Burgoyne Blues, LCC Conversations, and Water Woes. . . Seeking Answers with Gary Holman
Fourteen gathered via Zoom to ask CRD’s Gary Holman questions about the issues that matter most to them. After a heartfelt territorial acknowledgment, Gary was asked if he wanted to begin by sharing what was on his mind. While he preferred to spend our time together answering participants’ questions, he did express his concerns about the Lower Ganges Road pathway from Booth Canal to Baker Road that is currently under construction.
Gary agrees that the tree cutting was probably excessive and sees this as part of a larger issue - a pathway that appears to have been over-designed to meet urban standards. Gary repeated his public commitment, one shared by the SSI Engineer, to develop rural standards for pathways that are more appropriate for Salt Spring. Despite this concern, Gary did ask us to appreciate the fact that this pathway, which received almost $500,000 in provincial funding, will allow pedestrians to walk safely all the way from Ganges to the Central intersection. . . most certainly an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Gary’s first question concerned the closure of some of the multi-purpose trails at Burgoyne Provincial Park. (This conversation began last week at ASK Salt Spring. For details of last week’s conversation, see asksaltspring.com.)
A participant voiced a widely-held view that the removal of a multi-purpose trail loop (leaving only 2km of multi-purpose trails in the park) - as well as construction of a pedestrian only bridge - need to be addressed. While this initially appears to be a BC Provincial Parks’ issue, the CRD liquid waste facility and road access to the facility may have played a role in Parks’ decision.
Gary is willing to work with stakeholders to try to resolve the issue, but he was clear that the first step must be to understand the options being presented by user groups. Also, important considerations, including possible conflicts with the CRD treatment facility property and legal complications regarding use of its access road, need to be fully-understood. He agreed to meet with stakeholders via Zoom as well as an on-site walkabout to better understand the proposed trail options.
A renter attending the meeting expressed concern that he will soon not have a home. He is currently renting from an absentee landlord owner on a fixed-term lease. He has been asked to leave soon so that the owner can rent his home as a B&B during the summer tourist months. Unwilling to battle his landlord (e.g., with the BC Rental Tenancy Branch), this participant wondered if he had any other options. Not a CRD issue, it was suggested he call an Islands Trustee or return next week to ASK Salt Spring to ask Trustee Laura Patrick for information.
The conversation shifted to the provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax from which Salt Spring has been exempted. This tax targets those who own unoccupied homes, theoretically encouraging more rental homes in communities in which it is levied.
Gary believes the benefits and impacts of this tax should be revisited. Avoiding the tax is relatively easy as property owners who have vacant homes need only rent their homes for six months, although it was mentioned that dodging this tax by renting for six-months might create BC Tenancy problems for landlords. Other questions also need to be clarified. These include: details about the disposition of revenues from this tax (theoretically-earmarked for affordable housing) and whether revenues could accrue to the community in which they are levied.
One participant suggested that another option may be to adopt a Tofino regulation for every Short Term Vacation Rental (STVR) when owners are not on-site: Instead of allowing absentee owners to make large profits renting to holiday visitors, this bylaw requires every STVR with an absentee landlord to also provide on-site housing to locals to manage the STVR.
One participant suggested that we all watch Salt Spring Solutions’ film on Salt Spring housing. While screening of this film will be limited until its release in mid-March, all are invited to see it on Monday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. when it is screened by the Community Alliance. To get the link, go to: sscommunityalliance.org.
We also learned that progress was slow but steady on Salt Spring’s much needed laundromat. Workers are there, drywall is being installed, and the floor is nearly complete. Money is still coming in. . . too slowly. Gary suggested a possible CRD funding source which will be pursued.
Gary was asked about the status of the provincially-funded study of water management on Salt Spring. He was also asked about the exploratory discussions between North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) and the CRD, including the possibility of an island-wide water utility and NSSWD’s conversion to a regional district entity to qualify for senior government infrastructure funding. This report has not yet been publicly released but is expected to be released soon. Gary cautioned us that its findings were those of an independent consultant and may not necessarily fully reflect the views of CRD, NSSWD, or even the Province.
Gary asked whether the provincial funding available if NSSWD joined CRD could be used to reverse its water moratorium, opening up affordable housing possibilities in Ganges. He indicated this was an interesting possibility, but it was his understanding that NSSWD’s top priority was a water treatment plant for Maxwell Lake.
Regarding the moratorium, Gary’s belief is that NSSWD Trustees would be reevaluating the rationale for the water moratorium by reviewing a series of reports and monitoring studies. He also reminded us that there are other sources of water for our Ganges affordable housing projects, like Croftonbrook’ drilled wells, rainwater catchment for landscaping, and grey water recycling. Island Health has also just recently approved rainwater catchment for potable water in multi-family developments.
Gary’s continued support for a Local Community Commission (LCC) was questioned as well as estimated timing for this initiative. For those not familiar with the concept of an LCC, we learned that it would function much like a council, but only for CRD services. For example, unlike municipal incorporation, an LCC (i.e., SSI taxpayers) would not take on responsibility for our many kilometers of poorly built and maintained roads nor our policing. An LCC would also leave land use planning/regulation in the hands of Islands Trust.
Gary continues to maintain his support for this governance option. Four Community Commissioners, elected at large like the CRD Director, would provide broader representation of islanders, as well as sharing the daunting workload on the wide range of issues now the responsibility of the Director alone. As Gary has told us before, at this time he does not want to complicate the important discussions with NSSWD, possibly affecting the timing of the voter approval process required to establish an LCC.
As 1:00 approached, Gary shared some good news items: The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) has given its approval to move forward with our local radio station.This is very good news for Salt Spring - both from an information and entrainment perspective - but also from an emergency preparedness perspective. While there is still lots to do, including creating the facilities to house it and raising needed funds, this is an important first step. (Gary also asked about linkages with ASK Salt Spring, something we will certainly explore.)
Other good news before thanking Gary and pressing our Leave Meeting button:
Gary has reached out to BC Ferries to explore pedestrian safety on Fulford Hill without interfering with the long-delayed terminal expansion. This could possibly even include a partnership with the Fulford Water District to concurrently replace mains on Fulford Hill.
Gary also informed us that BC Ferries is applying to the federal government for hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for the shore power needed to electrify our fleet.
As a result of the recent visit of Restorative Justice volunteers to ASK Salt Spring, they will be the guest speakers at Salt Spring Health Advancement Network this spring, hopefully connecting many groups working towards safety for all in our community.
Also, as a result of a recent ASK Salt Spring conversation, a Biochar Working Group is being established to join a number of other enthusiastic Transition Salt Spring Working Groups. And. . . .
It is official: the Middle School will eventually be available for community use!
Please join us next Friday, February 19, from 11-1 to welcome one of our Local Islands Trustees, Laura Patrick. Do you have questions about Ganges Village Planning or Housing Actions? What else would you like to know about the Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Local Trust Committee and Islands Trust federation work?
Bring your questions, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm to participate in a discussion of the issues that matter most to us.
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?
Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
We would love your receipts! Remember: #15