FLASHBACK TO PERIOD 1999-2001: The SmartStorm Forum Series set in motion a chain of events that are still reverberating in British Columbia
An Historical Perspective
Looking back, and in terms of ‘green’ rainwater management, much of what has happened in British Columbia can be traced back to October 1997 and who was in the room when the Union of BC Municipalities convened a focus group workshop on the Fish Protection Act.
The coming together of a group of change agents in October 1997 set in motion a chain of events that has reverberated through time.
The Chain of Events
In a nutshell, an outcome of the October 1997 workshop was the SmartStorm Forum Series, an inter-governmental initiative…..
- which begat Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia……
- which begat the Water Balance Model for British Columbia….
- which provided early credibility for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC….
- which led to the formation of the Green Infrastructure Partnership…
- and ultimately culminated in incorporation of the not-for-profit Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
The coming together of four organizations to form the Green Infrastructure Partnership was a direct outcome of the UBCM Urban Forum at the 2003 Annual Conference. At the Forum, the Water Balance Model was formally rolled out to elected representatives. This high profile launch was the first step in a comprehensive outreach and continuing education program that is ongoing.
The SmartStorm Forum Series
The SmartStorm Forum Series comprised events on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo in January 1999) and the Sunshine Coast (Sechelt in September 1999), and in the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford and Pitt Meadows in 2001).
Looking back two decades later, it is clear that the success of the SmartStorm Forum Series provided the springboard to the 2003 UBCM Urban Forum.
A value-added dimension to the SmartStorm Forum Series was the involvement of elected representatives, in particular Mayor Barry Janyk of the Town of Gibsons. Mayor Janyk was the moderator for the last three in the series.
In 1999, it was Mayor Janyk who coined the term ‘Smart Development’ to clearly differentiate the BC approach from the Low Impact Development terminology used in the United States.
Mayor Janyk’s championing of the series led to the mayors of Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows stepping forward and volunteering their municipalities as hosts for the two Fraser Valley events.
2003 UBCM Urban Forum
Mayor Janyk also led the 3-person team that delivered the Water Balance Model program at the 2003 UBCM Urban Forum. Designed to inform and educate elected representatives, the program was structured in five parts. Mayor Janyk delivered the opening and closing segments.
The other two members of the presentation team were Dipak Basu of the City of Chilliwack and Kim Stephens, Project Coordinator for the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed the Water Balance Model.
Smart Development Defined
When the SmartStorm Forum Series introduced the term ‘smart development’ two decades ago, the goal was to advance implementation of an integrated and balanced approach to land use.
“To change the way people think and do, we defined smart development as protecting property and sustaining natural systems in a cost-effective manner,” states Mayor Janyk. He was first elected as a Councillor in the Town of Gibsons in 1996 and is currently serving his fourth term as Mayor.
“We made it clear that RAINwater management is at the heart of smart development. Whereas traditional STORMwater management is based on end-of-pipe solutions, a smart approach starts at the source – where rain falls.”
Design with Nature
By 2004, the concept for ‘smart development’ had morphed into a ‘design with nature’ approach to achieving settlement change in balance with ecology.
This is now the language of choice for the Water Sustainability Action Plan and the various initiatives that are being implemented under the Action Plan umbrella, in particular Convening for Action on Vancouver Island.
The Genesis for Success
“The response to the SmartStorm Forum Series was simply overwhelming,” recalls Mayor Janyk, “For the first event, held in Nanaimo, the doors had to be closed when the surge of last-minute registrations reached the 250 seating capacity of the Coast Bastion venue.”
“When we decided to host the second event on the Sunshine Coast, the skeptics asked me who would come to the Sunshine Coast. Well, they did come and they came from far and wide, including a representative of the Ontario Ministry of Environment. We attracted a capacity crowd of some 225 to the theatre in Sechelt.”
Mayor Janyk’s tone-setting presentation in 2001 was titled The Political Consequences of Doing the Wrong Thing: Why Elected Officials Must Consider Smart Development.
Award-Winning Town of Gibsons
In recent years, the Town of Gibsons has received a number of awards for outstanding achievement under Mayor Janyk’s leadership. In 2009, for example:
- The United Nations named Gibsons as the World’s Most Liveable Community for the population category up to 20,000.
- The Community Energy Association honoured the Town with an Energy & Climate Action Award for Community Planning and Development.
“The ‘smart development’ features were critical to our success,” states Mayor Janyk. “The Town is recognized as a leader in sustainable planning and development. In many respects, the genesis can be traced back to the SmartStorm Forum Series.”