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Planning and Development: A report from the BCA Planning & Development Committee

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Bowness is a special place, rich in natural beauty and local history. The BCA Planning and Development Committee represents the interests of Bowness residents in helping to shape the future of our community, by seeking a balance between conserving the landscape and heritage of Bowness and building for tomorrow. In these pages, we explore several pressing issues now before the committee.

A Bowness Treasure

A DEFINING PHYSICAL FEATURE of the Bowness landscape is our two environmentally sensitive escarpments. They provide fantastic views of the river valley and contain major treed areas. The one most Bownesians recognize immediately extends from the eastern end of Bowridge Drive to the west end of Bowness, overlooking Bowness Park. The other is on the south side of the Trans­Canada, overlooking the former Wilson Gardens (from about the railway bridge over Hwy. 1 east to Edworthy Park). Historically, the area between the “hills” and the river was the heart of a larger native healing centre and was the source for ingredients used in traditional medicines. When the railroad came through and developers—primarily John Hextall—acquired land, the appreciation for the beauty of the area and its healing quality was not lost. Today our Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) supports the vision of Bowness as a unique community with its own small-town history and spirit—our “village in the valley”—and there are several policies in place directed at protecting and preserving our natural features.

A number of properties on Bowridge Drive have buildings and structures on them that were “grandfathered.” This means the buildings/structures existed prior to the bylaws and policies that now protect the escarpment lands, vegetation and wildlife. These policies strongly discourage new development or redevelopment.

In past years a number of applications for new development or redevelopment on these properties were reviewed by the Society of Bowness Residents and, more recently, by the newly formed Planning and Development Committee of the Bowness Community Association. The most recent of these was an application to expand a storage facility with two building additions on the north or escarpment side of the existing buildings. Approval of their development permit was successfully appealed in July. In the meantime, there are at least three other development permit applications for properties on Bowridge Drive which are in the works at City Planning. We have provided comments on all three, citing our concern for protection of the escarpment and asking that the City’s Planning Department be guided by the policies of the Bowness ARP.

When the Planning and Development Committee looks at these development permits we try to balance a long-term vision of Bowness as a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable community. Sometimes this vision conflicts with the immediate need for services/resources in Bowness as well as the natural desire of commercial property owners to maximize their potential profit. Over the next six months we anticipate the issue of development of properties on the escarpment will come up a number of times. We need to hear from a broad sector of the community to help provide a strong and balanced voice. We welcome you to attend one of our monthly Planning and Development ­committee meetings or e-mail us at ­mybowness@gmail.com to get involved, share your thoughts or for more information.

—Niki Smyth

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