I am writing this Mayor’s Report specifically to respond to assertions contained in a paid advertisement carried last week in the Undercurrent that suggest there has been inadequate public consultation on three bylaws coming forward to public hearing on July 9th. The advertisement implies that proper public consultation has been avoided, that no public meetings regarding the bylaws have been held, and that the bylaws have been prepared only with staff and Council input. These assertions are incorrect, and misrepresent the past and ongoing public consultation and input for these bylaws.
First, let me provide some context for these bylaws. An extended public process starting in June 2009 led to a draft Official Community Plan (OCP) that was given first reading in June 2010. Following first reading, the draft OCP was referred for comment to agencies, legal review, and the Bowen public. This review highlighted a number of amendments required for legal and regulatory reasons, as well as improvements suggested by the public. In all cases, Council took a reactive approach, agreeing only to changes or additions recommended by staff for legal or regulatory reasons, internal consistency or clarity.
This review identified improvements required for Development Permit Areas (DPAs) in the draft OCP. Staff set to work, with input from geotechnical and environmental professionals, on these DPA regulations for steep slope, environmentally sensitive, and watershed and aquifer areas. DPAs are areas on the island where development is managed through permit to protect public safety, the environment, or water supply.
In January 2011, staff began the process of bringing forward the draft bylaws for the DPAs for Council review, and public consultation and input. After initial discussions with Council, staff held public open houses for each of the proposed bylaws: 16 February 2011 for Steep Slopes DPA bylaw, 16 March 2011 for Environmentally Sensitive DPA bylaw, and 13 April 2011 for the Watershed Aquifer and Stream Protection DPA. These bylaws were discussed at nine other public Council meetings between January to June 2011. Council meeting agendas and agenda materials are available on line and in hard copy for all Council meetings.
I encourage everyone to review the guidelines, exemptions, and maps for each of the development permit areas bylaws.
Staff and Council have been diligent in following best practices for due public process, and take seriously good public consultation. The upcoming public hearing for these three DPA bylaws and the OCP bylaw is an important opportunity for the community to express their views to Council regarding these four bylaws. The public hearing will be held Saturday July 9, starting at noon in the gym at the Bowen Island Community School.
See you there. If you are unable to attend I encourage you to submit your comments to the municipality in advance of the public hearing.
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