There will be a public hearing Sept. 5 into the new zoning bylaw for Cortes Island. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Cortes Island overhauls zoning regulations

Public hearing for new zoning bylaw set for Sept. 5

Cortes Island is in the process of giving its zoning regulations an overhaul, which will include taking public input Wednesday afternoon.

The existing zoning bylaw dates back to one adopted in 2002 by the then-Comox Strathcona Regional District. Subsequently, after the Comox Valley and Strathcona split into two separate regional districts a decade ago, Cortes updated its official community plan (OCP) approximately five years ago.

The new zoning bylaw includes some housekeeping work but also some more substantive changes to better reflect the newer OCP. In practice, OCPs provide a general vision for community land use while zoning bylaws specify details pertaining to what use is permitted in different zones.

Community members still have an opportunity to provide any input they might have at a public hearing slated for Wednesday, Sept. 5 at Mansons Landing Hall at 1 p.m.

“I do anticipate wrapping up this key piece of planning work before the October election,” Area B Director Noba Anderson wrote in her latest newsletter.

Most uses in existing zones have not been changed, according to a summary of the bylaw, with any changes expected to have little to no impact on existing residents or businesses.

Anderson told the Mirror that the bylaw review is more than a housekeeping process and is a thorough review of the bylaw around land use, with input from the community, which came through surveys, meetings and focus groups.

“That being said, there aren’t massive changes that are going to affect most people,” she said.

During the review, the SRD updated definitions and made some revisions around particular zones for aquaculture, public assembly and park land.

As thorough as the process has been, there are a couple of outstanding issues around land use, Anderson says, specifically pertaining to non-medicinal marijuana in light of changing federal regulations and to short-term vacation rentals of homes.

“There were those two big items that just didn’t get the community input that I felt I really needed to be confident that we had the right approach,” she said.

The plan for these issues is to get further input from community members in 2019 and, depending on the response, introduce any necessary amendments to the zoning bylaw.

Providing an alternate view of the zoning bylaw, George Sirc wrote a submission published on Tideline, Cortes Island’s online site, calling the changes proposed “major.” He takes issue with some of the bylaw changes, such as wording he says will not permit docks in a foreshore zoning. He also was critical of the process around taking public input and the lack of time to review the 83-page document.

“It is presented in haste, without due public process, is restrictive, and sorely lacks appropriate island consultation,” he writes.

Also suggesting a run for office this fall, Sirc dismisses any comparisons between himself and Anderson, and refers to the current bylaw as “half-baked,” particularly in light of the two issues to be dealt with separately in 2019.