A beaver lodge can be seen in one of two ponds along the Log Train Trail near what is known as the Burde Street Beaver Ponds. A group of Port Alberni residents is concerned that development in the area will compromise habitat in the wetlands. (PHOTO COURTESY SANDY MCRUER)

A beaver lodge can be seen in one of two ponds along the Log Train Trail near what is known as the Burde Street Beaver Ponds. A group of Port Alberni residents is concerned that development in the area will compromise habitat in the wetlands. (PHOTO COURTESY SANDY MCRUER)

Friends of beaver ponds raise riparian concerns in Port Alberni

Housing development has been proposed for Burde Street near beaver ponds

Port Alberni residents are still concerned about the future of the beaver ponds on Burde Street.

Representatives from the Friends of the Burde Street Beaver Ponds attended a Port Alberni city council meeting on Monday, Aug. 8, requesting that the city adopt provincial riparian regulations into its new Official Community Plan (OCP) and place a hold on all developments that impact riparian areas until the OCP has been adopted.

A riparian zone is the place where land meets water, such as along a river, stream or pond, and how the area interacts with certain vegetation.

The Burde Street beaver ponds have been a topic of concern since San Group announced plans to build a housing development in the area under the name of Pacific Mayfair Estates.

San Group submitted an application to amend the city’s OCP and zoning bylaw last year, but this was put on pause when San Group announced that they intend to make “substantial” changes to the application.

Karen St. Pierre of the Friends of the Burde Street Beaver Ponds told council on Aug. 8 that she was concerned that the city does not currently have specific regulations to adequately protect riparian areas.

The province has a Riparian Areas Protection Regulation (RAPR), which calls on local governments to protect riparian areas by ensuring that a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) conducts a science-based assessment of proposed developments. But this regulation does not apply to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD).

St. Pierre noted that the District of Tofino passed a bylaw in 2018 to protect and preserve natural features and functions of riparian areas from the impacts of development.

“We believe that the City of Port Alberni should follow Tofino’s lead and adopt similar regulations for our area,” she said. “We are very concerned about proposed developments in our area that do not meet the standards of protection set out in the RAPR.”

In particular, she said she is worried that the Pacific Mayfair Estates development will have a “detrimental” effect on the beaver ponds and surrounding ecosystems, which includes a population of endangered Western painted turtles.

She and her fellow representative Sandy McRuer asked council on Monday to enact a new bylaw and adopt the province’s RAPR into the city’s OCP, placing a hold on all developments until after the new OCP has been adopted.

Lesley Fox, executive director for the Fur Bearers, also wrote a letter to council expressing her support for this request.

“I am extremely concerned about the potential for development around these ponds, and I urge council to ensure Port Alberni has updated legislation as it pertains to riparian areas. I believe these asks to be reasonable and fair.”

Council, however, declined to make a motion on this request.

“My preference is to not pass a bylaw today,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard. “My preference is to wait until it comes out in our new Official Community Plan and then pass it at that time.”

The OCP has been in the process of being updated for the past year. The document guides local government decisions when it comes to development of residential, commercial and industrial areas.

Director of development services Scott Smith said that this new OCP will include some “significant new environmental policies.”

He emphasized on Monday that the city still has not received a revised application from San Group. Once the application is received, Smith says there will be an “extensive” review process with public input.

He also said that San Group has hired a QEP biologist to help inform their revised application.

“The city will require a report from that biologist when that revised plan is submitted,” he said.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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