A Local Area Plan (LAP) contains policies to guide the future of a community. The LAP embodies residents’ visions for their community, technical studies results and sound planning principles.
The documents named above are all bylaws in a hierarchical relationship. A Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) is a broad scale plan for an entire planning area, including municipalities and electoral areas. Official community plans (OCPs) need to be consistent with the RGS. In the case of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), the CVRD has policies for the three electoral areas. The current OCP was adopted in 2014 and is intended to contain three local area plans (LAPs) for areas identified as settlement nodes: Mount Washington Integrated Resort Community Plan, Union Bay LAP and the Saratoga Miracle Beach LAP.
Local area plans contain development permit guidelines that provide conditions for specific forms of development. The draft Saratoga Miracle Beach LAP also contains a proposed form and character development permit.
Zoning bylaws contain regulations for individual lots. Every lot is zoned, and different zones have distinct development rights pertaining to permitted uses, such as lot line setbacks, density and subdivision standards. The latest CVRD zoning bylaw was adopted in 2005 and underwent a comprehensive review that was completed in 2017.
The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) identifies Saratoga Miracle Beach as one of three settlement nodes within the Comox Valley Regional District’s electoral areas and states that each settlement node needs a local area plan to manage growth. Each settlement node shall accommodate growth through a balance of new development, intensification and improvements to public infrastructure. In the case of Saratoga Miracle Beach, growth will be largely geared toward coastal tourism and residential housing.
The land-use designations map indicates the general development plan for different areas. Overall, the LAP is a low-growth plan to ensure sufficient water capacity. The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) has recently completed two studies to explore the capacity of the Black Creek – Oyster Bay water service, determine the health of the private septic systems in the community and look at current and future projected needs.
The core development area (outlined with a purple dash line on the map) enables a walkable, compact community with a mix of residential, mixed medium-density residential, commercial and employment land uses, fully serviced with public water and wastewater treatment services.
The tourist commercial designation retains current tourist commercial operations.
The proposed mixed medium-density residential/commercial provides expansion opportunity and enables duplexes, triplexes, vacation rentals and small-scale commercial uses, such as corner stores and cafés. Screening between lots that remain residential and lots rezoned with new density and uses is provided by way of a form and character development permit. The objectives of this permit include ensuring neighbourhood compatibility, implementing screening and protecting views of the ocean.
No changes are proposed to existing residential neighbourhoods. Country residential designation is for rural lots with private wells and onsite septic systems. The rural residential designation is for areas with year-round water due to riverine and estuarine features and, as such, growth is limited.
The employment lands designation is for highway commercial and light industrial uses.
Note: Land use designations are different from zones; the lot zoning will not change with this plan. Existing uses and density will remain. If a property owner wishes to rezone a lot to allow for a future use, that proposal must be consistent with the Saratoga Miracle Beach LAP land-use designation.
[JS1]Link to map or insert map
The draft Saratoga Miracle Beach LAP does not have a direct impact on property taxes. Property taxes are dependent on the assessed value determined by BC Assessment and the tax rate set by the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). Assessed values are based on current conditions of the land. As the zone of each lot will remain, the LAP has little influence on assessed values. Tax rates are based on the number of services a lot receives, and the draft LAP doesn’t propose to change any services.
Two water services exist in the Saratoga Miracle Beach area:
- Black Creek Oyster Bay (BCOB) water service
- Watutco enterprises water service
With reducing annual snow falls we need to know more about the water resources in this area. In 2015, the CVRD conducted a hydrological assessment to determine long term capacity of water resources. This work included:
- A detailed assessment of the wells that service the BCOB system to determine the long term capacity of the water resources in the Black Creek area
- Help to identify a new source of water, augment water from Oyster River and adjacent aquifers and support the needs of the users of the current BCOB water service
- Inform future decisions on land use, density, growth patterns and subdivision in the settlement node
- Assist in identifying the overall capacity of the aquifer and the Oyster River source
On November 15, 2015, a copy of the staff report and engineer report were presented to the Black Creek - Oyster Bay services committee. On November 24, 2015, the CVRD board adopted the motion to provide funding to complete further evaluation of water wells. In 2016, the CVRD continues with the next phase of the assessment to determine if the supply wells have the long term capacity to meet the maximum day demands of the system.
The Watutco private water system services approximately 128 households and two commercial operations: the Pacific Playgrounds resort and the Saratoga Beach Mobile Home Park. The system was constructed between 1973 - 1975 and holds three water licenses. The water comes from a shallow well located within the Pacific Playgrounds recreation site, adjacent to Oyster River. In December 2015, the system owner formally requested to enter into negotiations with the CVRD to take over this private system. Prior to the transfer of any water system, the CVRD requires proof that the system meets regional district’s standards. On July 11, 2016, the Black Creek -/ Oyster Bay services committee requested more information from CVRD staff for more information on the Watutco private water system.
In the interim of the studies being conducted, it is proposed to establish a low growth rate in the Saratoga Miracle Beach settlement node. During this period, property owners applying to rezone or subdivide will be required to demonstrate that they have access to water, either through an on-site well or with an approved connection to one of the two systems.
All properties in this planning area are serviced by on-site septic systems. There has been on-going concern about the risk and occurrence of those systems failing due to age and deferred maintenance. To evaluate this, the CVRD conducted a hydrogeological assessment to establish the rate of failing systems. In spring 2015, shallow monitoring wells were installed downslope from sub-study areas to collect samples and test for groundwater contamination due to failing onsite sewage treatment systems.
On February 15, 2016, a staff report and an engineer report were presented to the electoral areas services committee. The report findings were:
- 6 out of 31 monitoring wells (or 19 per cent) failed to meet or exceed water quality objectives.
- Possible causes include:
- Small residential lots, especially those smaller than 0.25 hectares (0.6 acres);
- High density recreational lots especially those with more than 12 cabins / RV campsites per hectare;
- Areas with a shallow water table, and
- Aging, undersized septic systems
The study concludes that no urgent need exists for a larger area treatment system to service the entire settlement node. On the other hand, the study recommends connecting select properties to a publicly owned communal treatment system if subsequent engineering studies demonstrate feasibility.
Through the rural Comox Valley OCP process, the Transportation Road Network Plan and the BC Transit Futures Plan, we heard the following community needs expressed:
- Establish service centres to provide a range of uses including transit stops, park and ride, bike storage and other community services
- Improve transit exchange at the Oyster River and install formal bus stops throughout the area rather than the flag down system
- Increase service frequency of the #12 North Valley connector which connects to the Campbell River transit system at the Oyster River exchange
- Provide service to North Island College and downtown Courtenay with connections to other areas served by the transit system
Saratoga Beach transit hub – commercial area north of Oyster River
Miracle Beach transit hub
Other initiatives could include:
- Seek opportunities for grant funding and establishment of a local service area for construction of a separated pedestrian and bike lanes, such as along the north side of Miracle Beach Drive and along Regent Road connecting to the Oyster River bridge
- Encourage MoTI to reduce the speed limit along Highway 19A between Black Creek and Oyster River and on other key roads such as Miracle Beach Drive to encourage cycling and walking
- Work to implement the BC Transit Futures Plan to maintain and enhance public transit services between Saratoga Miracle Beach and Courtenay/Comox.
The BC Coast is expected to rise 1 metre over the next 100 years. Impacts could include:
- High water levels and damage to property
- Erosion and flooding
- Damage to public infrastructure such as roads and water mains
- Higher maintenance costs
- Loss of habitat and reduced biodiversity
- Saltwater intrusion into aquifers
- Changing precipitation patterns with more flooding events, warmer winter temperatures and less water in summer
The CVRD has a number of initiatives in place now and underway to:
- Encourage water conservation
- Manage on-site drainage and rainwater runoff
The Saratoga Miracle Beach LAP will need to consider how future land use and development should occur in light of sea level rise and climate change impacts.
Development opportunities through limited rezoning and subdivision of existing parcels can lead to new community amenities, such as a more connected pedestrian network.
This could include:
- Providing pedestrian routes and trails to improve connections to Miracle Beach School, transit stops, service centres and beach access
- Improving pedestrian and cycling opportunities along Miracle Beach Drive
- Improving public beach access by developing trails and signage within the road right-of-way that are currently unconstructed and overgrown
- Providing parking and comfort stations with washroom facilities in the beach area
- Developing open and accessible public beach access
- Using public facilities for cultural, social and recreational activities and educational opportunities