Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building a viable community?

Our new Council has begun its process to develop the village.  To do so they are lining up a few ducks which they have to solve in order to proceed.

For decades, there has been talk about what should happen with the village.  Over the last few years, the talk has become more and more focused on detailed planning, and the latest iteration concluded last fall with the Snug Cove Concepts process which analysed several of the previous plans, broke out several design elements and combined them into four scenarios which have sparked a lot of discussion.  On Saturday, our Council will hold a public meeting to introduce a fifth concept, which significantly adds a road right through the Park at the entrance to the island.  This has never proved to be a popular option but they have put it on the table anyway.

The new Council has produced a plan for how they will move forward on developing the Cove.  Entitled "Building a viable community" it seems to be a critical pathway for implementing a comprehensive development of Snug Cove using a single source - either a private sector builder or a local development corporation composed of local developers, landowners and municipality staff.

I have several thoughts about this, not the least of which is that turning over the massive job of developing a village seems to me to be a "shopping mall" approach to the work.  It strikes me that all Council needs to do is to rezone the land, determine the uses and values of the development, and offer it for sale.  The developers who buy could contribute to the infrastructure.  I am unsure why we need to tender the offer for development.  And with Bowen Island's largest developer sitting on Council, I'm unsure of how the process could be rendered fair.  What is being offered essentially is a large swath of community lands for a private interest to buy and develop, essentially under contract to the municipality.  It is unclear who will actually own the land at the end of the day.  One suspects that a development company my buy and lease it to tenants which seems like a terrible idea.  Absentee landlords jacking rents are one of the primary reasons why businesses have a ahrd time succeeding in the Cove.

Critically for me, what is missing from this vision of development is tha "viable community" part.  It seems that this is a pathway fro "creating a profitable development process" but it says nothing about citizens being involved in the development corporation, it contains no provision for community consultation or co-creation (especially, one imagines in the private sector option) and it doesn't talk about community life at all.

On the other hand, it IS an implementation plan.  Something will get done.  I just wonder if at the end of the day we won't have a glorified shopping mall for a village rather than a proper village.

 If this was the plan that was being used to develop your village, what would you have to say about it?