Idyllic Nanoose Bay seems deeply divided over the expansion of Beachcomber Marina.
A public information meeting Tuesday night was punctuated with out-of-order yells and jeers from the crowd, illustrating a community brimming with contention and competing ideals.
The Regional District of Nanaimo-hosted meeting was chaired by area director Bob Rogers with representation from RDN planners, specifically about the marina’s zoning amendment application. With people spilling outside the original room where the meeting was supposed to be hosted, the gathering was relocated last minute to a larger room in Nanoose Place to accommodate the overwhelming response from the community — more than 200 people attend.
The proposed changes would add 26 berths to Beachcomber Marina’s 100 mooring slips. RDN regulations require one parking space for every two mooring berths and one space for every two employees meaning the marina would need a total of 63 parking stalls.
Beachcomber owner Ian Barnes put forth the application which would see one portion of the marina ‘downzoned’ from marina designation to standard designation (Water 2 to Water 1), while another area would be ‘upzoned’ from standard designation to marina designation (Water 1 to Water 2). “There’s more than enough room,” said Barnes. “(The space needed for the marina) is just in the wrong place.”
Barnes has received approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada to make the changes. However, he still needs a permit from the RDN. Rogers confirmed Tuesday’s meeting was “not a decision-making meeting,” rather an opportunity to invite comments from the public on the proposed changes.
It’s good news for those who claim there’s a major moorage shortage in the area, especially to accommodate boats over 30 feet, and those who see the expansion as an economic opportunity and attraction for Nanoose Bay.
But opposition was apparent with many voicing concern over the proposal’s potential to block neighbouring views of the ocean, increased traffic and pollution, and water and drainage issues.
Brian Chatwin, of Nanaimo’s Chatwin Engineering, said the expansion would take away from the value of Nick Shulson’s waterfront property, which stares directly at the proposed expansion area. Chatwin went on to criticize the marina owner, and subsequently the RDN, for not consulting with neighbouring properties before starting the application process for expansion.
“Is this a policy you’re going to allow? Is this what you call good planning? And doesn’t it set a nasty precedent?” he asked regional district staff.
Nanaimo’s Cunningham and Rivard Appraisals real estate evaluation consultant Dave Curt echoed Chatwin’s comments, saying it would “dramatically” reduce the value of Shulson’s property.
“A rezoning generally creates value and in this case it creates value for Beachcomber Marina at the expense of the Shulson property and that’s not fair,” said Curt. “I’m a right winger myself and I like to support anything that’s good for business… But I can’t support this proposal only because it dramatically affects a few landowners.”
But that may not be the only reason he can’t support it.
Beachcomber resident Joe Ringwald pointed out Chatwin and Curt attended the meeting on behalf of their client, Nick Shulson.
“They’re paid to be here,” said Ringwald. “I used to be one of them.”
Ringwald recently moved to Nanoose Bay from the Lower Mainland, admitting the final motivation to move came when Beachcomber Marina owner Barnes called to say a moorage space had opened up.
He said there’s a big shortage for boat owners in the area and is in favour of the project.
Qualicum Beach resident Nick Bowler, who moors his boat at Beachcomber, said he moved to the Island 13 months ago.
“I’m stunned at the lack of moorage,” said Bowler. “I bought a boat in June this year and because I was afraid I wouldn’t get moorage I rented a slip in April… There is such a shortage of moorage on this part of the Island… There is an economic benefit to Beachcomber.”
Mistaken Island resident Susan Millar said she’s been going to Beachcomber Marina her entire life and every person who moved to the area was aware there was a marina there.
While she noted the expansion may devalue the Shulson’s property, she also pointed out “having a marina that’s well run, well looked after and presentable increases the value of the whole area… I see someone who has put a large investment into improving the marina, improving the protection of the boats… So I’m in favour.”
The owner of the marina, Barnes, answered questions during the three-hour meeting from a constant line of people who voiced opposition or support.
“We’re not a mainstream marina, we’re a small marina catering to serious local recreational boaters,” Barnes said, noting there’s a wait list of up to 70 boats at times. “We’re trying to attract more residents to the area.”
Near the end of the meeting, Shulson, whose property is arguably most affected by the expansion, spoke out.
“What we didn’t hear about was 126 boats with 126 bilges… pumping oil and grease into the bay,” said Shulson. “A captain can’t tell his bilge pump not to do that.”
He referred to Nanoose Bay’s official community plan, saying residents value the preservation of the environment, green spaces, viewscapes and beach accesses.
“It (the expansion) will put this beach, yes this beach we’ve had for 40 years, it’s the beach my children and myself and my friends have come to visit and they would tie up on our buoy, that’s gone because Mr. Barnes has put a private marina on the buoy. I can’t even tie up there, nobody can, and we’d have no access to the beach,” he said. “The fact is it affects the community in a dramatic way.”
A summary of the comments received at this meeting will be provided to the Electoral Area Planning Committee and regional board as part of the application review process. For more information on this application, please contact the RDN Planning Department at 250-390-6510.