The new berth will be located near the current ferry terminal at Quathiaski Cove. Photo courtesy Google Maps

Public hearing for Quadra Island ferry berth not possible under COVID-19

Application requires OCP amendment and public hearing according to legislation

After getting first and second reading at the April 15 Strathcona Regional District board meeting, a rezoning application for a new ferry berth on Quadra Island has entered a wait-and-see phase.

The application is to build a new lay berth for the new Island-class ferries coming to the route. This will not be a public-access berth, but rather a place to park one of the two new ferries at Quathiaski Cove overnight. The application covers both an upland portion and a foreshore portion of the property in question, located on Pidcock Road. BC Ferries plans to build a gangway on the upland part of the lot, as well as up to six parking spaces and a small electrical building. The gangway will lead to the lay-berth, where the vessel will be parked.

“The amendments are required at this time due to the existing bylaws not permitting the use,” said SRD senior manager of community services Aniko Nelson. “The upland is currently designated Residential in our official community plan, but it’s actually zoned commercial, which is a bit of a conundrum that we need to address.”

Under the Local Government Act, any amendments to a community’s official community plan need to go to public hearing before they’re put in place. However, with public health orders on social distancing in place, the SRD is unable to hold this kind of hearing for the time being.

“If it were only a rezoning application, we would have the ability to actually waive a public hearing, if so approved by the board. Unfortunately, given this little anomaly on the upland and needing to have the OCP amendment, we need to hold a public hearing,” Nelson said. “Until there’s some provincial directive as to an innovative process to hold a public hearing, we will be basically in a wait and hold situation.”

On the water lot, the rezoning would effectively be allowing a less intensive use. The property is currently zoned for marine industrial uses, which include things like boat building. The new zone would only allow for a gangway or water access.

The regional district is waiting on direction from the province on how to proceed with this kind of application. Until then, they can entertain alternative ideas, but cannot move forward without the province’s approval. The SRD has been able to fulfill most of its services through the crisis, but a few do fall under this kind of legislation.

“We are doing our best. Most of our services are being provided, and we’ve come up with some innovative ways to be sure that we can provide a lot of our services to the public,” Nelson said. “Unfortunately when there are these legislative processes in place, our hands are kind of tied. We really need direction provincially.”

Though it has not gone through an official public consultation at the SRD level, Quadra Island residents have been able to give feedback on the project. BC Ferries has held multiple open houses and events on the island and in Campbell River about their plans for the route.

The Island-class ferries are expected to be on the route by 2022. BC Ferries held two public events in February in Campbell River and on Quadra Island. Feedback on the new berth was generally positive. A public hearing on the bylaws was to be held on April 29, but has been postponed to a later date.

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