Comox Valley Dialogue with Developers: Align Efforts at a Watershed Scale to Mitigate ‘Infrastructure Liability’



Note to Reader:

Local governments in British Columbia are faced with this challenge: the initial capital cost of infrastructure is about 20% of the life-cycle cost; the other 80% largely represents a future unfunded liability. Fiscal constraints provide a powerful impetus for doing business differently to ‘achieve more with less’.

The CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team is setting the stage for A Regional Response to ‘Infrastructure Liability’. The 2011 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Series will provide a forum for shared learning. Seminars will start at 10am and end at 3pm on these dates:

  1. April 14 – Regional Collaboration theme
  2. May 19 – Adaptation theme
  3. June 23 – Risk Management theme

The article below is the third in a weekly series that foreshadow program content. To download a PDF version, click on Comox Valley Local Governments Showcase A Regional Response to Infrastructure Liability: Align Efforts at a Watershed Scale . This article:

  •  Describes the purpose of the 2010 Developers Dialogue as a ‘bridge’ to the 2011 Series.
  • Re-caps the drivers that are pushing local governments to consider longevity.
  • Explains what a well-planned front-end process can achieve.
  • Refreshes the vision for An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement

The target audience for the 2011 Series are land use and infrastructure professionals in the local government and development sectors. The image below illustrates the program at a glance.  


Learn more at the 2011 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series in April-May-June

The team approach enables local governments to ‘do more with less’. This is accomplished through sharing of experiences, collaboration, alignment, and pooling of resources to get the job done. The Comox Valley is demonstrating what can be achieved through a ‘regional team approach’ that establishes shared expectations and strives for consistency.


Build Leadership Capacity

Glenn westendorp (120p) - town of comox“Commencing in 2007, the four governments in the Comox Valley and the Comox Valley Land Trust have been collaborating under the umbrella of Convening for Action on Vancouver Island, known by the acronym CAVI. Through a program of continuing education, we are aligning efforts, building leadership capacity, and striving for consistency at our front counters,” reports Glenn Westendorp, Public Works Superintendent with the Town of Comox, and Chair for the 2011 Learning Lunch Seminar Series.

“The 2011 Series literally represents a watershed moment for the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team.  In terms of what they intend to accomplish through the series, the regional team has moved beyond continuing education solely for professional development. Rather, Kim stephens - 2010 (120p)the learning lunch seminars provide neutral forums where the four local governments can explore a consistent approach to regional policy….and they can have the conversations that they otherwise might not have,” continues Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia and member of the CAVI Leadership Team. He is the facilitator for the 2011 Series.


To Learn More About the 2011 Series:

Click on Sustainable Service Delivery: Comox Valley Local Governments Release Program Details for 2011 Learning Lunch Series — Water sustainability is more likely to be achieved when land use planning and climate change adaptation are integrated with infrastructure asset management.

Click on A Regional Response to ‘Infrastructure Liability’: Comox Valley Regional Team releases agenda for Seminar #1 in 2011 Learning Lunch Series — The spotlight will be on the existing unfunded ‘infrastructure liability’, and why all those involved in land development have a role to play in Sustainable Service Delivery.

 Comox valley regional team - partner logos


2010 Comox Valley Developers Dialogue

When the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team hosted the ‘Comox Valley Developers Dialogue’ in December 2010, the purpose was to initiate a conversation with the Comox Valley development community about collaboration, alignment and consistency in a local government setting. Conducted as a townhall sharing session, a key message to the development community was the need to get the principles right from the beginning.

“The success of the 2010 Developers Dialogue has influenced how the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team has approached the design of the 2011 Series,” reports Kim Stephens. “To inform the discussion at Seminar #1, Nancy Hofer and Derek Richmond of the City of Courtenay will lead off with a context presentation. They will share insights gained from the Developers Dialogue.”


To Learn More:

Mike tanner (120p)Click on Water Bucket provides home for telling story of 2010 Comox Valley Developers Dialogue — “To help the Comox Valley Regional Team tell their story about leading and managing change, we have posted a set stories on Water Bucket. This is a tangible way to record history as it is being created,” states Mike Tanner, Chair of the Water Bucket Website Partnership.


Bridge to the 2011 Series

“The purpose of the Developers Dialogue in December 2010 was to build a shared understanding among the various sectors who contribute to land development. A shared understanding is essential if we are to truly create the ‘new business as usual’ that embraces environmental factors into decision making about the land,” states Nancy Hofer, Environmental Planner with the City of Courtenay.

Nancy hofer (120p) - city of courtenay“We invited the development community to come prepared to talk about how local government can make the development application process more transparent and faster. We also invited participants to share their ideas on green infrastructure innovations. In our communication, we emphasized that the Developers Dialogue is the first step in a process.”



Drivers for the New Business As Usual

“Environmental stewardship, including water management, is a growing responsibility of local governments. This is a major driver that compels us to re-evaluate how we plan communities, regulate development and promote economic prosperity,” continues Nancy Hofer.

“We are also learning that the traditional forms of community infrastructure, such as stormwater pipes, have the potential to become community liabilities if a sustainable funding mechanism cannot be developed to maintain them into the future.”

“These combined environmental and economic drivers are the reasons for a ‘new business as usual’. A message we are trying to communicate out is that local governments are open for business, and we will look at new and innovative applications and technologies. A consideration is that they have been properly researched and are applicable to the situations at hand,” concludes Nancy Hofer. 



A Well-Planned Front-End

“The development community has been asking how they can make the application process move more smoothly and quickly given community and environmental priorities such as water-centric planning,” states Derek Richmond, Manager of Engineering with the City of Courtenay.

Derek richmond (120p)” From a local government perspective we are also looking for a quick and efficient process. A key message we wanted to communicate, and will continue to communicate, is that getting it right at the beginning is a key ingredient in a successful application process. We referred to this as ‘front end loading’.

“Getting it right means getting it right at the beginning. But what needs to happen to get it right? Developing a shared understanding of the vision for the project seems to be the essential first step. The vision must take into account the community concerns, as represented by the local government, as well as the private developer concerns, as it is his capital that drives the process.”

“At Seminar #1, the CAVI-Comox Valley Regional Team will be presenting a sustainability evaluation tool that will serve to build this vision right from the start of a development proposal, as well as serve to articulate the specific water management objectives for the site.”

“A second ingredient towards getting it right is a mutual respect for the expertise and abilities of each of the team members. Each of us is part of the process that turns an idea into a reality and the process cannot work without the participation of everyone.”

“A third ingredient to getting it right is acknowledging that we are all in the process of creating the new business as usual, and that there are learning curves along the way. Patience is required as we explore new frontiers. Ultimately getting it right at the beginning requires establishing a strong working relationship between local government and the private sector. A strong relationship is founded on a shared vision, respect and a willingness to work through new frontiers together.”

“Working with local government from the beginning of the development concept will ensure the big picture is kept in mind and will give  perspective for the smaller, individual initiatives. Consequently, long-term operations and maintenance liabilities associated with infrastructure can be reduced or minimized when well thought out from the beginning.. Think beyond our borders. Think in terms of integrated watershed planning in a cooperative, coordinated and collaborative manner!,” concludes Derek Richmond.



Comox Valley Goal: An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement

Jack minard (160p)“Everyone is busy in their jobs such that it is a challenge to assimilate multiple plans and initiatives that are underway at a regional scale in the Comox Valley. To provide focus and clarity regarding the desired outcome of the 2009 Series, the Comox Valley Regional Team defined the goal of a regional team approach to be An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement,” states Jack Minard, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust.

“To help stakeholders conceptualize what a vision for balance and integration would look like, the Comox Valley Regional Team then created a branding graphic (see image below). This shows the elements that must ultimately be integrated to achieve the goal of An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement.”

“The ultimate goal of the regional team approach is to maximize the intersection of the elements. This means creating linkages among the different areas of action, thereby helping to create a stronger implementation plan – that is, what all the plans will achieve,” concludes Jack Minard. 


Posted March 2011