Fulford Vortex Proposal In Focus

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?

January 22, 2020 5:24 PM

  • Avatar DoloresBG says:

    I agree with many of the points listed above. I am uncertain how a variance could be approved when it goes against all existing environmental protection bylaws and the OCP plan for the area? My understanding is this is why we have the Islands Trust. This area is practically a bird sanctuary/estuary and special care should be taken. How can this variance be undone?

  • Avatar dodo0953 says:

    Thankyou both for your concise and reasoned assessment of this situation.It would appear that greed and entitlement of landowners are overriding common sense on this island.

  • All of the federal and provincial rules have been followed and met with this proposal. The idea that we will not mitigate the flooding concerns for our "highway" to Fulford Village and Isabella Point road is simply foolish. The original plan with the boardwalks was brilliant and favored by local ALC committee. Capacity study completed for Fulford Water District and septic designed by industry professional.

  • Avatar Frants Attorp says:

    Thank you for your comments, Shelley. I am wondering which federal and provincial rules you are referring to. Can you be specific? There was, for example, no referral to Fisheries and Oceans. Also, can you please tell me where I can find the completed capacity study for the Fulford Water District relating to the proposed development? I am not aware of any completed study.

    With regard to flooding, it is my understanding that the risk would come, not just over the road, but also from a tidal surge pushing large volumes of water up Fulford Creek and flooding the property from behind. But even that does not explain the complexities of the matter. The Trust’s Senior Freshwater Specialist said the site is sensitive to a “potentially tidal dominated groundwater table” and may require special drainage. That’s why Trust staff gave trustees the option of asking for a hydrology study along with “a professional biologist report and environmental protection plan that addresses the proposal’s impact on wetland, shoreline, estuary and freshwater ecosystems”. Unfortunately, trustees chose to skip these steps and expedite the application.

  • Avatar DoloresBG says:

    I am sure there are a number of (financially rewarding) uses available for this property that would tread more lightly on the sensitive location. Were other commercial options looked into? There is certainly a need for commercial spaces on the island and by investing in and selling low-impact business spaces, the island as a whole could be moved towards a greener system of living and working. If the plan IS to install more high impact structures and businesses, was any consideration given to using green building systems? (Off grid - no black water) If it can be done in Banff, I'm sure it could be done here were locals are personally invested in protecting fish-baring streams and associated ocean wild-life.
    Continuing to do "what has been done before" for short-term gain is not only risky financially but ecologically.... look at the trials and tribulations of the Bullock Lake cottages. That project was stuck in limbo for over 20 years because of back and forth regulations and a long string of owners who all thought they could just "make it happen". Just a word of caution..... and encouragement to think outside of the "old box". Talk to your local business and ecological groups.... there are financially viable options and solutions that overlap... there really are!