Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

OCP and the Subdivision of Wetlands at Jimsmith Lake

submitted



The Rockyview Official Community Plan  (OCP) for Area C has fifteen references in it expressing an intent to protect the environment. Protection of the environment is policy of the RDEK Board and yet the wetlands at the west end of Jimsmith Lake were allowed to be subdivided into lots smaller than the regular rural residential lot size of 2 hectares. Houses will be built with septic drain fields close to the wetlands and some wetlands have been filled in.  Fortunately a number of these sensitive areas, but not all, have been detailed on a plan and covered by a ‘no disturb’ covenant in an attempt to preserve their integrity over the years.

Board approvals for this went through with little opposition and with no concessions made toward public input at the public hearing. The public input was almost entirely concerning maintenance of the wildlife habitat versus the density of human habitat. The Planning Department staff  provide technical advice to the board that is based on their interpretation of the Rural Residential zoning (R-Res) in the OCP as well as technical reports by professional consultants. These professional consultants are paid for and directed by the developer; there is no independent advice presented except at the public hearing. Plainly no notice was taken when the consequences of the impact of high density residential settlement on this sensitive ecosystem were pointed out at the public hearing. If the consequences had been understood they would have applied other clauses in the OCP that provide much better environmental protection and allow a similar end product.

This is no reflection on the developer, he went through the required hoops that the planning staff set up for him and the work has proceeded in a professional manner. There are a small number of minor deviations that might come to haunt us, but few of us are perfect.

The problem lies with the OCP zoning and its interpretation. By designating this area as Rural Residential
 (R-Res) the new OCP enables lot sizes from 1ha to 8 ha.  What developer in his right senses is going to make larger lots than he has to? And yet an earlier (2010) subdivision in rough bush, upland from the lake, had 10 - 2ha lots.  The irony here is that an area with 2ha lots that is suitable for smaller lots is right next to the new area, now subdivided into smaller lots, less able to absorb a higher density of humanity without damage, than the original lots by the same developer.  According to the planners the developer mitigated the intrusion on the wetlands with a “no disturb” covenant because it is described as a Development Permit Area in the OCP and was rewarded with the incentive of 1ha lots because he made extra efforts.  But the Development Permit enables the smaller lot size.  The covenant, which will run with the land, is as effective as the RDEK compliance officer and for as long as the owners respect it: The compliance officer covers the whole region and looks after all reported bylaw contraventions.

The planning staff depended heavily on the Environmental Assessment Report (EAR), paid for by the developer, which stated that there would be only minor impact on the environment.  But this report did not note the full extent of existing wetlands; did not recognize the habitat value of a pond that used to be wetland, until a previous owner dug it out; did not recognize a creek that allegedly had been dug out and straightened but is now partially filled in and needs protection as part of the wetland system.  This is not to say that the EAR is not a valid document – it was written by highly competent biologists and covers a number of technical details such as establishing a safety zone around some of the wetlands themselves. But there is no mention of the wildlife corridors that will be shut off by smaller fenced lots or the impacts of higher housing density on water quality.

Interpretation of the OCP is critical. We can expect more of the same as long as the planners do not feel that they must represent the interest of the public rather than proposed inappropriate economic activity. The planners need to be better informed on the environmental impact of their actions. There are clauses in the OCP that enable more rigorous procedures to deal with such highly sensitive property if they want to apply them. The planners have the authority of Board policy to ensure the highest and best protection is enabled but, despite having the authority, it was too difficult for them to persuade the developer to accept a more expensive mitigation plan. There is now a precedent set for future sensitive subdivision proposals unless citizens express their disgust at this desecration of our environment inthe Area  C.



In order to make your concerns known and to ensure that other areas of sensitive habitat is protected in accordance with RDEK Board policy. Please be sure to write or e-mail Mr. Gay at the RDEK office.

Contact Brian Passey,  Jimsmith Lake
numscull@shaw.ca   for more information

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this report. It is also reassuring to know that there is a process for concerned citizens to express their ideas.

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  2. This article is an outrage to the community and a direct result of the uneducation of the author. The author has not provided the research that was completed to back up the accusations that have been made. This article is a true form of bullying and should not be tolerated.

    The developer, who I have personally dealt with on many occasions through the process of purchasing a lot, has extensive knowledge on the environmental requirements and has extensively worked to ensure that the permits required have been obtained and the wetlands are being protected. Perhaps the author is holding the new subdivison under scrunity because of their own negative impacts on the environment.

    The contact email provider by the author provides a profound understanding for the context of the above accusations... numscull.. enough said.

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    Replies
    1. "As I row my racing scull up and down Jimsmith Lake I muse about how sad some changes are; this is one of them. Anonymous is showing a lack of education in failing to understand that the article does in not denigrate the developer of the Jimsmith Lots in any way. In fact he is described as professional in his accomplishment. But perhaps the article was too complicated for our correspondent.
      The article is designed to show the failures of the authorities who allowed this to happen and hope that enough people will ask for a change in attitude before more sensitive ecosystems are destroyed. But I would not expect our correspondent to appreciate that without doing the research required to understand the Area C OCP, the zoning bylaws, the environmental report and to have studied the ground in detail.
      Enough said.

      Brian Passey"

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    2. Well Done, AnonymousNovember 13, 2012 at 4:25 PM

      Anonymous, good for you. Could not agree more and the response to your post -- proves your point!

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