Urban or rural? Can Lions Bay have both?

A Metro Vancouver ban on wood-burning stoves in urban areas has prompted Lions Bay to attempt to change its regional land use designation to rural.

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A fondness for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces has prompted Lions Bay to petition Metro Vancouver to change the village’s regional land use designation from “urban” to “rural,” a petition not supported by district regional planners.

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Howe Sound’s East Coast community has long chafed at Metro’s requirements wood burning ordinance. The lack of natural gas service earned the town several additional years to comply with the final phase of the ordinance, which requires all wood-burning appliances in the region to be registered and replaced by low-emission technology by 2025.

But the controversy over the status has raised another issue, with some residents interrogation why Lions Bay is included in Metro’s urban containment boundary.

Changing the village designation to rural would also allow residents to keep their wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Lions Bay General Store and Cafe.
Lions Bay General Store and Cafe. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

According to a recent letter To Metro Vancouver President Sav Dhaliwal from Lions Bay Mayor Ron McLaughlin, many residents were “surprised to discover” that the community is designated “general urban,” while two other Metro Vancouver villages, Anmore and Belcarra, as well as Bowen Island, are designated “rural.”

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“Some respondents felt that Metro did not understand the reality of life in Lions Bay and how residents live,” the mayor wrote.

That prompted 200 residents to sign a formal request move Lions Bay outside of Metro’s urban containment boundary, noting that the village is the northernmost community in the region and does not have natural gas, water, or sewer service from Metro.

Lions Bay council voted to approve a change to the village’s regional context statement in April to support a rural designation. A regional context statement identifies the relationship between the borough’s official community plan and the regional growth strategy and must be approved by Metro Vancouver.

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On Friday, Metro’s regional planning committee will consider the change and make a recommendation to the Metro board for consideration at its next meeting on July 29.

But Metro staff have recommended that the board not accept the change.

According to a report presented as part of the planning committee agendaMetro planners believe Lions Bay is trying to have it both ways.

“(E)Currently there is a contradiction between the articulated desire of the village as laid out in its (official community plan) to be a more complete community with more options for infill housing, secondary suites and services, and the regional context statement presented, which proposes… an entirely rural community”, says the report.

Village of Lions Bay office and community room.
Village of Lions Bay office and community room. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Compared to Anmore and Belcarra, Lions Bay’s gross population density is higher, averaging 549.4 people per square kilometer. Net residential density in Lions Bay is 8.7 units per hectare, much higher than comparable residential areas on rural land elsewhere in the region, such as 3.17 units/ha in Anmore, 5.35 units/ha in Belcarra and 2.5 units/ha. in Langley Township.

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The report says the village’s official community plan does not address how Lions Bay intends to “work to protect the rural character, ecosystems, economies and landscapes of rural lands from urban development.”

But he noted that the objection was primarily “procedural.” The rural designation may be appropriate “if growth projections and local policies can be developed to align with regional rural land use policies” as the village updates its official community plan.

Postmedia contacted the Mayor and Council of Lions Bay, but did not receive a response by the deadline. A staff member said the mayor was not available Wednesday.

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