The City of Campbell River is looking to better map its environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) in an attempt to reduce environmental harm during development activities.
At last week’s meeting of city council, the city received a draft of the proposed map updates, as well as a list of proposed amendments to the Official Community Plan text that could change how development permit area processes are triggered in regards to work being done around ESAs.
“The primary function of the development permit area designation is to ensure that decision makers have the ability to secure the necessary information and are able to establish conditions of development that minimize impacts on sensitive ecosystems, rare or endangered plants, including plant communities, animals, and fisheries and wildlife resources,” the report reads. “Since the natural world is always changing, it is important to keep map resources up to date in order to reduce as much harm as possible to those features deemed as ESAs during the development process.”
While the updated mapping is important, under the proposed changes ESAs would not necessarily need to be on the city’s OCP ESA map in order to trigger the development permit process, as is currently the case.
“The current situation has been problematic and a number of unmapped ESAs have been left without appropriate buffers during development,” the report says. “Since the OCP map is a static document, it is very difficult to administer environmental harm reduction policies as ESA features change from their mapped location. While ESA mapping is an important tool, it is not fluid enough to keep up with on the ground conditions and the maps are not sufficient to be a stand-alone trigger.”
Coun. Charlie Cornfield had concerns about the plan, but mainly in terms of consultation.
“There was no circulation (of the draft) to the Campbell River Environmental Committee,” Cornfield says. “They aren’t mentioned in the report, nor is the Campbell River Fish and Wildlife Association, the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation – all of these are groups and organizations in our community that the health and management of fisheries and waters are really important to.”
Coun. Claire Moglove had similar concerns, asking if the report had gone through the city’s Environmental Advisory Commission, as well.
“We did talk to the Environmental Advisory Commission about this recommendation coming forward,” responded Terri Martin with the city’s Long Range Planning and Sustainability department, “and they seemed to be very positive about it,” but he also admitted that the full report didn’t go through the official commission process. The city also hosted an open house on the subject where it heard from many members of the organizations Cornfield mentioned, and actually incorporated some of those responses into the draft before presenting it to council.
In the end, instead of giving the amendment first and second reading and going to public hearing, council voted to give it only first reading and refer it to the Environmental Advisory Commission for official comment before deciding whether it should continue to move forward.
“We really carefully choose the members of our advisory committees to give us a cross section of the community and I think it’s important to take advantage of their talents and skills and hear what everyone has to say,” Cornfield says.