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  • Gayle Baker

Climate Action, a Plea for a Home, and Request for a Seat at the Table - with Trustee Peter Grove

August 20

Under the apple trees of the lovely United Church Meadow, 19 ASK Salt Spring participants welcomed one of our two locally-elected Islands Trustees, Peter Grove, to discuss the Trust issues most important to them.

After his heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgment, Peter spoke of the concerns that keep him awake at night. At the top of that list was the fire on Vancouver Island he had observed the evening before from a Salt Spring friend’s home. A terrifying reminder of the climate emergency facing us, the water shortage that has made our island a tinderbox is yet another reminder of our vulnerability.

While the solution to our climate emergency is unbelievably-complex, Peter gave us a few examples of Islands Trust actions as a part of the solution. He spoke of the good relationship Trustees have with our Fire Rescue folks and discussions about better protecting our especially-vulnerable properties. He also believes that Trustees need to rethink forest policy to balance the critical importance of logging with forest management strategies. He also reminded us of the two Islands Trust Task Forces: Housing and Ganges Village Plan and the opportunities/challenges facing these two groups to work with our community to craft solutions.

Concerning our water shortages, Peter believes that we need to re-think the challenges and benefits of desalination. He also reminded us that each year, Salt Spring pumps millions of gallons of treated effluent into our oceans. Other communities take that extra step to further treat it so that it can be used; should we also consider this option?

Switching gears to affordable housing, Peter told us that some 200 units of affordable housing have been built over the last few years or are in progress. While he agrees that this will not solve the problem, it is a major step in the right direction. We also learned that suites are now legal for over 70% of Salt Spring residences and that 450 properties are now allowed to build a cottage for year-round rental. He also took a moment to celebrate the giant leap forward for the proposed housing development on Drake Road, Dragonfly, crediting the de Santos’s for their many years of goodwill, tenacity, and hard work to see this housing opportunity to completion.

Despite these good ideas and some good news, Peter is adamant that it is simply not enough. . . and pondered what would be enough. Blessed and challenged by being one of the most desirable places in the world to live, solutions will also need provincial and federal commitment for any hope of success. He also reminded us that the Islands Trust is guided by the Official Community Plan (OCP) and a plethora of bylaws operationalizing this plan. While it can be changed, changing our OCP, crafted from years of public engagement, is a complex process.

Our first question was from a First Nations participant who said that, despite all the words supporting Reconciliation, he and many others felt invisible. He wanted a seat at the table and welcomed a call from Peter to discuss options.

He also asked who was consulted when the Trust distributes items for consultation. Here is that list of First Nations who are consulted*:

Cowichan Tribes

Halalt First Nation

Lake Cowichan First Nation

Lyackson First Nation

Penelakut Tribe

Stz’uminus First Nation

Malahat First Nation

Pauquachin First Nation

Tsartlip First Nation

Tsawout First Nation

Tseycum First Nation

Semiahmoo First Nation

Tsawwassen First Nation

Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group (for information only)

Te’Mexw Treaty Association (for information only)

*Please note: This list may change at the suggestion or direction of the Islands Trust Senior Intergovernmental Policy advisor or staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

The next question was from a fully-employed worker who cannot find anywhere to live, forced, instead, to sleep in a tent in the bushes. His adamant plea: You need to address this situation! His strong suggestion was to designate a small amount of land for an encampment, welcoming only those who were screened and follow the rules. He spoke of his many friends in the same predicament, sleeping anywhere they can and in desperate need of a safe encampment.

This participant said that he did not make trouble, but, upon occasion he found himself depressed and drinking too much - eventually hanging out in Centennial Park and on the edge of making trouble himself. He strongly-believes that a safe encampment would take away this temptation, proving, instead a safe, comfortable community. (While this has been proposed repeatedly by ASK Salt Spring participants, we will ask yet again about options to address this young man’s plight.)

We then learned quite a lot about the location of the proposed CREST Tower on Channel Ridge, While the participants strongly-questioned this location, they were clear that they supported this tower and were only concerned that it was so close, as near as 145 feet, to nearby homes. While this proposed tower is near the existing Telus Tower, we learned that not only was this proposed CREST Tower significantly closer to homes, but that, unlike the Telus Tower, it was proposed to be in front of the water tank.

Peter reminded us how important this proposed CREST Tower is to our emergency operations and the widespread support for it among our emergency and first responders. His fear is that the federal government will soon cease trying to build a tower here, leaving us to deal with our vulnerable communications in emergencies. Peter promised to reach out to these concerned folks to see if there is a solution that can work for all.

Peter was asked about the public engagement promised for the draft Island Trust Policy. (The current draft can be read here: https://islandstrust.bc.ca/programs/islands-2050/.) A consultant has been hired to develop a public engagement plan that will be considered by Trust Council at its September meeting. For more detail, please see: https://mailstorm.caorda.com/campaigns/pz491lw4906ca/web-version/tp365hnhkt828. It is expected that this public engagement will begin soon. In the meantime, please send your comments to: Islands2050@islandstrust.bc.ca.

A member of the community asked that advertisements of engagement opportunities in the Driftwood be substantial so that they will be seen by all readers.

Peter was asked what was being done in those cases in which bylaw enforcement officers were employing inappropriate behaviors, such as bullying. While we learned that Bylaw Enforcement and the Trustees were organized to operate separately, Peter stated that he is intolerant of bullying and is aware of cases in which this aggressive technique may have been utilized. We also learned that anyone can complain of suspected bylaw enforcement abuse to the Chief Administrative Officer, Russ Hotsenpiller, rhotseniller@islandstrust.bc.ca.

As 1:00 drew near, Peter was asked why Salt Spring, a unique community, could not retain that uniqueness through fewer regulations and more support for residents to just do what needs to be done. Peter was asked why so many roadblocks were needed, discouraging the good souls with good intentions to make our community the best it can be. Peter was asked why we could not simply be left alone, free from regulations from multiple agencies, to get moving to do what our community needs.

While Peter understood the logic of this wish, he countered that a balance was needed. Peter maintained that rules created by our community by elected officials living in our community have a central place in any democracy, reminding us that he grew up in a country struggling with anarchy, a circumstance he would not chose to relive.

Before we bid farewell to Peter, we all thanked him for sharing his concerns and hopes with us as well as listening and learning from us all. Thank-you, Peter!

Please join us this Friday, August 27, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow, when ASK Salt Spring welcomes the tenacious and successful Saanich volunteers, Livable Roads for Rural Saanich (LRRS), who work to slow traffic in their community.

Addressing issues such as speeding and unsafe passing that is having a negative impact on their rural neighborhoods, they question the Ministry’s too high speed limit on winding rural roads.

They will join us to tell us of their trials and triumphs as well as listening to our concerns.

Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.

Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.

See you at the Meadow!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15


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