are in fact one building, with a maximum floor area no greater than 10 square metres (107.6 square feet).  
(h) Retaining walls;  as above, these, when necessary should never have been included in the calculation of lot coverage.
(i) Septic tanks, sewage absorption fields, and related sewage-disposal system appurtenances below ground;  We may speak more on this at the meeting, but suffice to say that these should have never been included in the calculation of lot coverage.
(j) Signs;  I have no clue why it is necessary to add signs to our LUB.
(k) Utilities;  This too is in italics as there is a definition of utilities in our LUB.  For ease, the definition reads:  “UTILITIES means a use providing for pipes and transmission lines for water, sewer, electricity and communication.   Frankly, until this was brought to our attention with this draft bylaw, I had not thought that our underground power, water and telephone cables counted.  Obviously this is a needed change, but shows just how unrealistic our current LUB is.
(l) One woodshed with a floor area no greater than 10 square metres (107.6 square feet);  As with decks, we did discuss woodsheds, but again felt that as long as its size was calculated towards the maximum 20% lot coverage, there was no need to specifically identify these at all.  Saying that, most of us use wood for heating in the winter months.  A woodshed of 100 square feet wouldn’t hold near enough dry wood to make it through the winter.  Though, as I read the proposal there is no height stipulated as is done with pump/utility houses, so maybe we could have a two or three story one.  Perhaps a question for Thursday.
(m) Wells.  We never addressed wells at all in our discussions.  We honestly never thought to.  Though as cisterns have been exempted, it makes sense that wells be excluded as well.


Like the vast majority of you, I am convinced that we need to increase our maximum lot density to a more realistic 20%.  The Planners suggest that increasing lot coverage would run afoul of our Mudge Island Official Community Plan (OCP).  I disagree strongly and entirely with this assertion on their part.  Our OCP was adopted in 2008 after public consultation with all of us.  We were the ones who identified what type of community we wished to live in.  We did so already living in the homes and on property we still own.  We can not offend an OCP today, when it was arrived at using the same guiding values we all share this same day.  Peace, harmony, respect for nature, respect for our environment, and respect for each other.  These values have remained constantthey have been reinforced with the addition of many new people into our community.


Living a quiet rural residential life should not be mistaken as a rejection of livable comfortable homes.  There was a time, well before any thought of an Islands Trust, or an OCP that the norm was off grid, small cabins with outdoor toilet facilities Not so much any more.  The ship has sailed; the horse has run;  the tide has changed, and the homes are built.  It is time for the Islands Trust to understand and respect that none of us was responsible for subdividing Mudge Island into these small lots.  It is pointless to engage in debate about what should have been done in the past.  It is my opinion that artificially creating road blocks to hinder or deny reasonable, livable development does nothing more than perpetuate the already hard feelings some Islanders have towards the Islands Trust structure.


My final thoughts and encouragements are that these bylawsas presentedare simply Staff recommendations made to our Local Trust Committee.  While they certainly carry the weight of professional service, we do have a voice in this discussion.  It is a voice that must be exercised.  Our Trustees, Melanie Mamoser,Heather O’Sullivan and LTC Chair Laura Busheikin have heard your voices.  It is my opinion, they have done so respectfully, and when needed, stood with us.  We need them to hear your concerns, but they need to hear them presented in a respectful manner.  Frankly, I am not the best person to give such advice as I too get frustrated with the process and feel the need to vent occasionally.  However, as long as we appear to be moving forward, let us all be respectful of the process, no matter how frustrated and agitated we may feel.


As a reminder, the meeting is this Thursday morning, July 12th at 10:30 am at the public access on Driftwood Drive.  This is our time to listen to others, and likewise be heard.  


I hope we can see as many of you as possible




Doug MacDonald