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Brentwood Bay boaters pack council chambers

District management plan, and new fees, cause objections

A marathon Committee of a Whole meeting on Monday has left some Brentwood Bay boaters concerned about their future.

The bulk of the meeting, which lasted three hours and 45 minutes, was spent discussing the Brentwood Bay Management Plan: a complex, multi-phase plan which would make the District of Central Saanich responsible for monitoring Brentwood Bay. Currently, that responsibility is split between the province and the federal government. But if passed, the District would apply for a “licence of occupation” from the province giving them jurisdiction. As part of the plan, the District wants to limit the amount of buoys in the bay (the District proposes 40 privately owned buoys to start), ensure that buoys are clear of navigation channels and ensure that existing liveaboard vessels have insurance and holding tanks for sewage.

Two groups supported the draft management plan. Rick Schurr of the British Columbia Nautical Residents Association praised the District for their treatment of liveaboard residents and their willingness to work with them on “mundane issues” like garbage collection, comparing it favourably to the Village of Queen Charlotte, which he said is “kicking all the liveaboards out” now that it is winter. Michael Simmons, vice-chair of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, echoed Schnurr’s praise of the advisory committee, saying that Ruth Malli ran community consultations in “an exemplary way” welcoming participants even if they came in midway through the process, getting them “up to speed.”

However, resident after resident came to the mic to express some degree of opposition to the plan. According to the draft plan, boaters would be asked to pay $1,000 annually for existing buoys, which staff acknowledged “could be difficult for some people to come up with,” so there would be quarterly payments of $100 per month paid in advance.

One liveaboard resident said that a legal mooring certified by Transport Canada costs almost $3,000 to install, which they installed in good faith. He objected to a part of the plan which he said would have the District “seize almost $300,000 worth of private property,” considering there are around 100 buoys in the area.

Miles Mana, a consultant hired by the District on this issue, said staff estimated that 35 liveaboard vessels were in the area, so while that would not leave many extra buoys, no liveaboard residents would be evicted if they were given priority as specified in the plan. He also said that if a boater’s buoy passed an inspection and met the District’s safety requirements, then it could stay. If it were in a navigation channel, there would be a cost to move the buoy, but it would not be confiscated.

Boater Chris Allen felt that the current amount of buoys posed no navigational problems for him, saying that if someone had difficulty navigating the area they should “get [their] certificate renewed.”

Another resident said that Brentwood Bay was an affordable place to have boat, because “marinas aren’t priced for locals, I can tell you that.” The new plan, he said, would make it unaffordable.

Councillor Niall Paltiel pointed out development is not unfettered on land, so he was generally supportive of the plan. Coun. Zeb King was concerned the scope of the initiative had grown too large. He said there was consensus around derelict boats and sewage, which he felt should not be mixed in with the issue of housing on the water. Coun. Christopher Graham acknowledged that “the costs are definitely a big jump from what people are used to” but it was still low in comparison to other options like a marina. Graham said “we are probably moving in the right direction” but that he had not fully settled on the issue.

Coun. Bob Thompson noted the plan “isn’t written in stone,” and there was still an opportunity to amend the details, though it would inevitably delay implementation.

The motion to begin securing a Licence of Occupation and notify residents passed, with Councillors Alicia Holman and King in opposition.

In a follow-up interview, Mayor Ryan Windsor compared the marine situation to that on land, where there are fees and regulations as to the placement of terrestrial homes. Windsor was “kind of disappointed” in the way the plan was characterized, because he felt the District had done sufficient work trying to notify affected residents.

John Evans, who lives on a vessel in the bay, remains against the proposal. After Monday’s meeting, he submitted a letter to Council which he forwarded to the News Review. Among other grievances, he felt residents were not notified in a timely manner (“Word of mouth reached us in late November this year!”), that the licence of occupation was “primarily conceived and to be rushed through council by a small group of wealthy landowners,” and that boaters are unfairly maligned for polluting the bay. Instead of this licence of occupation, he proposed that the boaters themselves be responsible for monitoring the bay, asking for Coast Guard help where necessary to remove derelict vessels.

The District is continuing to accept feedback online through its PlaceSpeak tool.

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