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Interface Planning Casebook - Case File 8 > Casebook > Valley Vision

Valley Vision | towards a comprehensive vision for the future of the Bulkley Valley

Interface Planning Casebook - Case File 8

Features of the Case

In Regional District Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS), approximately 500 acres, formally Crown Land under Skeena Forest Products, then BC Timber Sales, then sold with no development restrictions, is now zoned for 10 acre rural lots. This was done through a holding bylaw until a community plan is developed. The land and adjacent area was the subject of a 2008 NW Community College (NWCC) course for a habitat-mapping report (Principles of Ecology class- Biology 211). Lot layout and development could proceed through the subdivision process without any protection of the salmon stream or moose winter habitat. The NWCC identified sensitive, unstable soils, along the salmon-bearing creek and high levels of use by wintering moose and they recommended a 50 m buffer from bank. RDKS used this, lacking any other information, and requested a 50m buffer along creek under a status of either parkland or back-to-Crown Land. Since then the developer has hired a consultant who identified the moose winter habitat as being forest-age dependent, so less used as the forest matures. The riparian habitat along the terraced creek however is a linear habitat with adjacent conifer cover. The developer, although supportive of the NWCC project and recognizing the need to protect the stream and unstable slopes, disagrees with the size and status of the buffer. He feels that taking land back for public now could be viewed as a confiscation and that a conservation covenant would be sufficient to protect the fish, stream and sensitive soils. The easy and standard means of dividing the land into lots is to maximize the number of lots, and use creek as a boundary. If this area had been still in Crown Land, the section containing the streams, unstable slopes and some winter range could have been maintained as Crown Land and a subdivision designed around it. If it had been private land being rezoned, a similar but smaller reserve could have been recommended, possibly with smaller lots. As this property was already zoned for the proposed development, any changes have to be negotiated with the developer. There would not likely be any issues if expectations for environmental protection, park (there is a provision for taking 5% for parkland in new subdivisions) or other concerns had been in place prior to zoning and if smaller lots could compensate for land loss.

The size of buffer affects the number and size of lots, and as profit is usually correlated with size and number, there is a perception of lost financial opportunity. The benefits of owning property adjacent to Crown Land however may compensate because owners and public have use of the land, have an intact stream and visual/distance buffers from neighbours giving many of the benefits of a much larger property, and this should result in higher-quality lots. The benefit may depend on the size and location of lots. Covenants and fencing are also an option to maintain treed cover and restrict livestock in riparian area.

The Problem

There has been no effective means to incorporate meaningful fish and wildlife habitat planning and protection into Regional District Planning; northern BC has no Riparian Area Regulations, just development guidelines. Lot size has been used as a habitat surrogate, with the assumption that large lots would meet fish and wildlife habitat needs and also maintain rural character and other strategic-level objectives. The only time changes can normally be recommended on private land subdivision is when it is proposed for rezoning. This is reactive and inconsistent and isn’t conducive to developing more optimal options.

The Opportunity

There is opportunity to learn from this example of how sensitive values were identified but not in time to affect the layout substantially. This builds a case for being better prepared for future opportunities by identifying sensitive areas as soon as possible and making their protection a condition of future rezoning proposals or sales from Crown Land in the interface. It would also assist developers and planners if a list of legal tools and examples of development options, with the costs and benefits for economy, community and environment, was available. This would help with better land use and with more understanding and support by all involved.

Planning Principles at Stake

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 27, 32, 33, 34

Link to Planning Principles

Contributors

Anne Hetherington (Ministry of Environment), Norma Kerby (NW Community College), Ted Pellegrino (Regional District Kitimat-Stikine), Vance Hadley (developer)

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