What good is a park with no people in it?

The draft of the new Sooke zoning bylaw is out for public comment (as if anyone at town hall actually cares what the public has to say). One word in it is going to cost the taxpayers $187,000 for a nice gift to the CRD, not counting the annual loss of $30,000 in residential tax revenue and loss of recreational access to our lakes.

“Park” has been slipped into the zoning bylaw as a “Use permitted in any zone.” What that word does is let the CRD off the hook for $187,000 in area fees to rezone the 933ha of Harbourview properties now zoned residential, a zoning in which “Park” is currently a prohibited use.

Invoked from its moral high-ground, the word “park” has a tendency to shut people’s brains off. The CRD Citizen’s Advisory Panel has recently recommended that one half of land and water in the CRD be dedicated for conservation. (Conservation is a euphemism for “Install a gate).

The Land Acquisition Fund is scheduled to recover from the previous $50,000,000 buying binge and start growing at a rate of $3,475,000 per year. The CRD is organizing to remove land use decisions from the western communities by changing the voting structure to put control in Victoria – again.

“Park” is an abstraction, not a thing in the world, or a verb for a land use. In spite of its near religious invocations, a park does not occupy any particular moral high ground, nor is a park exclusively an asset.

Parks create liabilities and externalize costs, and they should not be given a blanket zoning exemption in the planning process. To do so simply removes control of land from the local planning process and hands it over to CRD Parks.

Here are some of the ways a park is a liability:

· Reduction of taxable land base and economic benefit from productive lands

· Displacement of density necessary to support services on adjoining settlement areas

· Tree-fall on adjoining property, wildfire and animal encroachment into human space

· Pre-emption of other permitted uses

· Pre-emption of planned green space – there is such a thing as too much park space

· Reduction of buildable land base with corresponding supply pressure on affordability

· Consumer of protective services and by-law enforcement

· Political liability in resource dependent communities

· Displacement of recreational activity

· Over-supply of park space results in under-utilization and stress on operation logistics

I enjoy a park as much as anyone, but really, what good is a park with no people?

Terrance Martin

Sooke