Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Solution Only A Lawyer Could Love

In a classic political compromise that left no one happy, Victoria city council voted last night to rezone the site for the proposed Mega Yacht Marina for the Inner Harbour. This will allow the marina to proceed, but on a much smaller scale. Needless to say, neither side is happy.
According to the Victoria Times-Colonist, "[t]he city-initiated move eliminates heavy-industrial uses at the site, and reduces the proposed marina's footprint by prohibiting structures such as piers and wharves in part of the provincially-owned water lot in front of the Songhees area of Victoria West."
However, the spokesperson for the developer said that the rezoning will result in the loss of public amenities as part of the project. "The removal of over 40 per cent of useful water space from the eastern and western ends of the marina will make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to deliver public access amenities that have been volunteered such as kayak launch and landing docks," the spokesperson said.
Opposition to the plan has been plentiful and constant, particularly from the local paddling community. To quote the Times-Colonist again:
Opposition to the plan from some residents and harbour users has been persistent and loud. Speaker after speaker addressed council in support of the downzoning — with many saying it didn't go far enough. The number supporting the council's action vastly out numbered those opposed.
Leading off was former Victoria mayor Peter Pollen, who called the marina proposal "grotesque."
Proponents say the facility would bring revenue to the city as wealthy boat owners spend money on everything from supplies to boat repairs. But Pollen said it would actually be a storage marina for mostly foreign-owned mega-yachts.
To suggest that such a marina had approval when he was mayor is a misrepresentation, he said.
"It was a concept but there wasn't any approval of city council," Pollen said.
Opponents, some of whom are residents of the Royal Quays condominiums at Songhees, said the proposed marina would be out of place and spoil the harbour and walkway.
They also worry that the project would block views, make the harbour unsafe for other water users and obstruct paddlers.
The development process has been cumbersome and confusing, with many people of both sides unsure of who the final authority is in this situation, and no level of government willing to step up and take ownership of the decision. A spokesperson for Save Victoria Harbour told B-Channel news before the meeting that "...I would really like to see is the provincial government to step up and listen to the electorate and just deny the lease, it’s that simple. The province is saying it’s up to the city, but the city’s hands are really tied. The property belongs to the province; it’s the province that can stop it."
Some council members took other levels of government to task for their handling of the proposal. As reported by CBC, Councillor John Luton "criticized the higher levels of government for their lack of public consultation. Neither the federal nor provincial governments has held public meetings on the marina proposal, and federal reports that approve the plan have not been released to the public," while a local resident told the council she believed the mega-yacht marina would harm the public good: "It's not just about kayakers. It's not just about the residents of the Songhees. It's about all the residents of this whole city. We all use the downtown area, the harbour area, and we all enjoy its beauty."
Local federal MP Keith Martin believes the marina will raise congestion in the harbour, creating an accident waiting to happen. He told local radio this morning that he thinks "...due dilligence hasn't happened in terms of a safety perspective in looking at this marina. Move the marina somewhere else, but not in the harbour. It is, as far as I can see, a significant potential hazard to health."
The developer was not thrilled with the result either. As reported by C-Fax, the developer's spokesperson said, "The rezoning really is a blunt instrument which results in a political compromise which really satisfies nobody. I don't think the rezoning satisfies what the public was looking for, those that spoke in opposition, and it doesn't satisfy you know those that spoke in favour, and us as the proponent. So I don't think there's any winners in this process tonight."
The developer gave no indication whether it would proceed with a scaled-down version of the marina.

B-Channel News has published an in-depth info page on the issue with lots of interviews and videos. That page is here.
Below is one of the videos, an interview with a local paddler describing his concerns on paddling in the harbour after the marina is built.

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