- Gayle Baker
And, Our Favourite Topics. . . . The Islands Trust Policy Statement and Housing
After our Territorial Acknowledgement, a group of seven people welcomed one of our Islands Trust’s Local Trustees, Laura Patrick, and launched into our discussion on Zoom. While the conversation revolved around a number of questions, key topics were the federation-wide draft Trust Policy Statement and the ever-present local concerns about housing.
The first question for Laura was about the public engagement process for updating the Trust Policy Statement. Laura believes that the consultant (Modus) who was retained to design the next phase of public engagement, the Phase 3 Engagement Strategy, did a good job of identifying some of the missteps which lead to current levels of mistrust in the process. Laura encouraged us to read the Islands 2050 Phase 3 Engagement Strategy, outlining a deliberative community dialogue, which can be found on page 236 in the September Trust Council agenda package (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/document/trust-council-meeting-agenda-2/). For example, the report identifies that the concurrent engagement process with First Nations lacked transparency, and it was not clear or understood how First Nations engagement was woven into the public input when the Policy Statement was drafted.
Laura believes that the initial public engagement phases were substantial attempts to reach a wide range of people. To better understand the drafting process, Laura went back through the entire engagement process, tracing the inputs related to one topic, agriculture. In her assessment, it appears that an important step was missed between the What We Heard stage and the drafting of the policy statement.
Laura believes the missing step was a deeper dive into the input collected in the What We Heard stage through, for example, focused discussions with the agricultural community before drafting agricultural policies. She is optimistic that the proposed Phase 3 Engagement Strategy will fill this gap through focused dialogue in the key policy themes. She further believes that this has been an important learning moment for the Islands Trust: The new methods of deliberative dialogue that are implemented through Phase 3 should become common practice going forward.
Laura was asked why the consultant did not recommend town halls as an important and informative engagement technique. Laura explained that town halls, as commonly defined and implemented, can be one sided and dominated by the loudest voices. Unlike town halls, deliberative community dialogue is a process of listening deeply to other points of view, exploring new ideas and perspectives, and searching for points of agreement.
Can this federation-wide Policy Statement reflect the needs of all 13 different Trust areas, some as small as a few hundred residents? Laura is hopeful that it can do exactly that. The Policy Statement, as required by the Islands Trust Act, is a set of general policies that define the preserve-and-protect mandate. In Laura’s opinion, instead of focusing on what makes each area separate or unique, we need to explore the qualities that we share. It is through deliberative dialogue that we can transcend differences and speak with a shared understanding to arrive at a set of policies for the broader common good. Interestingly, the Islands Trust Act allows policies to be tailored to an area or region, recognizing that there may be local circumstances in which a policy directive may not be applicable,
Given this apparent flexibility in the Trust Policy Statement, a participant asked why there was such a big uproar over it. Laura believes that it is important to update the policy statement from time to time to remain current in our understanding of the preserve and protect mandate. She dislikes calling it a Trust Policy Statement; the Act requires it, but there is nothing stopping us from calling it something more relatable such as a Regional Strategy. In Laura’s opinion, we need a better name to reflect its importance as a set of policies designed to balance regional pressures and environmental strategies.
Laura was asked if the province has a role to play. At ASK Salt Spring last week, MLA Adam Olsen reminded us that the province created the Islands Trust Act and that it was their responsibility to review the 50-year old Act. Laura agreed wholeheartedly.
When a participant asked why so much of Islands Trust time was being spent on the Policy Statement when housing was such an emergency, Laura responded that the Policy Statement is a federation initiative; our Local Trust Committee - Peter Grove, Laura Patrick, and Peter Luckham - are working hard on local issues, with housing at the top of that list. We were reminded that the housing action program is about reducing the impacts of the complete spectrum of housing: In other words - Where and how should we be building homes and for whom?
Housing is an important part of the planning responsibility of the Local Trust Committee. Two task forces, Housing and Ganges Village Plan, are meeting to help our Local Trustees chart future directions for Ganges Village and housing. The Housing Task Force has already submitted a few recommendations to our local Trustees for immediate action. Laura has high hopes for each task force. For more information about these and other local trust committee planning initiatives, please see: https://islandstrust.bc.ca/island-planning/salt-spring/projects/
We briefly discussed recent changes for housing on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) that is set to go into effect at the end of 2021, (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021AFF0043-001352). Islands Trust staff have already drafted revisions to the Land Use Bylaws to reflect the changes and the Agricultural Advisory Planning Commission have provided their advice. Stay tuned to these new changes as they make their way through the legislated process. . . .
Just this month, the Local Trust Committee considered options to amend section 3.17 of the land use bylaw to utilize subdivision potential for farmworker housing. These options will be reviewed by the Agricultural Advisory Planning Commission at their upcoming meeting on October 21.
Laura believes strongly that pilot projects are an important element of the housing action program. Tiny home villages or eco-villages need to be trialed. Pilot projects need to be carefully designed and monitored for success. The Housing Task Force is working with Islands Trust staff to design a pilot.
A participant took this idea one step further: What about identifying “troubled” properties in need of rehabilitation? What if damaged land could be brought back ecologically while at the same time providing needed accommodation? While an intriguing possibility, Laura reminded us that that all our land is owned by someone, and it takes an owner’s willingness, the community’s desire, and funding to proceed. Trustees can, however, encourage owners with promising properties to come to the table.
As 1:00 PM approached, Laura was acknowledged for all of her hard work, asking her to remember that today’s often-expressed frustration with the Islands Trust is not personal. She was asked What can we do to help? Cognizant that Islands Trust communications could be far better, Laura has been considering options to better communicate in clear language, not Islands Trust-eze. Participants suggested she solicit ideas to engage Salt Springers to move forward together. Laura always welcomes ideas, and you can email her at email@example.com
Our time together up for this ASK Salt Spring gathering, we bid each other farewell and pressed our Leave Meeting button. Thank-you, Laura!
Please join us - virtually - next Friday, October 22, 11-1, to welcome Bryan Young, Chair of Transition Salt Spring and lead for the new Climate Action Coach Program.
Would you like to figure out the best home improvements to save you money while also helping the environment?
What about landscaping and water catchment to best prepare you for increased danger of storms and fire?
Worried about the cost? Did you know that there are many enticing rebates available to you?
Please join us to welcome Bryan to answer your questions, listen to your concerns, and work with us to find solutions to the environmental challenges facing us.
See you - virtually - this Friday, October 22, 11-1, on Zoom:
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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