The article by Robert Barron about the tragic effects of toxic algae blooms in Quamichan Lake highlights a much larger tragedy that I believe is happening at the level of decision making by our elected municipal officials — decisions that prioritize urban growth for the sake of increased revenues to the municipality.
I have lived on Quamichan Lake for seven years and have observed these algae blooms on the water’s edge. The surface of the water around our dock has sometimes turned a bright blue with the cyanobacteria that proliferate within the algae. I also have been intensely involved, along with 30 or 40 of my immediate neighbours, in an effort to prevent an ill-conceived development and rezoning of a small piece of land on Donnay Drive that borders the Quamichan Inn property. We have learned that this property, along with the rural lands surrounding the Quamichan Inn, as well as all the remaining rural and agricultural land on the south shore of Quamichan Lake along Maple Bay Road, is contained within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB). The municipality is planning to implement a new zoning bylaw which would see all lands within the UCB eligible for high density urban development by property owners without any public input or application for approval to council.
On Friday, Oct. 28, a special meeting of council was called to consider information from hours of well researched presentations that were made by many concerned residents at three prior meetings. We clearly highlighted our concerns about the serious impacts that further development would have on the sensitive Gary oak ecosystem around Quamichan Lake and on the lake itself. Despite the compelling information we presented, council voted in favour (four to three) of this development.
There are potentially 1,700 more dwellings that will be built at the top of Mount Tzouhalem and along Maple Bay Road. The remaining rural land along the south shore of Quamichan Lake, also contained within the UCB, is at serious risk of high density development as the current residents age and sell their properties to developers and property owners who see only profit above all else in these rich agricultural lands. These developments will have significant impacts on the lake’s water quality. An appeal to council to protect the land along Quamichan Lake has been made but so far ignored.
Perhaps if this article had been available to councillors earlier this week, it might have provided them with a stark reminder of what their priorities should be. As our group stated to council compellingly and convincingly, there is ample land to be developed that is more proximal to the urban core without the need to build dense subdivisions in sensitive zones.