After seven years of often acrimonious debate, multiple changes and a new official community plan, Blind Bay Resort received third reading – with conditions.
Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors gave owner Dan Baskill’s proposal third reading, but withheld bylaw approval subject to the following.
• Receipt of documentation from the Ministry of Environment saying the resort’s sewage disposal system meets ministry requirements;
• A signed covenant prohibiting the rental of personal watercraft and
• Baskill agreeing to and registering a covenant prohibiting the disposal of watercraft/vessel sewage disposal/pump-out services.
Senior planner Dan Passmore explained staff were opposed to third reading for reasons he stated prior to an Aug. 6 public hearing at Sorrento Memorial Hall. At that time concern was expressed that the development would require eight amendments to the newly minted official community plan (OCP).
The eight areas that would need OCP amendments deal with respecting environmental and foreshore values, permitted land uses within secondary settlement areas, maintaining near-shore areas of Shuswap Lake ecologically intact by focusing development away from the shoreline and by minimizing impacts from moorage facilities.
In terms of moorage, the new OCP says it may be included only for fee-simple waterfront parcels. New development proposals get one moorage per waterfront parcel or 30 metres of water frontage.
Lastly, large-scale commercial development is not acceptable in secondary settlement areas and should be directed to the village centre.
“What is being done is a very site-specific zoning,” development and planning manager Gerald Christie advised directors at the July 17 board meeting. “Staff have pointed out, in both our reports, the issues and inconsistencies with the new OCP. Now we’re waiting to hear from the public on these proposed amendments.”
Passmore reiterated concerns, but noted Baskill had agreed to reduce the number of the units on the foreshore from 19 to 14 and had agreed to the other requirements.
Having been prevented from commenting on the development after the close of the August public hearing, directors were again given an opportunity to speak to the development project prior to the vote for third reading.
In a long and passionate plea for support from the other rural directors, Area C director Paul Demenok said he was initially against the development but changed his mind over time.
He believes that between 70 and 75 per cent of the people at the public hearing were in support of the development.
“Repeated public hearings and applications increased emotions and served to entrench opinion rather than seeking of common ground,” he said. “Regardless of the vote here today, there will be many people who are unhappy with the outcome.”
Demenok dealt with a number of the issues that had erupted over the years, many of which he said had been “coloured by misinformation.”
He concluded by noting CSRD staff made clear at the public hearing that OCPs are living documents and that each application is assessed on its own merits.
“Staff noted at the public hearing that an OCP is not iron-clad, but a document that will change over time depending on circumstances,” he said. “The reason we have a variance process is to accommodate changes to the OCP. The previous OCP had 60 to 70 variances.”
Area D Falkland/Salmon Valley/Ranchero director Rene Talbot described an OCP as a guiding tool and noted it took eight years to create one for Ranchero.
“I understand and respect the position of staff, but at the same time, this is an issue at the board level and we have to look at it in terms of a set of larger circumstances including the regional economy,” added North Shuswap director Larry Morgan. “I’ve been struggling with it, conflicted, each time we’ve revisited this and it’s getting more difficult. We need recreational activities for our economic health.”
Area B Rural Revelstoke director Lani Parker had several concerns including the eight OCP amendments required and the form and character the establishment of modular units would have on a so-far residential area.
Area E Rural Sicamous director Rhona Martin agreed, noting she would have preferred a hotel or motel that could include amenities that would offer greater economic opportunities.
“I know there was a lot of support. I went to the public hearing and for me I heard a lot of yeses, but I have concerns. In the written comments I could see the split, so it was very difficult,” she said, following the meeting. “It was the most difficult project to look at.”
Martin also expressed concerns about the resort’s sewage treatment plant, something she believes has been non-compliant for some time.
Christie assured her the issue was being dealt with by the Ministry of Environment, whose job it is to make sure the system is compliant.
When the question on third reading was called, three directors voted in favour with Martin and Parker opposed.
A relieved and jubilant Baskill said he is aware of the opposition and concern but believes it can be overcome.
“We are very pleased with the approvals given to complete our resort at last Thursday’s CSRD board meeting,” said Baskill in an email to the Market News. “There is still another process to follow, but we will be working hard to deliver on the vision we’ve shared with our community this next year.”