Saturday, February 12, 2005

Ganges Marina at a Crossroads

If you’re a boater, the rescue of the Ganges Marina from near-oblivion is a welcome prospect. With two miles of dock space behind its solid new breakwater, it is Salt Spring’s biggest and most critical marine facility, and a gateway contributor to the Ganges economy.

Despite its importance, the Island has been cold to the recent efforts to keep things alive there, and has at times shown outright animosity to its owner, Rick Barbieri, who retrieved it from bankruptcy. Despite our gratuitous use of the word “community”, in truth Salt Spring is one of the most stratified and backbiting locales in all of Canada. The population is layered between the old freaks and farmers once dominant in the 70’s, up to the ever-increasing gentrification gang driving new SUV’s and trying to fit in with their hand-wrinkled Tilley hats. We have the largest population in Canada without a skating rink, and God is thus punishing us for our silliness.

Naturally, the inevitable magpies have guanoed on the marina’s plans at every turn. An admittedly ugly barge serving as a breakwater was effectively run out of the harbour, and its departure is not lamented by anyone. So far so good. But when the new breakwater was completed, and properly so in every respect, our planners demanded that it be surveyed to see if it was within the foreshore lease. It was, by three feet. So the Trust has ruled that only boats narrower than three feet can tie up on its outside edge…

At the same time the lease abuts another foreshore reserve to the extent that there is no right of way to the fuel dock for any vessel. That was an administrative mistake from an earlier era, but there is no great impetus to make that right. Where are our legal martinets on this one?

When Mr. Barbieri brought in an attractive period floathouse in which to house offices during the construction period, the nearby NIMBY’s screamed anew, and forced him to post a $16,000 bond towards towing it out of there, once construction was done. The cabin is on a barge that is a federally registered vessel, and is beyond the Trust’s jurisdiction, but the funds were nonetheless deposited. The Trust would have lost any suit, but NIMBY’s don’t really care if they get the town into trouble, and they do their best to do just that.

On January 10th at the Harbour House the developers hosted an open house with a comprehensive presentation of the development as a whole, including a few suites on a separate small lot across the street from the marina.

At the open house some salient facts soon became clear :
The development is predicated on a small area beneath the present ramp being filled in, to subtend a building, which is appears to be one storey high (from the road) as it articulates down the slope.
The building will house some residential suites and about 4000 sq; ft. of retail space (the Trust insisted on the latter).
The fuel tanks will be moved, all sewage goes ashore, and plenty of parking is reserved.
Two park areas along the road will be dedicated and maintained by the marina.
While 33% site coverage is permitted, only 25% will actually be used.
No variances are requested by the developers, everything is within zoning and building specifications as the application now stands.

Those in attendance at the open house were approving of the obvious professionalism of the presenting parties- architect Darwin Sveinson and development spokesman Robyn Kelln- and their detailed plans were displayed along the walls of the room. The long sought boardwalk would now run through to Mr. Gordon Cudmore’s property, that being the remaining gap blocking completion. Any fair-minded person could determine that this proposal made sense, and was scaled to suit the services necessary for visiting boaters, while respecting public input to date.

When asked, Mr. Barbieri commented that he was certainly open to the establishment of an informal Ganges (Gumboot?) Yacht Club, and to an arrangement whereby its fingers would not be dedicated in the summer months, but held open for rental in peak season. Local boats would be fitted in during that period, with dedicated slips otherwise.. This would afford welcome relief for the overcrowded Centennial Marina, and be a good reason to actually use your boat. If interested, please contact the writer at Winter moorage is presently priced at $5/ft/mo.

Boaters might keep in mind that the Seattle Yacht Club and Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club have claimed dock space so far. Let’s realize *soon* that if we finally break the patience of the developer, that the floats may be contracted outright for use as a seasonal outstation, the sad but predicable fate of the marina in Long Harbour in our bifurcated bailiwick.

If that happens, it is evident that the Saturday Market and our merchants will not be quite so busy as they are now. And that local boaters will be broken-hearted, with a possible dockside village of the sort so beloved by mariners, instead lying abandoned nine months of the year, like many of our houses.

Must we all decamp to Palm Springs again, Deah?


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