The Grafton Lake Lands stretch from the slopes of Mt. Gardner across the valley floor and up to the Ecological Reserve, an area of 350 acres. They are right in the centre of Bowen Island, and the only road across the island passes through.

Starting in the 1970s, Primex Investments assembled a collection of five contiguous parcels of land around the lake. About a year and a half ago they put the properties up for sale, prompting local developer John Reid to approach Primex with the idea of creating an approximately 200-acre nature preserve around the lake and moving any development to the less sensitive areas of the property.

The area features dense lowland rainforest, maze-like wetlands and the second largest lake on the island. The lake provides water for Snug Cove, and the Municipality maintains a small dam where the road meets the lake and a stream. Across the road from the lake, on land included in the agricultural land reserve, is a stand of alder trees and open field.

Over a period of eighteen months we consulted the community on walks, in workshops, at committee meetings, at Bowfest and Municipal Council, online and one-on-one. We feel that we have a plan that can address a number of island needs, and we hope you’ll agree. On this website you’ll find the proposal, updates about the process, maps, photographs, video and more.


Here’s how we think things fit together nicely:

Click to see a larger version

Key aspects of the rezoning plan include:

• 200-acre nature preserve to be publicly owned
• Community control of water source
• Lands for water treatment plant
• 101 housing units – small houses on small lots
• Approx. 38 units of rental housing under housing agreement with the Municipality
• About $500,000 in seed funding over ten years for community garden
• Neigbourhood office space
• Guest house overlooking ALR lands
• Retreat zoning for three areas
• Expansion of the Orchard Recovery Centre
• New fruit orchard; maintain balance of ALR land
• Large community garden to foster agriculture on Bowen
• Expansion of island trail network
• $1,000,000 in hook up fees for Cove Bay water system

The lowland rainforest and mountain reflect in Grafton LakeView the video now

Fly over and around Grafton Lake in this new video. We want to create a nature preserve surrounding Grafton Lake – a central purpose of the project as a whole. The lands will be publicly owned, and preserve healthy, regionally significant ecosystems while maintaining connections for people and other animals across the valley from the EcoReserve to Mount Gardner. It will secure our water supply as well. See the video and learn more here.


The Grafton Lake Rezoning Proposal

A high aerial view of the lake.View the full proposal now

After 18 months of discussion and consideration, we submitted our proposal for the Grafton Lake Lands to the public and the Bowen Island Municipality in June 2016. This began the current process of ‘official’ consultation with the public, Muni staff, Council and committees. We let everyone know in advance what we had in mind and have had a lot of useful feedback to inform the proposal. So we’ve tried to make the book entertaining and informative. We hope you’ll take a look, and let us and Municipal Council know how you feel about it.

Check us out on Facebook, where you can let us know what you think about what you’re seeing so far. Don’t like FB? You can comment on our ‘updates’ pages as well, or send us an email.

Recent additions to the site

Answering questions about the Grafton Project

|1 Comment

Bowen Islander Daniel Heald responded to the Grafton Lake Rezoning Proposal with a letter to the Municipality and us. We always appreciate feedback: positive or negative it helps us get a feeling for what people […]

Recent Comments:

    lary waldman April 20, 2017, 12:00 pm

    Any positions taken on proposed Guest House Zone?

    gr@ft0nlak3 September 13, 2016, 9:36 am

    In reply to Daniel Heald, (read his letter here): Hi Daniel, thanks so much for your input. Here are some responses to keep the conversation going. I’ve paraphrased your questions a little to save space. I’ve been talking with people on the island for a couple of years now about what they’d like to see in the Grafton area. So most of the ideas presented reflect what people are asking for, within the constraints of the location. Appropriate Uses Will Grafton become an alternative village centre? I get your concern about competing with the Cove, but think it’s unlikely to have much impact. No-one has asked for a new restaurant or other types of shops, and so those aren’t in our proposal. People have said a lot about walkable communities, the desire to expand agriculture, the crucial need for affordable housing and the urge to help grow the island economy in a way that doesn’t undermine the natural environment. So the idea behind providing office space and daycare is to create the possibility for a person to live, work and find child support all within a walkable area. Their shopping, eating out, banking and other activities will still happen in the Cove. The Commons project will have an outlet for fresh vegetables of some kind. But it’s a collective project to support island agriculture, to create synergy rather than competition. We don’t see it as a store as such, just a seasonal market. There is one already at BICS on summer weekends for example. The idea of offices is that people could live very near by and avoid the distractions of a home office. If it could attract a digital company from off-island to set up shop, that could help the island economy. The Orchard Recovery Centre wants to grow. Is this a good reason for the 139 unit development? The O.R.C. expansion doesn’t depend on the overall development, but makes sense to do during the same rezoning process. The Orchard is a Bowen success story, is quiet, solves social issues and employs alot of people. We’re very comfortable having them as a neighbour. I struggle with the beautiful White Swan public orchard and the Commons… I can't get gardeners to garden 511 Sunset Rd and it is free! I understand it may be difficult to create a community centre for growing our food - but feel it’s a worthwhile endeavour and will become more important in future. We’ll be providing 500k in seed funding over the next decade to support its material costs. We look forward to joining with other Bowen agriculturalists to improve conditions for all. Water Does it truly make sense to place the largest new development on Bowen Island around the island's watershed?  Grafton Lake is the water source for the Cove Bay water system, and for the residents of any future Grafton community. The watershed around it is home to activities of all kinds, as well as people, beavers, horses, dogs and machinery. So we had the following ideas:

    • preserve as much natural space around the lake as possible
    • provide support for a new water treatment plant by contributing land
    • join the Cove Bay water system, providing hookup fees of about $1,000,000 which will help underwrite the cost of the treatment plant
    • conduct environmental, geotechnical, water and other studies and make them public
    Septic fields do break down. Are the consequences of this fully appreciated and protected against? Yes - we will be doing studies and locating properly engineered septic fields as far away from drainage to the lake as possible. We’ll present studies to support this later in this process. A significant portion of the development would lie outside the watershed (see the map); this will allow for better protection on our lands than exist throughout the watershed - which extends to include 1800 acres including houses, farms, roads, commercial enterprises. Does the community currently have control of the water source? The lake itself is public property, and the land around it consists of five separate private properties. Although there are some constraints - houses can’t be closer than 100 ft from the water’s edge - there’s no more protection there than anywhere else on the island. There are setbacks from water courses anywhere from 15 to 30 meters depending on if it’s a creek or a lake. If developed together we have the opportunity to put in the best permanent protections for the forest surrounding the lake. And creation of a water treatment plant would give us greater control over the quality of the water. Do we need all the development to secure the water treatment plant? Two alternative sites for water treatment are owned by the Muni in Snug Cove. One is across the road from the turn off to Artisan Square, near the bus shelter. The other possibility would be on Lot One, up the hill from the Works Yard. Both would be more expensive to develop, would use up valuable residential land and lower the potential income from land sale by the Municipality. The $10,000 hook up fees to help fund Cove Bay Water is a good idea, but why not $20K or $30k? The Municipality has requested this amount. We understand they have done the calculation based on the number of new users, treatment, and the required funding for the new treatment plant. The Grafton Lake project will be the first to pay this hookup fee rate, but we think it is fair. If it were double or triple that cost, we would need to provide our own water through wells. Purchase affordability is an issue for all land on the island, but we still want the final price to be as low as possible. Adding an extra 10 or 20 thousand dollars on top of the price just makes that goal harder. Housing Small housing is going to be 1200 sq. ft. and only 25 of them. They are likely to be out of (price) reach of island workers. You’re right. Island land is so expensive to begin with, it’s very hard to provide affordable ownership. But we do have some other ideas cooking about how to create a ‘transitional’ product that could allow people to buy for less. Certainly the houses will be more affordable than the many houses on Bowen which are over $1 million. Ultimately affordable housing on Bowen generally means long-term rental. The Bowen Municipality has requested that 15% of the units be affordable rentals by their definition, and we agree with that. I agree that ‘affordable’ rentals are also quite expensive. One approach for young workers to solve this is sharing the rent between two or three people. We do see an opportunity to create supportive living houses for older people - ie six suites and a central kitchen plus cleaners, so the larger houses may not be exclusively for single families with high income. Could you provide ten or fifteen small (laneway) houses of about 400-500 sq. ft.? Our proposal does include a few detached accessory buildings which will likely be 500 or less square feet as rental. But we feel as many do that the majority of the denser, more afordable housing should be in the cove. Technically the new Accessory Buildings bylaw could allow owners to create another 80 or so such buildings in the area. But we would like to preclude this because we don’t think that kind of density there would be a good thing. If you refer to page 28 there a drawing that shows our intention to allow construction of several laneway houses. However, we do intend to restrict this to twelve - we don’t want to see intense densification. There are some interesting agricultural worker rules for housing that could be used to create small housing for real people wanting to make a living from Bowen on Bowen. Yes - on ALR lands you’re allowed to create housing for temporary workers. At this point we have no plans to do this, but there is some room for that if necessary. The land that we have is earmarked for actual growing projects so putting housing on there would limit that. I hope this puts some concerns of yours to rest, but please do continue the conversation if you’d like to add anything. John Reid

    John Dowler January 11, 2016, 10:52 am

    Hi Jessica, we have been giving a lot of thought on how to add in affordability to this project, and Council as well is giving serious consideration to the use of accessory buildings being allowed for residential use. I think the micro home fits into this category. To make the primary residence affordable you need to build smaller on small lots, allowing micro homes or very small permanent homes on these lots as well is a good way to further build in diversity of housing as well as affordability. I could see some small homes being built where they also rent out a space for a micro home in their yard. This would enable the micro home to benefit from roads, power sewer etc. already being in place. Council will be discussing these points later this month which we hope will give us a clearer path forward. On your comment of the pantry and a place to sell home grown foods, we certainly will be looking at these ideas as well. Thanks for your comments. John R

    Jessica January 2, 2016, 10:21 am

    I would love to see at least ten tiny houses that are 150-300sq for young couples/singles who can only afford a house for $30,000-$50,000. As a young adult I see this as being an affordable option and something I wouldn't blink at taking a loan out for. This is a viable option for those who don't want to live and spend all there hard earned money on rental units/apartment buildings. Compared to other buildings they have very limited impact on the surrounding environment and you can stick them in anywhere without doing much clearing. Small living also promotes healthier living by buying less and getting outdoors more. I would also love to see a pantry built near the farm area for storage of home grown foods and a place to sell them. It could be built out of cob, hemp, drift wood, or sand bags. Jess

    gr@ft0nlak3 December 17, 2015, 1:05 pm

    Hi Wynn I agree completely and we will make sure that we include these kind of spaces. We will also be trying to provide as much ground-oriented housing as possible and there will not be any rental more than one story up from grade. John

    gr@ft0nlak3 December 17, 2015, 1:03 pm

    Hi George, The municipality has an affordable housing policy (Policy 08-03), it took effect in 2008. It is a good document and attempts to give a framework for discussion. It speaks to developers providing rental and affordable ownership. It suggests 15% of floor space of a development. I believe the 15% floor space reference creates confusion when talking about a housing development where the floor space can vary widely. Probably better to talk units, then it gets simple and the numbers do not get too high. This is why council is going to be discussing in January, after that I think it will be clearer to both of us. Thanks for your comment. John R

    John Dowler December 17, 2015, 11:27 am

    Hi Wynn sorry about that. I see this comment and one afterwards. Did you sort it out at your end? thanks - John Dowler

    Wynn December 15, 2015, 8:59 am

    Trying again. I think it is important to incorporate attractive garden "commons" areas especially for those who are living in small units on a 2nd or 3rd floor. Usually only ground level units have outdoor garden areas associated with their units. A larger public green area for community gatherings but also smaller intimate green (garden or rewilded) spaces accessible for those who just want to take a coffee and a book and sit in a pleasant spot where they can watch their community go about its life and enjoy the sun or shade. I know there are trails and forest nearby but often people just want to take a coffee and "borrow" a garden within a short walk from their suite. The more density and smaller living, the more vital such spaces become.

    Wynn December 15, 2015, 8:47 am

    I must be doing something wrong? I tried twice to comment here but was asked for a valid email (which I gave). Help!