The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) will not be pushing for a comprehensive Howe Sound management plan in the coming year, directors agreed during the Dec. 20 planning and development committee meeting.
Proposed last summer by the Future of Howe Sound Society, which opposes the Burnco gravel mine project at McNab Creek, the plan would be an informal tool to help guide long-term development in the region stretching from West Vancouver to Gibsons.
In a verbal report, planning and development general manager Steve Olmstead noted the SCRD had assumed a de facto lead role by sending letters to other Howe Sound jurisdictions last month to gauge their level of interest in pursuing the initiative.
“One of the key issues is who leads,” Olmstead said. “We’ve sort of, by default, taken on that role, such as it is.”
While acknowledging there was “a growing interest in the topic,” West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull cited jurisdictional and other hurdles and concluded: “I don’t have an appetite for planning this year.”
“The jurisdictional issues are overwhelming,” Gibsons director Lee Ann Johnson concurred. “It seems to me there would have to be some provincial involvement, and support as well. I don’t see it’s our responsibility as a regional district to spearhead some kind of campaign.”
In his report, Olmstead said the only area in the region that does not have an official community plan (OCP) lies between Port Mellon and McNab Creek, within the SCRD.
“So in terms of some of the industrial development and so forth, it might be something to consider in our future work plan, to extend our OCPs,” he said.
The committee agreed to recommend the board send a letter to the Future of Howe Sound Society, saying directors would not be able to attend a planned forum on April 13 in West Vancouver due to a scheduling conflict, but would be interested in meeting with the group.
The comprehensive management plan was also suggested as a topic for the next Howe Sound community forum, expected to be held in February.
A report from senior planner David Rafael outlined some of the challenges of developing a plan for such a large area.
“The process could be complex and would require establishing a partnership between many local governments, provincial and federal ministries,” said the report, adding there would also need to be significant input from industrial and recreational stakeholders, as well as community groups.
The report also raises the question of what authority such a plan would have.
“There is no legislation to support merging the various OCPs and other governmental plans, regulations and Acts. In addition, staff at first blush have not found any legislative backing to provide an interjurisdictional enforcement mechanism,” the report said.
Amending relevant OCPs could be one approach; another would be a memorandum of understanding between local governments, First Nations and senior governments. However, the report said, “this would be a complex process.”