Officials’ actions put SRD board in ‘awkward’ position

Say actions undermine the credibility of the Strathcona Regional District board

Regional district directors said two B.C. government workers put the board in an awkward position by questioning the directors’ decision to deny a re-zoning application for a marina on Cortes Island.

Rudi Mayser and Myles Manna, who are tasked with making decisions on authorizing tenures for Crown land, travelled to Campbell River to speak at last week’s Strathcona Regional District board meeting.

The pair, who work for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations,  said they studied the Cortes Official Community Plan and could not see any reason why the regional district would not approve the re-zoning.

“It was quite apparent all the requirements from various pieces of legislation had been met,” said Mayser, the manager of authorizations for the West Coast. “The decision to approve was thoroughly consistent with the Official Community Plan objectives.”

Mayser cited portions of the plan that call for the regional district to support the economic well-being of coastal First Nations and he found the area in question, Squirrel Cove, to be an area suitable for developing marine activities.

Manna said there was no question in the province’s mind what the right answer was.

“This is a really significant economic opportunity for the Klahoose so it would be really unthinkable for anything other than an offer of tenure,” Manna said. Tenure allows for a lease or licence of occupation on the site.

But Gerald Whalley, director for Area A, who along with Area D Director Brenda Leigh, voted against the re-zoning for the marina, said that’s only one part of the Official Community Plan.

“You stressed you placed a heavy reliance on the OCP in making your decision,” Whalley said. “I’d like to respectfully suggest you made an error in your interpretation of what the OCP says.”

Whalley said that while the plan does promote economic development for First Nations, it also rules against disrupting the rural character of an area.

“It doesn’t mean one of those clauses are more important than the other,” Whalley said. “I see it as ‘yes the Klahoose should do economic development in a place where it does not disrupt the rural character of the environment.’”

Leigh took exception to the fact that Mayser and Manna were questioning a regional district decision.

“Our decision stands and we can’t change our decision unless the applicants re-apply and another public hearing is held,” Leigh said. “Now they’re sitting there with a tenure and they don’t have a re-zoning. What are they going to do? We made a decision in good faith and here Victoria is trying to overrule us. I won’t stand for this anymore.”

Jim Abram, director for Quadra Island, said the process is flawed when the province makes their decision to offer tenure before local government makes a decision on the re-zoning.

Noba Anderson, director for Cortes Island, said while she was not happy with the electoral regional directors’ decision to deny the re-zoning, she did agree with the board that tenure should not come before the re-zoning process is complete.

“I’m really grateful for the decision you made, I think it puts us in an awkward situation as a board but I’m thankful for the decision,” Anderson said.

Board chair Ted Lewis agreed.

“It undermines the credibility of the board, it undermines the credibility of this organization, it undermines the credibility of the province,” Lewis said when the two governments are working against each other.

Abram seconded Anderson’s opinion that Mayser and Manna created an uncomfortable situation for the board.

“You did put us in a very awkward situation but I appreciate the fact you have come here today to try and find a solution. Whether there is one or not – I don’t know – but you’re trying,” Abram said.

Miles said his ultimate goal was to get the regional district to reconsider.

“Ideally, I guess I was hoping after explaining the reasons of the decision and the economic impact on a number of parties I would hope the re-zoning would be re-considered and barring that, see if other options could be considered,” Miles said. “It’s not a good situation and not one we would allow. We hope you can come back with some recommendations of your own to resolve this. Ideally, governments at all levels should work together.”

Board chair Ted Lewis got the last word in, to wrap up the turn of events.

“It undermines the credibility of the board, it undermines the credibility of this organization, it undermines the credibility of the province,” Lewis said.