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  • Gayle Baker

Composter, SeaBreeze, Assessments, and a Local Community Commission - Learning Lots from Gary

January 14

Thirteen gathered via Zoom to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman and to discuss those issues that matter most to us. After the Territorial Acknowledgement, we began with a brief discussion of Gary’s Looking Ahead article in the Driftwood. (Copy at the end of this report.)

We learned more about progress with the long planned composting project. It is designed to initially focus on green waste from large users, like Country Grocer and our local abattoir. Its location at the large Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Burgoyne Valley Farm is ideal because rezoning will not be required if the materials generated are sold to farmers on the site. (A number of these farmers are already buying compost from other sources.) Over time, the composting facility can accept green waste from a broader range of businesses and households. With Islands Trust approval, compost can also be sold off site, including to retail outlets, such as Country Grocer, which are already selling commercially-packaged compost.

The SSI Abattoir Society, which will operate the facility under a long term rental agreement with the Farmland Trust, is also working through the regulatory requirements (e.g., with the Agricultural Land Commission, Ministry of Environment, and CRD). Another important step was to secure support of the CRD Liquid Waste Commission by clarifying that their establishment bylaw includes organic material. This allows the Commission to play a role facilitating this important project and will better integrate liquid and solid waste management on Salt Spring. Kudos were given to the tenacious and determined folks who are guiding these efforts.

Concerned about the air pollution from too much burning of wood waste, a participant asked if this composting facility could address the need for better local disposal/use of the tons of branches, etc. generated here every year. We learned that carbon is a critical need for this composting facility and that our wood waste could fill this need. Gary feels that the composter will offer us a wide variety of benefits, finally allowing us to locally complete our waste cycle rather than burning, burying, and trucking so much of this rich material off our island.

It was pointed out that many of our residents in condominiums and other multi-family units do not have ready access to composting and are forced to throw this rich resource into the garbage instead. The lengths to which one participant routinely takes by composting her kitchen waste indoors and riding a bus to deliver it to a local farm clearly illustrates the need for a simple, user-friendly complete local waste system. Once the composting facility is established, Gary expects that further development of this system can occur with CRD assistance as required.

Concerning housing, there is both good news as well as bad. The bad news is that Salt Spring assessments have gone up significantly by roughly 35%. While budgets, not assessments, are the primary factor determining our local taxes, (the CRD provisional budget proposes a tax increase of 3.25%), this increase will have an impact: Salt Spring assessments have outpaced the 25% average increase throughout CRD, meaning that Salt Spring’s contribution to our regional services will increase. Similarly, if an individual property owner’s assessment increases by more than the average for Salt Spring (as well as the CRD as a whole), they will pay a higher proportion of local and regional tax increases.

We were reminded by a participant that this increase also pushes the ability to purchase a home even farther out of the reach of our workers who so desperately need homes. According to Gary, an economist by profession, this further demonstrates that expecting the construction of enough market-priced housing to ultimately improve affordability is a false hope.

Instead, Gary is convinced that our senior governments, who had abandoned funding affording housing for several decades, must continue (and increase) its significant expenditures in affordable housing (millions of which is being spent on Salt Spring). Only with this support will we get truly affordable housing that is disconnected from market forces (e.g., by housing agreements on title). Gary indicated that less than 5% of Canada’s total housing falls in this category, leaving over 95% as market-priced housing. This rate is alarmingly low, a dismal statistic when compared to other affluent nations.

Ready for the good news? Concerning secure housing for those currently residing at SeaBreeze Inne, both Adam and Gary are confident that BC Housing (BCH) will soon announce good news regarding alternative accommodation for current residents of the Inne, as well as for the BCH project on Drake Road.

Gary could not provide many details on these issues until proponents make their announcement, but he believes the acquisition of the Seabreeze by the Hospital Foundation for health worker housing and the Drake Road project will soon be a cause for celebration. There is also the possibility that the Land Bank properties on Salt Spring might be transferred to a housing nonprofit as a result of Vancity’s foreclosure proceedings.

The discussion shifted to the proposed new firehall and the referendum required to approve it. A participant asked Gary why the Fire Trustees had disbanded the community group charged with advising them on this important referendum. It was Gary’s opinion that the Trustees had received valuable recommendations from this group (in which he had also participated), like reducing the size of the proposed new firehall, and were proceeding with detailed design and costing of the facility. Gary emphasized, which he has done since the beginning of his term, that the new firehall (more appropriately named a public safety building because of the proposed co-location of our Emergency Operations Centre) is the most important infrastructure investment that we can make as a community, at least after the full funding of our Emergency Room at Lady Minto Hospital, another huge accomplishment of the Hospital Foundation.


Gary has been in conversations with fire representatives and is confident that this proposed building will be smaller than proposed with no frills. Unfortunately, despite these economies, as well as the donation of its site, this proposed building is expected to be more expensive due to fast-rising building costs - an unforeseen consequence of rejecting the firehall proposal in previous years. Some factors that will reduce taxpayer costs are a healthy reserve held by the Fire District as well as new federal rules allowing local Community Works (Gas Tax) funds to be used to help fund the new firehall.


Gary believes that an engineering assessment of the current firehall clearly demonstrating it is unsafe will help to convince voters that it is finally time for a new firehall. He is also enthusiastic about acquiring the Ganges firehall for community use as a year round farmers’ market to enhance our local food security. This was also recommended by another advisory committee commissioned by the Fire Trustees.


When asked about the wisdom of acquiring a potentially dangerous building built on fill, Gary reminded us that the building will be upgraded by the Fire District, building standards for a public market may be less stringent, and, finally, that its location is vitally important to the vibrancy of Ganges.


The Fire District has agreed to negotiate a purchase option for the Ganges Hall property with the CRD. Our local Parks and Recreation Commission (PARC) which would own and lease the building, has agreed to fund the due diligence necessary to assess the viability of this purchase.

Another factor that could further reduce the size of the new firehall is that the CRD Emergency Program, which is already renting space at the Middle School at a very reasonable rate, may not require as much space at the new facility.


When asked about the five-year tenure at the Middle School, Gary replied that he hopes that the lease will be extended. While he understands the School District’s need to keep its options open in case school populations increase, Gary believes this is unlikely and that this amazing resource will be in community hands for many years.


Gary’s hope is to someday extend the lease enough to allow the two other CRD offices (Building Inspection and Administration) and as well as, possibly, Islands Trust - all currently renting at commercial rental rates totaling approximately $135, 000 annually - to co-locate at the Middle School. Having these government offices located there would offer a local governance centre. It would also generate significant rental income, allowing rental rates for local nonprofits to remain low and, possibly, even allowing a reduction in the PARC tax requisition which was increased to support these low rates for our nonprofits.


Gary has also announced that he will be further exploring a Local Community Commission (LCC), akin to a Salt Spring Council, for CRD services only, with the possibility of a referendum in the local government elections in October 2022. In his opinion, an LCC, consisting of four Salt Springers elected locally at large, would broaden representation and allow for consolidation of some CRD services.


While offering some of the benefits of incorporation, in Gary’s opinion, it would be a much less complicated, less costly governance change. It would also avoid the huge liabilities of taking over millions and millions of dollars of deferred road maintenance and emergency repairs similar to those we recently experienced. Costs of our local policing would also remain with the province. It would not change the functioning nor responsibilities of the Islands Trust and its preserve and protect mandate.

While a participant pointed out that, in his opinion, incorporation is the only answer, Gary believes that an LCC could improve transparency of important decisions like Gas Tax and Grant in Aid allocations. He reminded us that the service delivery functions of our community of over 11,000 residents is now in the hands of a single elected representative.


Strongly pointed out by a participant - and with Gary’s agreement - there are many details yet to be addressed in a public consultation process that could begin later this spring. Stay tuned - an interesting discussion is about to begin. . . .

As 1:00 had arrived, we all bid Gary a grateful Thank-you for regularly spending his time with us, for sharing a wealth of information, and discussing his hopes and dreams for promising Salt Spring initiatives. (Thank-you, Gary!)

Please join us on Zoom 11-1 January 21 to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick.

Given COVID concerns, we will be gathering virtually via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89745830131?pwd=S0dUUUtuZ0pTOU9haDBNMnhaR1M5dz09

(In case you need it, the passcode is 947504)

What do you want to ask her?

  • What are the 2022-23Trust Council initiatives?

  • What are some of the issues before our Local Trust Committee?

  • What is happening with Islands Trust’s Ganges Village Plan and Housing Task Forces?

  • Can you tell us about the Ecosystem Protection project?

  • What progress has been made on the engagement process for the Trust Policy Statement?

  • And. . . .?


See you Friday, January 21, 11-1 on Zoom to welcome Laura!

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 love your receipts! Remember: #15

(Our Partners. . . .

Our rent - reduced through the generosity of our Library -

is being paid for byIsland Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

Cookie and coffee fixings are the result of the generosity of Country Grocer.

What a team!)

Looking Ahead in 2022, by CRD Director Gary Holman

First Published in the Gulf Islands Driftwood

To suggest that 2021, actually this entire term, has been eventful would be an understatement. Historic wind storm and rainfall events, drought and fire risk periods, and COVID have tested our community’s resiliency, but we’ve continued to make progress.

I’m looking forward to completion of a number of CRD-related initiatives in 2022, some of which represent the culmination of years of effort, many involving CRD collaboration with other agencies and community groups, and some involving substantial senior government and CRD funding. Some initiatives will also require voter approval.


Affordable Housing

An additional 34 units of affordable housing at IWAV’S Croftonbrook site will be completed by mid-2022. Phase 1 and 2 of Croftonbrook has received over $6 million from the CRD Regional Housing First and Housing Trust Fund programs, and Community Works (gas tax) funding for potable water supply alternatives.


BC Housing’s project at CRD’s Drake Road site should be completed in 2022. Gas tax funding helped prove potable water supplies for this project, and will do so for other affordable housing development on the site. BC Housing has invested millions this term for Community Services’ 24 unit Salt Spring Commons affordable housing project, year round, 24/7 funding for the SSICS shelter, and transition housing at the Seabreeze Inn.


Locally elected officials have been working with BC Housing to help secure their commitment to find alternative accommodation for tenants of the Seabreeze, necessary if the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation completes its purchase of Inn for much needed health worker housing.


Other CRD-supported affordable housing initiatives for 2022 include: CRD grant in aid to complete a governance study for our local Housing Council; activation of Greater Victoria Social Planning Council rent bank program here; with Islands Trust SSIWPA funding a sustainability study for Weston Lake to support possible legalization of suites in Fulford village.

Infrastructure

CRD PARC will be leasing the Salt Spring Island Middle School (SIMS) by mid-2022, and sublet space to a number of local community groups at below market rents. The CRD Emergency Program is already leasing space at SIMS directly from School District 64.


Gas tax funded detailed designs for the Ganges Harbourwalk, with input from First Nations, upland owners and the public, will be initiated in 2022. These designs will support grant applications and other fundraising efforts for boardwalk construction.


The Salt Spring Fire Improvement District (SSFID) will conduct a referendum for a new public safety building at their donated site near Brinkworthy. The CRD Emergency Operations Centre will be co-located at this post-disaster facility, the cost of which to local taxpayers will be reduced by gas tax funding. If voters approve this essential new facility, CRD will finalize an option to purchase with SSFID and evaluate the feasibility of re-purposing the Ganges fire hall for a year round food market.

A successful fundraising campaign by the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation and a $3 million Capital Region Hospital District contribution will enable construction of a new emergency room at the hospital.


A permanent addition of shared daycare/recreation space to the Rainbow Road swimming pool will be completed, funded by a Provincial grant and gas tax.


Detailed designs for the Ganges Hill repaving project, acquisition of rights of way, and preparatory works (e.g., moving ditches and power poles) will be completed in 2022. Repaving with widened shoulders would be completed in 2023, all fully funded by MOTI, and providing a model for future repaving on the proposed Vesuvius-Fulford Salish Sea Trail.


Other CRD infrastructure initiatives include: upgrading air conditioning at the library, allowing its use as a cooling centre; studies of reclaimed water at Ganges treatment plant and liquid waste disposal options at Burgoyne facility; initiating the downtown Ganges Active Transportation Plan and completing detailed designs for south Rainbow Road sidewalks and Island Pathways’ Merchant Mews project; completion of printed bus shelter at Mobrae.


Climate Action/Food Security

CRD PARC’s purchase of an 80 acre forested parcel in the Mt. Maxwell area could be completed next year, if a public fundraising campaign is successful.



The Abattoir Society has begun construction of a composting facility at the Farmland Trust’s Burgoyne Valley Farm, funded by grants and gas tax. Anticipated additional grants and regulatory approvals should see the facility operating by spring of 2022.

Other related initiatives with funding through CRD: opening the Root food storage and processing facility; continuation of rainwater catchment rebate program for private well owners; free transit for children under 12; new Level 2 charger at swimming pool.


Governance

Public consultation on a Local Community Commission (LCC), based on a discussion paper and supported by CRD and Provincial staff, will begin in the spring of 2022. An LCC would be comprised of four, elected at large members, who with the CRD Director would broaden oversight of all CRD services (e.g., budgets, bylaws, policies), and could also consolidate some services. Establishing an LCC would require voter approval at local government elections in October, 2022.

Inter-agency meetings, supported by the Community Alliance ASK organization, will also begin in the new year.


Grants/Funding

Thus far this term, Salt Spring has secured roughly $9 million in funding commitments from senior governments (excluding emergency road repair costs), and over $10 million from the CRD, for local projects and services. There will be additional funding announcements in 2022.

My best wishes to all for the New Year. Please contact me at: directorssi@crd.bc.ca or 250-538-4307 with any questions or comments.


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