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Oyster raft rezoning supported despite residents’ objections – Via Comox Valley Echo

Oyster raft rezoning supported despite residents’ objections

Click me to see original article via Comox Valley Echo

Proposals for more surface oyster rafts in Baynes Sound are on the cusp of being approved despite written objections submitted by more than 50 residents of the area.
Third reading of a rezoning bylaw that would allow 30 additional rafts in a new area of the Sound has now been passed by the Comox Valley Regional District board, following a public hearing at which both opponents and supporters were heard.
The applicant, Shao Ping Kang, is seeking approval to change the ‘aquaculture 1’ zoning of a 2.01 hectare Crown land licensed tenure in area of water between Union Bay and Buckley Bay.
If final approval is given to rezone it to ‘aquaculture 2,’ visible rafts in the area will be allowed as long as no structure is higher than 1 metre (just over 3 feet).
The applicant told the public hearing he had been an oyster farmer in the area for nine years, and outlined his intention to benefit the local economy, mitigate negative impacts on marine life and habitat, and continue to be a good neighbour to surrounding residents.
His application was supported by Roberta Stevenson on behalf of the BC Shellfish Growers’ Association. She said aquaculture was a good means of employment and a great opportunity for immigrants, adding it was consistent with the official community plan, and was regarded worldwide as a green, sustainable industry.  Stevenson also expressed confidence that the applicant intended to address any concerns over plastic debris, while acknowledging all industries had a “footprint.”
But the Herring Industry Advisory Board joined those opposing the plan.
At the CVRD board meeting, rural Area A director Bruce Jolliffe said coming to a decision on the application had proved challenging for him.
Real concerns had been expressed by residents looking out over Baynes Sound as the rezoning would extend the most northerly end of the existing ‘aquaculture 2’ area, introducing rafts in to a new area of water.
He acknowledged aquaculture was a critical industry in the area.  It was a multi-million dollar operation with many companies providing valuable employment for hundreds of people – and the shellfish grown there were world-renowned.
But at the same time homeowners and bed-and-breakfast businesses in the area had expressed concerns, not just over the visual aspect of more rafts but about the potential ecological impact and the fact there was no effective control over the type of structures that would go in, other than their height.
Jolliffe noted that in the Power River area a wider aquaculture plan helped guide the development of the industry to get a better balance between those with interests on land and those working the ocean.  It was a pity no such plan yet existed for the Baynes Sound area.
But Comox Coun. Tom Grant said Jolliffe should stop feeling conflicted and just offer full and enthusiastic backing to the shellfish industry.
“I don’t see the problem you’re having here,” said Grant. “We’ve just had a great shellfish festival celebrating aquaculture.  If the shellfish growers require infrastructure to do their job and build up the industry, we should be supporting them – not showing angst.”
Jolliffe assured Grant he fully supported the shellfish industry, but having heard the comments at the public hearing and concerns submitted in writing there were issues of “ambience.”
In the same way people might not want a tall apartment block go up in the middle of a low-rise residential area, so people here were concerned about prominence, placement and potential impact of infrastructure sought by some types of aquaculture operation.
The Area A advisory planning committee had also expressed concerns about the rezoning.  They had sought reassurance that the application would not negatively affect other shellfish tenures and the overall sustainability of Baynes Sound.
In the end, the board decision to give third reading to the rezoning bylaw was unanimous, leaving only what is expected to be the formality of a final CVRD approval vote at a future meeting.
However, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada need to complete the processing of the application, but have been waiting for local government approval.
One of the leading local objectors to the plan, Carolyn Touhey, stressed she was not against the growth of the aquaculture industry, but it had to be sensitively done.  “It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’,” she told the Echo.  “We can all win if we work together collectively.”
She considered the large number of objectors from a small community like Union Bay was significant, but she considered their rural area director had not adequately represented them.
In her view, the rezoning plan was just being ramrodded through with the help of a paid lobbyist and could now set a precedent for further areas of Baynes Sound to end up hosting ugly rafts, potentially impacting property values and threatening the ecology of the area.

© Comox Valley Echo



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