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 want, and a chance to explain our perspective. He raised a number of questions. Below we’ve paraphrased them a bit so we can answer related questions together. Let us know how you feel about the project, and whether our responses seem satisfactory.

Appropriate Uses

Will Grafton become an alternative village centre?
I get your concern about the Grafton project competing with business in 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 at — Sunset Rd and it is free!

We understand it may be difficult to create a community centre for growing our food – but we 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. 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 that 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 affordable housing should be in Snug 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