Muni Morsels: Bowen's getting frog crossing signs and some affordable housing

The following are briefs from the Dec. 9 regular council meeting. 

It was a dark and froggy night:  Council unanimously agreed to erect “frog crossing” signs on the Mt. Gardner Rd. around Killarney Lake. The signs are to warn drivers to watch out for frogs and other amphibians that frequently cross the road in spring and fall. The initiative is to cost $200. 

Parks and Environment manager Bonny Brokenshire said that, all ribbiting aside, frogs and other amphibians are indicators of ecosystem health and need protecting. 

Councillor Sue Ellen Fast noted that amphibian crossings could be a feature for Bowen Island. Councillor Michael Kaile wondered if there was a way to make the signage a seasonal feature (so put up the signs when the frogs are crossing en masse. 

Ultimately council left the details of the signage up to Brokenshire.

New pads:  Council is ticking off more boxes for the 27-unit rental housing project on the lot across from the museum (Area 1 of Lot 2). 

Council unanimously passed first, second and third readings of a housing agreement bylaw. The agreement is a condition on BIM’s impending sale of the parcel of community land to D.K. Harris Properties Ltd. 

Under the agreement, all planned 27 units must be for rent, though only four must be “affordable rental units.” The annual rent on the “affordable” units cannot be more than 30 per cent of the BC Housing-determined Housing Income Limits (basically there’s an income threshold under which households are eligible for this housing and then the annual rent is set no higher than 30 per cent of this threshold.)

Bowen residents (have lived on-island for a year or more), permanent employees or retirees are to have priority access to the units. 

Long time coming pads: For more than 20 years, the Snug Cove House Society (formerly Abbeyfield) has worked for supportive housing for seniors on Bowen. Monday, council saw plans for the 22-unit building on Miller Rd. The society is applying for variance permits to increase the allowable lot coverage from 55 per cent to 65 per cent and some variances to setback, including to accommodate the underground parking. Council voted unanimously and with little debate to give notice that it would be considering issuing the permits.

Coordinating lilies and pads: Council adopted an active design guidelines policy. The guidelines provide developers and BIM with basic ideas to keep in mind when designing growth. Active living and wellbeing are central to the document, which is intended to guide through planning, subdivision and building. (If one is simply building a house, one skips to the building portion of the policy.) It includes four tenets: building and site design, development patterns, parks and open spaces, and transportation and mobility. The document suggests considering density, walking routes, car-free capacity, outside lighting, versatile spaces, downplaying parking, driveway safety, age-friendly and accessible parking, attractive stairs and community gardening. There’s a handy-dandy checklist at the end of the document for developers. 

Pad satisfaction: Eighteen per cent of Bowen adults (523 people) responded to BIM’s 2019 Island Survey.  The survey found slightly lower ratings for overall quality of life (4.41 out of 5, a weighted average that was down from 4.45) but overall results were similar to the survey circulated in 2017. A notable difference was the importance of diverse housing types went from 3.97/5 down to 3.75/5 and satisfaction with (housing) affordability rose from 2.09/5 to 2.32/5. Councillors and staff noted in discussion that in the last survey 17.7 per cent of respondents were renters while in the 2019 iteration only 13.23 per cent were renters. The survey asked about quality of island life, households, municipal services, transportation, emergency preparedness, housing and the local economy. The summary of results includes comparisons with the last survey and has 58 pages of written comments from islanders.

Paying for pads: a tax update to the Finance Advisory Committee from financial officer Shayle Duffield says that BIM had 227 tax deferrals in 2019, up from 198 the year before. The deferral value is a $190,000 increase over the previous year. 

Another note: Staff reports to council (basically the information sheets BIM staff write up to advise council on decision making) will now include an “Ecological/environmental/climate implications” section.


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