A group of Gabriola Island residents are upset over a bylaw change they say would infringe on their property rights and mar their island lifestyle.
The Gabriola Island local trust committee held a public hearing Wednesday night on amendments that would bring the province's riparian area regulation into effect through local bylaw, making Gabriola one of the last jurisdictions in B.C. to do so.
The bylaws establish a new riparian area development permit area and codify regulations for land use around streams or other water bodies that can or already provide fish habitat.
The changes would bring the local government into compliance with B.C. law. Under the rules, development within 30 metres of a stream's high water mark would require a $450 development permit and, in some cases, approval from a professional biologist.
Under the regulations, ditches on private properties would count as streams, even if there is no water flowing through them.
More than 100 people attended the public hearing Wednesday. Residents, including Bart Jessup, say that the bylaws would restrict the freedom of property owners to improve and manage their property.
Property owners would not be able to expand gardens or landscape within 30 metres of a private ditch without first paying potentially thousands of dollars for an environmental assessment and development permit, for example. "The opposition to the bylaws is very strong," said Jessup, who chairs the Gabriolabased Property Rights Action Group.
The bylaws still need to receive second and third reading, and get approval from the Islands Trust Council executive committee.
Islands Trust chairwoman and Gabriola representative Sheila Malcolmson said staff members are looking at possible changes to ease the burden on residents. But she added the regulations haven't negatively impacted other communities that have implemented the regulations.
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