Director, Electoral Area B
Regional District of Nanaimo
Huxley Community Park celebration May 28th!
Mark your calendars! The celebration for Huxley Park skatepark and Phase 2 improvements is scheduled for Saturday May 28th between 12:30-1:30. There will be a few speeches and an opportunity to thank all of the so very many community members who have worked for this addition to the community.
707 Community Park
At a recent Board meeting, the staff report on the implications of the fuel management prescription for the 707 community park and note to file re sheltering in the park was included on the agenda. The Board supported including the 707 on the list of parks where sheltering is prohibited under Bylaw No. 1801, 2019.
Background: As you’ll recall, when the RDN updated its Parks Bylaw to include limits on where and for how long unsheltered people could use RDN parks for sheltering, it was misinterpreted to mean that the RDN was “allowing” sheltering in its parks. In fact, numerous Supreme Court rulings had indicated that unhoused people had a right to access public spaces, including parks, subject to reasonable limits established by local governments. Prior to the parks bylaw update the RDN had very limited tools to address the issue. Part of the concern raised, in particular by the Fire Chief, was that the condition of the 707 community park (dry and dense with lots of dead trees) could make it more likely to have a fire and it would be difficult to fight given the size and condition of the park. As a result, the Board supported my Motion that sheltering be temporarily prohibited in the 707 park until the fire risk could be assessed and mitigated, as appropriate. Subsequently, the RDN received a grant from the province to do a fire risk assessment and prescription (FMP) in 100 ha of the 707 Community Park. The project required the contractor to include an assessment specific to sheltering in the 707 park in a note to file. The note to file indicated that the forest has the potential to support a severe wildfire during the most severe weather conditions and recommended the park be closed permanently or seasonally to sheltering. The staff report indicated that trying to have seasonal closures would be too difficult and risky and recommended a full closure.
Community Health and Wellbeing Planner
The feasibility study on the potential costs and function of creating a community health and wellbeing planner position/contract is underway. The first stakeholder meeting with members of the Health and Wellness Collaborative (which is comprised of representatives from 30+ groups that work to improve health and wellbeing on the islands, from emergency response, medical clinic, social work, PHC, recreation, and arts to name just a few) happened last week. The consultant, Urban Matters, will use the information as they draft the feasibility study which will outline various options to address the goals and gaps identified during the meeting.
Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan
We received the Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan (CWRP) for Area B and discusses the current status of public land on Gabriola, Mudge, and DeCourcy Islands.
The report identifies many useful steps for the RDN to take and grants it can access to improve our communities’ resiliency to wildfire. There is also discussion about opportunities for including FireSmart reforms in development and zoning bylaws or Official Community Plans, which are within the purview of the Islands Trust in our electoral area. Recommendations relevant to development/zoning bylaws may also be contained in the CWRPs for other electoral areas where the RDN is responsible for land management. Subsequent to endorsing the CWRPs, the Board supported a Motion to use the information contained in the reports to evaluate the Parks Bylaw for its effectiveness in fire prevention in community and regional parks. The CWRPs will be uploaded here: https://www.getinvolved.rdn.ca/rdn-wildfire-resiliency where you can find information about FireSmart as well.
• The EASC received a building permit activity update for the first quarter of 2022. The number of permits issued for Area B in the first quarter was 21, compared to 32 in the first quarter of 2021, 20 in 2020, and 31 in 2019. The total value of construction included in those permits across all of the electoral areas is very high. The value surpassed $40 million, reflecting increased building costs (labour and materials), compared to the value of construction for 2021’s first quarter which was ~$26 million.
• The Board requested that bylaw enforcement tools be reviewed with a focus on their effectiveness for longstanding property bylaw files, and that alternate methods and cost recovery options be investigated.
• RDN meetings are continuing in hybrid mode with some Directors/staff in person at the RDN Board room (and the public able to attend) and the rest online.
• The next Board meetings are May 24th and June 14th . (1 pm start)
• The next Electoral Area Services Committee meetings are June 9th and July 7th (1 pm start)
If you have any thoughts or questions about this update or anything else RDN related, or are curious about any of the reports I mention above, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-741-4589.