View Royal residents living on Esquimalt Harbour had their first glimpse at the Town’s draft position on guidelines for new private docks.
The harbour situation in View Royal is unique and complicated due to the CFB Esquimalt navy base.
Esquimalt Harbour is federally owned and subject to federal guidelines for development, unlike most shorelines, which are provincially regulated.
For a View Royal resident to build a new dock in Esquimalt Harbour, they have to run a gauntlet of four agencies.
View Royal is in charge of environmental development permits. The Department of National Defence has to issue a licence of occupation, essentially a lease of the ground underneath the water. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has guidelines for the protection of fish habitats. Finally, the dock builder has to apply to Transport Canada for a minor works permit.
View Royal is trying to come up with a wish list of what the Town and its residents want in terms of dock development guidelines for DND, which has the ultimate say.
Up to two public advisory committees are being set up by the Town. The goal is to bring back a new draft in about five months for the public to look at again.
Residents at the meeting in March spoke out against overly-complicated regulations and a lack of communication from the agencies involved.
Lindsay Chase, director of development services for View Royal, said people need to think in 3-D to get the whole picture. The Town controls the zoning of the surface of the water. The water between the surface and the ocean floor is regulated by DFO. DND controls the ocean floor.
“I think you guys at View Royal have got plenty to keep yourselves busy with your streets and your signs and everything else,” said one resident. “Why the hell get your feet wet in my dock area?”
The Town is venturing into regulating docks because, for the first time, DND asked the Town’s opinion on new dock applications. There is no policy on which to base that opinion.
Many attending feared that existing docks, which in some cases have been there for generations, will be targeted.
View Royal Coun. David Screech responded that what DND is asking the Town for is input on new docks. Any threat to existing docks will come from DND, not View Royal.
DND has warned that people with docks without permits of occupation will be asked to bring docks up to regulation.
“This is an attempt to find a logical, policy based position where the Town can represent our collective interests in a way that makes good sense,” said Mayor Graham Hill. “We are not striving to stir up the water at all, we’re trying to keep a lid on it and make it better.”
View Royal resident Dawn McCooey is trying to form a citizens’ association of dock owners. She owns property on the water that has a non-complying dock that has been there for 60 years.
McCooey said View Royal did not give enough notice about the public meeting or the public advisory committees.
“They kept saying, ‘Well this is just the first stage,’” McCooey said. “Well, they’ve had their open house, now they’re going to form an advisory committee. Were they going to do that without any of us?”
CFB Esquimalt spokesperson Lt. Michael McWhinnie explained in an email that since assuming responsibility for the harbour in 2005, DND has been working toward bringing the harbour up to regulation.
DND expects homeowners to voluntarily comply with existing regulations and any issues “will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” he wrote.
“CFB Esquimalt leadership is committed to reaching a state of regularization through a reasoned and collaborative approach that includes stakeholder input from the Town of View Royal as well as local property owners,” McWhinnie wrote.
Any regulation enforcement is a process of applying existing policy “rather than an ‘update’ or any other term that implies change.”