With regard to the proposed Vortex development at the site of the former Fulford Inn (17 commercial guest accommodation units, a restaurant, and associated facilities), the public should be aware that the Local Trust Committee, in granting a variance to decrease septic setback distances from Soule Creek and Fulford Harbour, did not heed the recommendation of Trust staff.
The staff report states: “Staff do not support this variance request and consider it to be contrary to Land Use Bylaw and OCP provisions for water quality protection.” Here is the rationale: “Adjacent to a fish-bearing stream. Adjacent to a sensitive estuarine ecosystem. Projected to be subject to climate change-induced flooding. Presence of recorded archaeological site.”
Trust bylaw regulations require a minimum setback of 30 metres – a safety margin based on scientific research. The variance now allows a setback of just 10 metres from Soule Creek and 26 metres from the harbour.
The CRD’s Coastal Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment Report projects that the majority of the lot where the Fulford Inn was situated, including all of the road in front, will eventually be covered by sea water. According to the staff report: “The proposed development site may also be impacted by other climate change hazards including increased wave action and slope instability.”
Additionally, the Trust’s Senior Freshwater Specialist has warned that groundwater diversion, if necessary, could pose unknown risks to the receiving environment. “A detailed groundwater hydrology investigation would determine potential risks and mitigation measures.”
In contrast to these concerns, the applicant is claiming that ground discharge from the septic system “could improve water status in the riparian area adjacent to Soule Creek or the estuary as well as adding to base stream flow”. One can only wonder if cleaners, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals will be among the improvements.
The LTC chose the least restrictive of Trust staff’s three “alternatives”, which is to approve the variance but require monitoring of the sewage disposal system for the first five years. The other two options were to deny the permit (forcing a revised septic plan), or ask for more information in the form of a hydrology report and a professional biologist report.
The applicant has applied to the CRD to have the site included in the Fulford Water Service Area. Given the large scale of the proposed development, a capacity study will be required “to determine the impact on the Fulford Water System and capability of Weston Lake to provide water through the dry season”.
Yes, this is a commercial property, and as such, some type of commercial development is to be expected. But an examination of the details shows that the proposal is extremely complex and problematic, largely because the property is so close to sea level and deeply embedded in the water environment. Regardless of how well-designed the septic system is, it will be rendered useless if (or perhaps when) the entire site is flooded during a tidal surge.
Many questions arise, such as: Who is looking out for the marine life in and around Fulford Harbour? How, in a rapidly changing world, can anyone predict if Weston Lake will be able to meet future water demands for a significantly expanded network of users? And, above all, why have trustees not adopted “the precautionary principle” as specified in our OCP?