An artist rendering of a proposed log cabin at 25 Spyglass Lookout on Protection Island. Councillors rejected the proposal, citing concerns for the environment. (Alfredo Tura/City of Nanaimo)

Cabin proposal for Protection Island put down by city councillors

Councillors reject proposal over environmental concerns

A man hoping to build a seasonal recreation cabin on his private Protection Island property has had his plans denied by city councillors.

Nanaimo council voted 5-3 against issuing a development permit for a proposed cabin at 25 Spyglass Lookout on Protection Island during Monday night’s meeting.

The proposed cabin would have been 50 square metres and built on elevated piles in order to meet flood elevation requirements, according to a staff report. The cabin would have been built within a “watercourse setback” area and would have been used on a seasonal basis.

Property owner Alfredo Tura had requested variances including reducing the watercourse setback from 15 metres to 6.5 metres for the cabin and having the watercourse setback for services to accommodate the cabin reduced to zero.

Council rejected a similar application for the property by a different owner in 2004 according to the staff report.

Prior to a lengthy discussion on the application, Tura told councillors he’s not a developer but someone who happened to fall in love with the property and would love to build a cabin on it.

“We really want to build a small seasonal cabin with minimal impact and disturbance,” he said, adding that the cabin was to be a log cabin in order to reduce potential impacts from construction and that access to the property would have been by boat.

Tura explained that he became aware of the property about a year ago and was also aware that previous attempts to build on the property have failed. He said his application differed from previous applications in that there has been “extensive professional” assessment of the property, that his proposed cabin was smaller in size, and that he wanted to protect the Garry oak meadow and discourage activities such as “fires and garbage” on the island.

“The place is so beautiful, we felt like protecting it, protecting the eco-system and leaving it in near natural condition,” he said.

Four residents from Protection Island spoke out against the proposal, citing environmental protection, concerns around fire service access, long-term sea level rise and violations to the city’s official community plan.

John Sinclair, a Protection Island resident, said his position and those of the other residents against the project is not intended to be a personal attack on the applicant but an “endeavour” to preserve a local ecosystem for future generations.

“This isn’t about us wanting a park, this is about us trying to save one of the last pieces of fragile environment that has been untouched,” he said, adding the environmental concerns are real and shouldn’t be ignored.

Following the delegation, Coun. Tyler Brown said it “seems absurd” that the lot was created in the first place and that a cabin is being contemplated for the property while Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he couldn’t support the applicant because there is “no way” to build on the property.

“I don’t see how we can allow development on this place without infringing on our own regulations,” Geselbracht said.

Meanwhile, Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said existing properties on Protection Island were given similar exceptions by councillors years ago when the island was developed. She also said the Tura has hired professionals and that his application addresses the environmental concerns.

“We’ve got qualified individuals that tell us that this can be done to preserve the environment,” she said, adding that the applicant has gone “above and beyond” and that the applicant seems to have addressed all the concerns that were raised.

Mayor Leonard Krog said he appreciated the concerns of the nearby residents but said the property is one lot in a “large province” and is not the only place where a unique ecosystem exists. He said the property is private and the owner has a right to build on it.

“We are being asked to tell a private owner who purchased a lot, subdivided recognized lot, that they are not allowed to build a dwelling on it,” he said, adding that he isn’t prepared to deny the applicant that right.

However, Coun. Ian Thorpe said council’s role isn’t so much about telling the applicant what can be built on the property but approving the requested variances.

“This is an environmentally sensitive area,” Thorpe said. “I am torn but overall while I sympathize with Mr. Tura, I don’t believe I can support the variances to allow construction in this area.”

Councillors Brown, Geselbracht, Ian Thorpe, Erin Hemmens and Don Bonner voted against the applicant while Krog, Armstrong and Jim Turley voted in favour. Coun. Zeni Maartman was absent from the meeting. 
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