There may be a sliver of hope for property owners with unauthorized docks in Pender Harbour’s dreaded red zone.
It’s been extensively reported that up to 40 docks without permits in areas such as Gunboat Bay will have to be removed under the terms of the joint provincial-shíshálh dock management plan that was quietly imposed on Pender Harbour in early April. That is still the official position, confirms Leonard Lee, chair of the local dock plan working group.
“However,” Lee added in an email this week, “informally I have learned that discussions between the province and individual waterfront land owners have taken place and the province has suggested in roundabout ways that they are open to considering legalizing existing docks in the red zone providing the owner has good reasons for keeping their dock. Reasons discussed range from a dock being maintained in a particular spot for a long time [to] applications partway through but stalled for various reasons.”
So therein lies the sliver of hope.
It was a very different story at the two meetings with provincial ministry officials that Lee attended since the dock plan came into effect. With representatives of shíshálh Nation present at one of the meetings, locals were told that the plan was proceeding to inform owners of unauthorized docks that their structures had to be removed. “They stated this was already underway and a first priority.”
When Lee asked point-blank if a variance procedure would be considered, he was told no. When he asked if tenure applications would be considered in the red zone for existing unauthorized docks, or even new docks, if all environmental and archeological concerns had been addressed, both the provincial and shíshálh officials said no.
This last point is astounding. The purported reason for the zone system – and for the dock plan itself – is to protect the harbour’s environmental and archeological resources. If it can be proven that neither is threatened, how can the answer be no? It doesn’t make sense, and that’s why it’s not a complete surprise that the province is holding informal discussions with dock owners and suggesting “in roundabout ways” that there might be some flexibility after all.
The province has said all along that it retains the ultimate authority over dock tenures. Ministry officials should start acting the part, quit skulking in the shadows and talking out of both sides of their mouths, and openly commit to reviewing each case on its own merits.
Otherwise we’re looking already at a failed process and a clear abuse of authority. And that won’t reconcile anything.