Snug Cove Planning

by Peter Frinton

“The Bulletin” Volume 7, Number 1, 04-03-12

The passage of time seems to be a major theme every time people get together to talk about Snug Cove, as in “Just how long will it take to produce a decent plan?”

Carol MacKinnon, a facilitator at the latest of the community forums held March 7th, invited the twenty or so diehards who attended to look ahead to 2016, a mere twelve years from now. Supported by population growth data, ferry use, water and energy capacities—all with red flags pointing to a collision between growth and quality of life, MacKinnon posed questions about what the future might hold for Bowen Islanders. She then asked us to look back twelve years to 1992 when this round of formal Snug Cove planning began. The message was that a lot can happen in a short time. The subtext was that if we don't effectively do the planning, circumstances will, and we will be at the mercy of the process, rather than being the architects.

Active Snug Cove planning has been going on for about thirty years, at least from my memory of having lived here when there were 480 people on the island, 12 kids in the school, and 6 cars on the first (6:45am) commuter ferry every week day.

By any standards, it's taking a long time to plan a small piece of real estate. Planning professor Dave Witty and his students roughed out a plan for the GVRD surplus lands in three days, that captured just about all the elements we've been belabouring these years.

So what is the hold up? I'd hazard that the answer is lack of compulsion if it doesn't have to be done within any given time frame, then it just doesn't happen. Never mind that Norma Dallas has been put on hold umpteen times, or that the traffic gets worse and worse. If we can make do without making any real decisions, that's preferable to making one that many won't like.

In lieu, we've had innumerable studies, including one I hadn't even heard of by name (the Community Vitality Study, 2000). We've had reports from the “original” Snug Cove planning group in 1990, from the Snug Cove Task Force in 2001, all leading to the latest version 5 of the Snug Cove Village Plan (SCVP).

The facilitators at Sunday's meeting bravely tried to interpret “polarity mapping” results from earlier public input. A lot depends on context, and in this exercise, that wasn't always clear. The four way mapping established a gradient between “high purpose” and “deepest fears”, again kind of ideal/real axis (aesthetics vs practical needs, or revitalization vs constraints) Some of the questions had been easy to answer, e.g. “is it a 'good thing' to have a public multi-purpose facility be located in the Cove” (yes), or “Should we have greenways and a nice forest backdrop?” (again, yes). Others were more problematic. Development permit areas for herons were equally felt to be a 'good' or 'bad' thing. The main road for ferry marshalling, a 'bad' thing, but so were any alternatives. Retaining the ball field in its current location, again a 'bad thing', but don't say that to the ballplayers or heritage buffs.

The comments were probably more illuminating than the numbers, and they will be duly recorded in the appendix of their report going back to council. It could be quite a tome. At least they will be making recommendations, a kind of Letterman list of “top ten” imperatives. These include the obvious—like ensuring that any plan uphold the vision of a “village within a park”, that traffic solutions be phased over time, that council genuinely listen, heed, act.

But the most poignant to me was an exhortation of urgency—“to get it right, and quickly”. That is probably the crux of the matter. It is time to wrap this up, and to generate a useful, consensual OCP amendment. Council needs to address the sticking points—in particular, the need and location for a village centre, a “heart of the Cove”. But the ancillary issues of settling on overall multi-family residential densities; and where reworking the boundaries and establishing the mix of land uses are equally important. The tools for implementation, like density transfer, are secondary.

Ironically, the area of greatest concern and contention, traffic management, probably cannot be resolved within this document. There are simply too many uncertainties to boldly pronounce any one solution. In my opinion, this is not a “bad thing” at all. As long as the SCVP identifies and allows for the options, it will be possible to revisit them, plan in hand, and our partners (BC Ferries and GVRD Parks) at the table.

When that time comes, we will really see the difference between the OCP and land use bylaws, which actually dictate what can happen on the ground, and what we want to see happen. The creation of a dynamic village, a gift of land from GVRD for civic uses, and good traffic management, can only happen once both processes are complete. This is just step one. Let's get on with it.

Peter Frinton


Page last updated 04-04-23