Dep Bay debate

Some smaller areas can't handle growth - according to some at the Regional District of Nanaimo

There’s a battle brewing in Deep Bay about the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Rural Village Centre study.

The controversy arose at the RDN’s committee of the whole meeting last week during discussion of the 2012 update to the Regional Growth Strategy.

At issue was the question of whether or not to include Deep Bay as a rural village centre.

These centres are intended to absorb the majority of the area’s future growth, rather than major centres like Parksville or Qualicum Beach. The plan is to allow people to live, work, play and learn within a walkable environment.

Paul Thompson, the RDN’s manager for long range planning, said there was concern about some areas’ ability to grow into compact communities.

“We wanted to look at the communities most able to grow into compact communities … and the final evaluation showed how close each RVC (rural village centre) is to achieving their goals and how each RVC is rated against the ideal and against each other,” he said.

In her report to the board, RDN planner Lisa Bhopalsingh noted concerns had been raised that some rural village centres may not be able to accommodate the anticipated growth because of the significant costs of providing water, sewer and transit services.

One of these was Deep Bay, which was ranked as a five out of six in this regard, with one being the highest.

In his presentation to the board, Jim Crawford, the project manager for Baynes Sound Investments, noted his company plans to put a new subdivision in the area, but the increased population and tax base that would result were not included in the study.

“The study didn’t include the possibility of buildout in our application,” he said. “This would have moved Deep Bay farther up the list of viable villages.”

He urged the RDN to keep the rural village study as it is, with Deep Bay as a designated rural village centre.

However, a second delegation, by Deep Bay resident Ian MacDonnell, took the opposite position, calling for Deep Bay to be left as it is, citing a perceived lack of transparency in the process and arguing that giving Deep Bay such status would rip apart the fabric of the community.

Deep Bay-Bowser director Bill Veenhof stressed that while he sees it as crucial to remain neutral on the issue, he did have concerns.

“The study is rather superficial,” he said. “It measures walkability within existing village centres as if that is somehow a measure of our sustainability, but that misses entirely what rural village centres are.”

As well, he said the study only provided a snapshot in time and would be of limited value in determining where communities stand over time.

Errington-Coombs director Julian Fell moved to amend the staff recommendation to receive the report, calling instead for it to be received and forwarded to rural area directors for further study.

The motion passed.