Council Hears Competing Visions for Development of Lot #2

BIMBy Meribeth Deen
Bowen Island Undercurrent

Jan 30, 2014 at 1:00 PM

On Monday, Council heard from both the theatre community and the gymnastics community about potential uses of community lands in Snug Cove. Another perspective, brought to council in the form of a letter written by the Bowen Island Caring Circle, was put on hold until the letter’s authors might be available to present their perspective in person.

In December 2012 a committee made up of councillors Daron Jennings, Cro Lucas andTim Rhodes took the lead on planning for a community centre initiative. This committee came up with a vision for a “Community Campus” that would incorporate arts and recreational space into a building that would also house a Municipal Hall, saving the Municipality the $100 thousand per year it currently plays in rent for its offices and town hall. Councillor Tim Rhodes says the other aspect to the Community Campus plan was that if a group could get the money together to build something, then the municipality would give them the land they needed to make it happen.

With their “Community Campus” vision laid out, a Temporary Advisory Board took over the planning for the development of public lands in Snug Cove.

Councillor Cro Lucas explains that this work is required to lay the groundwork before anything is built.

“We have a huge infrastructure deficit,” says Lucas, “We have shortage of capability of dealing with sewage and we have water quality issues. All of this needs to be dealt with before you build anything.”

A report from the Temporary Advisory Board regarding the lower portion of lot 2, behind the Museum and Archives and Senior’s Road, up to the Bowen Island Community School’s grass field, is expected to be made public “soon” according to Councillors Rhodes and Lucas.

This week’s presentation to council by former Arts Council member, and long-time community centre advocate Paul Hoosen expressed frustration at the fact that the work of previous committees was never implemented.

“There’s 10 years of hard work and study as to what’s possible in terms of fundraising, in terms of priorities and what the primary stakeholders want, but that process got sidelined a little bit when you folks had a meeting just like this one and a delegation came forward and said, ‘You need to expand the grass field,’ and you went for it.”

Hoosen says that he appreciates that the expansion of the grass field has been put to good use, and that there is a long list of legitimate and specific uses that various groups on the island are hoping to see take the shape of a community centre, but that council needs to work with greater transparency, and to better communicate the decision-making process to the public.

“I thought a Temporary Advisory Committee report was due at the end of November,” Hoosen told council. “The December meeting was cancelled, the January meeting was a closed meeting, and I’m sitting here saying what is going on?”

Hoosen stated his belief that the primary need on Bowen for a community centre incorporates a 2300 square foot performance space with 700 square feet of backstage space.

Gil Yaron, President of the Bowen Island Gymnastics Club, presented council with the vision for a 5000 square foot space, where gymnastics equipment would be set up on a permanent basis with open floor space that could support other community programming.

Yaron told council that the Bowen Island Gymnastics Club, which works with more than 100 children on the island and provides one of the only indoor recreational activities available, is the only gymnastics club in the lower mainland that has to set up and tear down its equipment at the beginning and end of each practice session.

“We are here today to express our interest in working collaboratively on creating a space,” Yaron told Council, adding that the Gymnastics Club had already had discussions with the Bowen Island Children’s Centre about how such a space could be useful for supporting their after school programming, “The only two requirements we actually have for this space is that we have a permanent installation and we have priority access to the facility.”

Yaron said the Gymnastics Club would be willing to get the necessary financing for the project, but requires a letter of intent from the Municipality backing it up.

Councillor Wolfgang Duntz told Yaron that a facility with proven multiple-uses, and interest by more than one community group has a greater chance of success going forward than one with just a single use.

“The more you can combine it, the better,” said Duntz. “The chances that combined use is actually beneficial is less than 50 percent, but you may end up in a compromise which nobody’s happy about… if you look for something to have all under one roof, you may waste many years as we have on council by trying to combine them.”

Members of the Caring Circle also submitted a letter to council urging they make the creation of a health care centre on Bowen its highest priority.

“The Committee has an architect who is keen to proceed with plans,” states the letter signed by Bud Massender, Colleen O’Neil, Dr. Jane McKay, Bruce Wallace and Paul Stratford. “It is essential that a site be identified in order to address that crucial part of the project. In addition, the Committee is creating a service model and a financial plan and is eager to proceed with fundraising.”

Council declined to discuss this letter, preferring to wait until at least one of the signees was available to present it to council.

Councillor Cro Lucas says that decisions about how the land will be used are not imminent.

“The strategies delivered by the Temporary Advisory Board’s report will have to go to public consultation – hopefully that can happen by the spring,” says Lucas. “If the communication to the public on this has been poor, it comes from the fact that there’s been some serious head-scratching on council. There’s a lot to figure out, the costs are always more complicated, and just more than you think they’re going to be.”