There is lots of planning work going on in Regional District of Nanaimo electoral Area H, with a couple of large-scale projects being considered, but there are no changes actually in the works, said RDN Chair and Area H Director Bill Veenhof.
Along with a housing development waiting for completion of an official community plan (OCP) review, The NEWS received complaints about imminent sewer changes. But they are early in the long processes, Veenhof said.
“If Bowser as a village centre is ever going to achieve a long term vision of a relatively dense village centre — think of any village, Parksville, Qualicum whatever — we’re going to need a sewer,” Veenhof said of an ongoing study.
He said the study, being done by a third party, is only considering a central sewer system for the very specific Bowser Rural Village Centre.
He hopes the study will be done by the end of the year and “it will define in rough orders of magnitude how much it’s going to cost.”
He agrees with some of the concerns expressed, saying “I’m absolutely convinced there’s no way the current residents and the people who own big chunks of land can pay for a sewer system in Bowser, it would just be too expensive.”
Once they have rough estimates he will “start a full court press to see if we can get federal and provincial funding support.”
If he does get funding promises — “in my perfect world it would be about one third, one third, one third, which is the classic formula,” he said — he will take the details back to residents, suggesting it could cost property owners a similar amount to a new individual septic system, in the $20,000 range, which may then be worth considering.
They would then hold a public referendum, he said, adding “I’m not bringing that forward until we have a reasonable funding question to put in front of people.”
While the sewer question is just about the Bowser centre, they are currently reviewing the OCP for all of Electoral Area H, which covers just over 3,500 people stretching up the coast from just north of Dashwood to just past Deep Bay and inland including Horne and Spider lakes and some of the Corcan-Meadowood area.
The process formally started February 3 and isn’t expected to be complete until well into 2017.
“We started with reaching out to the community and basically asked them what their irritants were, what they were looking for, what they were looking to change,” Veenhof said.
A working group with “representation from across all the sub-communities we have in Area H,” has been meeting publicly about once a month.
Veenhof has pointed to changes in the area over the 11 years since the current OCP was enacted, like the establishment of the VIU Marine Field Station, expansion of the harbour, and governance changes to riparian areas, secondary suites and building inspections. He said OCP plans should be updated every four years.
He said some other areas of discussion including strata rules in Horne Lake and safe walking and cycling paths along Highway 19A.
Amar Bains, of Surrey-based developer Baynes Sound Investment (BSI), is watching the process closely, he said, as one of the biggest proponents of change in Area H.
In 2013 the RDN board unanimously voted down a BSI proposal for 200 single-family homes, a 292-unit RV park, retail/commercial space and 40 hectares of park space on a 341-acre property it owns in the middle of the Deep Bay community. The board said it would require significant changes to the OCP and regional growth strategy.
“We will wait for the OCP review to be complete and then apply for the development,” Bains said, adding that their local manager, Jim Crawford, is attending meetings.
“We will be present as a landowner,” Bains has previously said. “We have a vested interest. Whatever happens will affect us big time.”
The next public meeting of the OCP working group is Thursday, May 26 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Lighthouse Community Hall at 240 Lions Way in Qualicum Bay and there is an open house scheduled for June 22 at the Bowser Legion.
For information or input call Courtney Simpson at 1-877-607-4111, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or send mail to 6300 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, V9T 6N2. There is lots of information on the OCP process at www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=3624.