GETTING AHEAD OF THE WAVE: “An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change” – Story #5 in the ‘curriculum preview series’ for 2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series introduced vision for Nature Without Borders

Note to Readers:

This article is the fifth in a series that will both set the scene and serve as a resource for the 2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series. This Story #5 is an abridged version of an article that is six pages in length. To read the complete article, click on this link to download a PDF version of An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change. The following abridged version:

  • connects the dots between the Comox Valley Regional Conservation Strategy, An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change, and the Regional Team Approach;
  • foreshadows how the Town Hall Sharing Session at Seminar #1 on September 25 will be conducted; and
  • introduces the use of the Development Permit Area planning tool as an example of how to achieve regional alignment.

The downloadable version of the complete article elaborates on both the Regional Conservation Strategy and An Integrated Watershed Approach, summarizes the provincial context for a Regional Team Approach, and explains Development Permit Areas and how the tool will serve as the focus of the Town Hall session.

Nature Without Borders – Building on the Comox Valley Regional Conservation Strategy

The vision for An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change is an early outcome of the 2009 Learning Lunch series. At the start of the first seminar (on September 25), Jack Minard of the Comox Valley Land Trust and Derek Richmond of the City of Courtenay will “call for courage” when they set the context for a town hall sharing session.

Call to Courage

Derek richmond (160p)“We have a great opportunity to move ahead with implementing the real elements of ‘integrated planning’. We have recognized the need, realized the benefits, talked about examples of where this has happened and now we need to get to grips with more clearly defined ways of how to facilitate this on an ongoing and consistent basis,” states Derek Richmond, Manager of Engineering with the City of Courtenay.

“In the Comox Valley we have talked the talk and now it is time to do the walking. ‘The converted’ are saying, show us the way and we will follow. The next step is to define a process at the ground level that is easily understood by all parties.”

Nature Without Borders

The Comox Valley Regional Conservation Strategy is a long-term approach to use and conservation of land, and was initiated by the Comox Valley Land Trust. Nature Without Borders is the title of the report that lays out a community vision. Released in July 2008, the Strategy aims to assist in wise and informed land use decisions and conservation actions.

“Nature has no borders; it does not recognize political or philosophical boundaries and it is essential for the health of human and non-human communities alike,” states Jack Minard, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust. “To view nature in this way represents not a ‘special interest’ approach but a modern advance in civil society. We are realizing that the current loss of ecosystems and biodiversity cannot continue, yet pressures to develop land for human use are placing huge demands on what remains.”

2008 Learning Lunch Series

According to Jack Minard, the 2008 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Series played a pivotal role in solidifying commitment to collaborate regionally.

“Timing is everything. In a very real sense, the 2008 Series provided the first public test of commitment to the regional team approach. There was an amazing moment in Seminar #3, and it was captured on a YouTube video.”

High-Level Endorsement:

High-level endorsement for a ‘regional team approach’ was provided when Mayors and Chief Administrative Officers representing the four Comox Valley local governments dropped in to show their support for the Learning Lunch Seminar Series.

Sandy Gray, City of Courtenay CAO, lauded the objectives of the Learning Lunch Seminar Series. “We are thrilled by the work of CAVI. It is a tremendous initiative,” he said. “The cooperation that is taking place around a consistent approach to development is very critical to all of Vancouver Island.”

What the Regional Team Approach Might Look Like

The program for Seminar #1 is designed around the premise that local governments have choices; and hence, they can control the destiny of their communities. The seminar structure is:

  • Hour #1 – the bridge from the 2008 Series
  • Hour #2 – lunchtime networking
  • Hour #3 – “what drives settlement”
  • Hour #4 – town hall sharing session.

“To make the town hall session real, Hour #4 will focus on how local governments in the Comox Valley can implement a common and consistent approach to Development Permit Areas (DPAs) as a practical way to achieve regional alignment. The use of DPAs will serve as an on-the-ground example that will enable everyone to draw on their experience,” states Jack Minard.

Rising to the Challenge in the Town Hall Session

“The immediate challenge in the Comox Valley is to articulate an example (of how a review / planning / approval situation is dealt with / processed), and have the Regional District players respond to the scenario of WHO is involved in the process, WHAT they do, and HOW, WHY and WHEN they do it,” explains Derek Richmond.

“Part of the exercise also involves who their counterparts are in the adjoining municipalities, and have them similarly articulate: the expected / anticipated interaction between the various parties; what the expected outcomes and benefits are, and how a process might be monitored and documented to achieve consistent results.”

Water for Life and Livelihoods

“The Development Permit Area…or DPA…is one of the strongest tools available to local government for shaping new development in order to ensure that development respects community values and the environment.”

“The challenge for Comox Valley land and water practitioners is to work around and with boundaries. Through the 2009 Learning Lunch Series, we would like to shift the paradigm from boundaries to areas of commonality,”  concludes Derek Richmond.

“The DPA enables integration of a planning tool and engineering objectives to holistically address all diminensions of the Water OUT = Water IN equation, and support the vision for settlement in balance with ecology,” adds Jack Minard.

“The settlement in balance with ecology principle is an extension of Water for Life and Livelihoods, which is the vision embodied in Water OUT = Water IN. The phrase ‘water for life and livelihoods’ conveys the fundamental principles of sustainability of natural systems in their own right and in relation to the health and wellbeing of people who benefit from the use of water for basic life needs and economic activity.”