Thanks to Mayor Lefebure, members of council, and planning staff for listening to the community’s thoughts about the future of the ‘Polygon’ and the entire Quamichan watershed at the planning meeting March 6. That roughly 200 people participated in the discussion is indicative of how much residents care for their neighbourhood and how it might change.
I heard many shared concerns about development in the watershed, but also the beginnings of a shared vision for the future which council will hopefully recognize and incorporate in its deliberations on the OCP revisions and new zoning bylaw.
It seems clear that the community wants to protect Quamichan Lake from further degradation and to preserve rare Garry oak ecosystems, agricultural lands as well as the unique rural and historic character of the area. It also seems clear that the community will not accept a level of development that will lead to a significant increase in traffic. And clear concerns were expressed about skyrocketing taxes that would result from maintaining more infrastructure far from the commercial core.
Of great interest, it appeared that many participants were interested in the idea of specifically tailoring zoning to the Quamichan watershed: something incorporating an appropriate level of regulation, guidance and flexibility to foster innovative development respectful of the watershed’s environmental and cultural resources.
It has become obvious that the crux of the problem is this. The impending zoning bylaw appears to propose a uniform blanket of density within the urban containment boundary which would make thoughtful development of the community impossible. Outside the UCB, there would be no further development. But inside the UCB, urban-density development would unfold without council oversight and with no consideration or recognition of the character of the landscape or the environment.
There should be another way — a more nuanced approach to land use and development respectful of the watershed’s environmental and cultural resources that is more consistent with the community vision I heard voiced at the planning exercise.
I would urge council to reconsider the currently proposed zoning for the watershed and to explore how to tailor the bylaw to our unique setting and environment. Continue the dialogue started on March 6, and together let us find a way to make the watershed into a place where development can unfold creatively and carefully, in a way that preserves and even enhances the lake and everything else residents value about this unique and sensitive area.
If, however, the currently proposed zoning bylaw is to be the future, there is only one option. For the survival of the lake and the other valued attributes of the area, please consider placing the entire watershed outside the urban containment boundary.