Construction has started on a massive dock and breakwater in Middlepoint, south of Pender Harbour.
The application to construct a private moorage for the property owned by Dennis (Chip) Wilson, founder of Lululemon, sparked controversy when it was submitted in 2015 and garnered a lot of media attention.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and many neighbours who use the area, called Middlepoint Bight, unanimously opposed the controversial, 3,000-foot breakwater and 2,500-square-foot dock. The land use in the area includes permanent and seasonal residential homes, several of which have small private docks.
The final decision rested with the province, which approved the project on May 30. Neighbours didn’t realize the province had approved the project, until the work began last Tuesday morning.
Neighbour Arnhild Hognestad has been opposed to the project since it was first proposed in 2015.
“They are drilling from about 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily,” Hognestad said. “The dock is conveniently for him [the owner] located away from his home but right in front of ours. We use the water in front of our place a lot, as we swim on a daily basis in the summer. We, and many others, use this area for kayaking and paddle boarding.
“I’m very concerned for the safety in the waters with a dock that has room for two 50-foot yachts and a seaplane.”
Hognestad questioned how safety would be ensured for locals using the waterways. “I worry for the future of this pristine coastline and hope everything is done so it’s accessible to all, and not just a select few,” said Hognestad.
“The decision,” he added, “sets a precedence and opens up for many potential mega docks on the Coast.”
During the public consultation process in 2015, Barbara Cappeli, president of the Pender Harbour and District Wildlife Society, said she was concerned the large structure could harm the eelgrass meadow that is a feeding ground for the marbled murrelet.
According to Jeremy Uppenborn, senior public affairs officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), the Wilsons worked to address public concerns by “substantially redesigning moorage structures and developing mitigation strategies” to address potential impacts wildlife.
“The applicant had qualified professionals review the available information regarding marbled murrelet and the Rockfish Conservation Area and, in their opinion, there is low likelihood of impact to these species if the planned mitigation strategies are used,” Uppenborn said.
The application went through a standard FLNRO process, including review and consultation with First Nations and stakeholder engagement. The shíshálh Nation expressed opposition to the dock during the consultation process, but “no significant impacts to aboriginal rights have been identified,” FLNRO determined.
The SCRD’s planning commission and the SCRD board reviewed the proposal when it was originally submitted, and unanimously rejected the dock proposal. The SCRD can only regulate the size and use of docks where water zoning is in place. Middlepoint is located in Electoral Area A – Egmont-Pender Harbour – where there is no water zoning.
Coast Reporter tried to reach the dock owner for comment but was told by Wilson’s executive assistant Samantha Mullett that “Chip and his family are travelling at the moment and so I’m afraid he will not be available for comment.”