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North Pender Island Local Trust Committee OCP Review Principles and Objectives Focus Group

Lasqueti Island, BC, Prepared by Melinda Auerbach of DragonSun Consulting © 2005


Final Report May 2005

Contents (click on heading to view)

1) OVERVIEW
2) FINDINGS
3) RECOMMENDATIONS 1 to 16

Attached Schedules (click to open in new window)

4) Schedule A. Comments from group on current OCP Sections 1.2 and 1.3 during the focus group meeting on April 30, 2005.
5) Schedule B. Comments from initial go-around at focus group meeting May 19, 2005
6) Schedule C. Question: What is most important, to you, that the principles address? Focus group meeting May 19, 2005
7) Schedule D. Question: How do the existing principles reflect the community’s land use goals? Focus group meeting May 19, 2005
8) Schedule E. Definition of “rural” as requested by participants. May 19, 2005
9) Schedule F. Draft: NORTH PENDER ISLAND OFFICIAL COMMUNITY PLAN GUIDING PRINCIPLES submitted June 2, 2005 by an OCP Goals Focus Group Sub-Committee, using both the Women’s Institute’s “Guiding Principles” recommendations and Terry Chantler’s “Introduction”.


OVERVIEW

The Islands Trust contacted DragonSun Consulting to facilititate two focus group meetings. The North Pender Island Local Trust Committee was embarking upon a review of the North Pender Island Official Community Plan, Bylaw no. 83, 1993 (hereinafter referred to as “the OCP”) and wished to obtain community input about the existing Principles and Broad Objective.

The focus group was open to all members of the North Pender Island community and two meetings were scheduled: one on Saturday, April 30th and the other on Thursday, May 19th. The purpose of each meeting was to find out how residents felt about OCP Sections 1.2 Principles and 1.3 Broad Objective of the OCP.

Approximately eighteen people were present at the first session and twelve at the second one. A small number of people attended both sessions At each meeting particpants were asked to provide general comments about the wording in the OCP and to answer specific questions as well. All of the comments from both sessions are attached to this report as Schedules A to D. Each schedule lists the individual comments made at the sessions and indicates whether the comment could be considered in the context of the OCP, the Land Use Bylaw (the “LUB”), in association with outside agencies or another venue entirely.

At the beginning of each meeting participants were provided with a short, verbal history of the OCP review. A flowchart outlining the bylaw process was reviewed. Three maps were on display which showed: residential development potential; environmentally sensitive areas; and suitablity for development criteria. These maps were left on North Pender for the information of residents.

Prior to the first meeting the Pender Island Women’s Institute had prepared and submitted to the Local Trust Committee a proposed draft of North Pender Island Official Community Plan Guiding Principles. During the course of the first focus group meeting, some participants stated that they would meet as a subgroup and revise it based on comments made at that session. This more recent document was forwarded to DragonSun Consulting and is attached hereto as Schedule F because it is a reflection of the ideas that were expressed at the April 30th meeting. It does provide additional information for the Local Trust Committee to consider in conjuction with the recommendations presented here.

FINDINGS

My overall impression was that the existing princples, while having served the community satisfactorily for the past twelve years, should be expanded and strengthened. Since 1993 changes have occurred with respect to the natural environment and human demographics which were not envisioned then. Major changes such as global warming and the dramatic rise in oil prices are having effects everywhere and making many people rethink how they interact with and what effect their actions have on their environment.

While tourism was often spoken about as an activity with the potential to bring about a great deal of change to North Pender Island, there was an even greater wish to address issues affecting the natural environment. North Pender is located in one of the most disturbed areas of the Province which added urgency to the requests for principles to address biodiversity, water supply; watershed protection, sustainable agriculture and low density.

Participants also wanted the principles to give renewed support for the mandate of the Islands Trust and the Islands Trust Policy Statement. North Pender’s uniquenesss comes, in part, from being part of the Islands Trust. Giving support to other islands within the Trust Area was called for together with obtaining increased recognition and support from other government agencies (e.g. the Capital Regional District; Provincial Ministries and Federal Departments) for the Islands Trust mandate when dealing with North Pender issues.

While nearly all of the participants agreed that the broad objective in section 1.3 was still relevant now, it was felt that “rural” needed more definition. At the second meeting, one block of time was spent doing that and the results are attached as Schedule “E”.
The educational value of the OCP was commented on a number of times. It provides an island vision to residents, tourists, developers, government agencies and others. One is able to see, hopefully, how the principles and broad objective informs the subsequent OCP policies and then the land use regulations. Communication is another facet of education and it was felt that more could be done to communitcate with residents and others.

RECOMMENDATIONS

From all of the information and input gathered during the two focus group meetings I believe that there is a desire to expand Section 1 of the OCP. My recommendations to the Local Trust Committee are respectfully submitted as follows. With respect to items 2 through 5 that follow, specific wording, from the participants, was drafted keeping in mind the words at the beginning of Section 1.2 “This Official Community Plan is based on:…”

1) A new preamble has been suggested in the written submission attached as Schedule F. Some of the wording is similar to the existing Section 1.1 Background and does not need repeating. The preamble continues the tradition of providing a historiacal context for the OCP principles and subsequent policies. In this instance the information mainly focuses on the changes occurring in the natural environment.

I recommend that the Local Trust Committee add some of the preamble wording to the Background section. In particular, I think a précis of the paragraphs about biodiversity and the paragraphs which speak directly to the Southern Gulf Islands and North Pender experience should be included.

2) Participants were very supportive of the Islands Trust mandate. Along with retaining Section 1.2.1, wording could be added which specifically supports the Islands Trust and the Islands Trust Policy Statement. Participants repeatedly commented on the uniqueness of living in the Trust Area under the “preserve and protect” object and using this as the rationale for OCP principles and subsequent policies.

3) The following rewording of Section 1.2.2, as developed by participants on May 19th is presented for your consideration: “recognition that the social and economic environments of North Pender flow from an interelationship with the natural environment “.

This wording was felt to address more clearly the concept of a balance between human needs and the ecosystem. Many of the comments made the point that humans living in harmony with the natural environment (rather than simply viewing it as something to be modified for personal gain) is necessary for a healthy, sustainable future.

4) The following rewording of Section 1.2.3, also developed on May 19th, is presented for your consideration: “an understanding that land and water sustain life and provide ecosystem services and that in their uses the community interest, including environmental interest, must supercede individual, private interests. Their use as sustainable resources should be encouraged and their use as commodities should be discouraged.”

Living on North Pender is both a privilege and a responsilibilty. This new wording suggests that humans should think about the effect their actions may have on the island’s environment prior to modifying the landscape.

I would also recommend that additional wording address the protection of the island’s water supply and watersheds for use by all present and anticipated future users through the protection of groundwater recharge areas and identifying and eliminating sources of pollution to surficial and groundwater supplies and the ocean.

5) Reaction to Section 1.2.4 ranged from deleting it entirely to making some adjustments to the wording. It was felt that the current wording was unclear and even created a contradiction between OCP policies and LUB regulations.

Again, on May 19th, suggested wording was drafted for the Local Trust Committee’s consideration: “landowners and land users exercising due diligence in support of the Islands Trust mandate.”

This wording asks landowners and users to acknowledge the need for a balance between land use regulations and individuals’ wishes for a lifestyle which allows a high degreee of self-expression.
The following are suggestions for principles which are not addressed in the existing OCP.

6) Biodiversity was spoken of as one of the most important environmental issues for the principles to address as can be seen from the preamble wording in Schedule F. The Islands Trust Policy Statement addresses biodiversity in Part III: Ecosystem Preservation and Protection.

I recommend to the Local Trust Committee that a new principle be included which emphasizes respect for all forms of life and the need to protect biodiversity. The Local Trust Committee may want to refer to the Islands Trust Policy Statement for this item.

7) There were not very many comments specific to the ocean, however, the number of references to living on an island suggest that is not far from islanders’ consciousness. A specific comment was made about maintaing public access to the foreshore.

I would recommend a principle be added which encourages protection of the marine environment including maintaining public access to the foreshore and protection of natural coastal processes from development considered inappropriate because of location, form, scale and density.

8) Agriculture was seen as being an essential part of the island’s rural character and needing a specific principle. Agriculture which was sustaining and low impact were specifically referred to as items to address togther with support for land within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

I would recommend a principle for the protection of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve and to promote the conservation and protection of land with agricultural and forestry potential. I would also suggest adding a statement to encourage sustainable, low impact agricultural activities that contribute to the supply of local food requirements, thereby contributing to local self-sufficiency and to support agriculture as a viable occupation.

9) Clear cutting on individual parcels was raised as a concern and it was also recognized that there are almost no tools available to local governments to address the issue. This has been a contentious issue on other Trust Islands and in other areas in the Province.

The Islands Trust Policy Statement has three directive policies about forests and I feel it would be appropriate to use them as the basis for a principle. My recommendation is for a principle that recognizes forestry as a traditional land use and supports sustainable forestry which depends upon maintaining and, as needed, restoring the ecological integrity of forests.

10) Throughout the discussions during both focus group meetings there was a recurring theme of the need to protect the natural environment. North Pender residents live within the natural environment and their activities have an effect on it. There is also now the Gulf Islands National Park which protects areas that preserve representative ecosystems, hopefully, of a sufficient size to sustain their ecological integrity. These Park lands also contribute to the “rural character” of the island. There was also a request to set aside areas of “wild” lands – areas where no human disturbance has occurred or which could be returned to an undisturbed state.

I recommend a principle be added which would support the retention of natural areas, large parcels, ecological reserves, wetlands, riparian areas and environmentally sensitive areas.

11) Tourism was the hot topic of the day. Participants perceived an increase in the amount of tourists arriving on the Island and expectations were that this trend would continue, particularly because of vacation rentals. Fears were expressed that without some limits on commercial services for tourists North Pender could become a tourist destination; losing the sense of an island community. There was a specific point made to support C2 areas as a way of reducing the amount of vacation rentals taking place in residential small lot areas. This may be a discussion point of the Commercial Accomodation Policies focus group as well.

I think that now is an appropriate time to add a principle about supporting low impact tourism (such as eco- tourism, family camping) which is complementary to the island’s way of life and will not result in environmental deterioration. The principle could also include a recognition that commercial needs for visitors should not take precedence over residents’ needs.

12) Economic development was discussed as a necessity to have a sustainable community with a diverse population. There was general agreement that there was a need for economic diversity that was not biased toward tourism.

There was some disagreement as to whether it made more sense to have one main commecial core (Driftwood Centre) which people drove to from all points on the island. Or, was it better to have a number of commercial areas that required a shorter drive or would even be within walking distance for those living in that neighbourhood. This issue will require more discussion within the community.

One person specifically requested that Section 1.3 have the words “and strongly dissuade a dominant commercial core” added and that the same wording go into Section 2.6 Commercial Objectives and 2.6.2 Commercial Policies.

I believe it would be appropriate for the Local Trust Committee to consider a principle which encourages local commercial development that is compatible with conservation of resources and protection of community character.

13) A corollary to the economic development issue was transportation, as pointed out in the above recommendation. Ideas put forward included having an on-island bus service; a delivery service which would mean one vehicle travelling around the island rather than many vehicles travelling to one commercial centre; and make the roads safer for bicycle riders and walkers – perhaps the establishment of a trail system – thus leading to fewer vehicles on the road.

Section 3.1.3 Road Transportation in the OCP already addresses pedestrian/cycle paths and safety and notes that there is taxi service on-island.

The Local Trust Committee may want to add a principle to encourage a transportation system which meets the needs of residents and visitors without detracting from the island’s rural character.

14) Another recurring theme in the focus group was sustainability. Its importance to the participants can be seen from how often it was mentioned It was stressed often that it was important to live a sustainable lifestyle which was in keeping with the rural character of the island.

It was suggested that there be a definition of sustainable included in the OCP and I would recommend the one from the Islands Trust Policy Statement be used:

“Sustainable – capable of being maintained indefinitely; capable of meeting the environmental, economic and social needs for current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

The discussion of sustainablility lead to suggestions about limiting growth and maintianing low density land use. There was a suggestion to research the possiblity of limiting the number of tourists allowed on island.

My recommendation would be to have a principle to encourage a pattern of human activity and development which ensures the sustainable use of the natural resources of the island.

15) Education and communication were similar themes in that they were about making contact with as large an audience as possible. It was suggeted that the Local Trust Committee seriously consider how they get their message out so that it can reach a diverse audience – from children to seniors; land owners and renters; tourists and developers.

In Schedule B there are some very specific suggestions that the Local Trust Committee should consider. It was felt that the Local Trust Committee could do more to actively solicit more participation from the community. They should schedule more meetings at diverse times so people have more opportunities to attend; provide information on issues at social events, like a concert; have information available at more locations on island; make more use of the internet, mail flyers; and place larger ads in all newspapers available on island.

The current OCP has a policy in Section 7.2 about consultation with the public that is very broad and puts the onus on individuals to bring concerns to the Local Trustees. The thought expressed was more about the Local Trust Committee exploring ways of reaching out to the island population and not being constrained by legislative considerations. While this may be an issue which cannot be adequately addressed in the OCP, I recommend that the Local Trust Committee give serious consideration to these suggestions.

16) Section 1.3 Broad Objective

The participants at the second meeting spent a specific allotment of time trying to define “rural character”. They did this by way of listing what was rural and what was not as set out in Schedule E. I believe there was general agreement that North Pender currently has a rural character and that it is important to maintain it into the future.

In reviewing all of the focus group comments, I feel that it may be unnecessary to amend the wording of this item. Many of the recommended principles refer to ways to maintain the rural character of North Pender Island. Having said that, there is still merit in reviewing Schedule E to determine if there are points in it the Local Trust Committee wants to add to the broad objective. Also, the specific request for adding the words “and strongly dissuade a dominant commercial core” should be considered.


All of the suggested wording changes detailed in this document are done with the full understanding and recognition that the Local Trust Committee have the authority to decide what will be included in the revised OCP document. There are also legislative directives and requirements with respect to drafting bylaws which will need to be followed. In other words, the principles may also need to meet certain legislative constraints. It is my hope that these can be met without losing the intent of the participants’ wishes.

   
 

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