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  • Gayle Baker

CRD's Gary Holman: Dangerous Pedestrian Lanes, Safety, and the Need for Mental Health Services

December 13:

Thirteen came to this session with Gary Holman. a good surprise as, originally, it had not even been scheduled (nor advertised) due to Thrifty’s need for the room for holiday preparations. Major topics of conversation included:

  • responsibility for potentially-dangerous trees,

  • progress with the laundromat,

  • the extreme danger for elderly pedestrians of both Blaine and Crofton Roads,

  • potential use of land owned by Greenwoods,

  • connecting workers and those who need help,

  • the Alternate Approval Process,

  • safety in our community, and

  • the need for mental health outreach services.

Our first guest lives at the corner of two major roads and is concerned about her responsibility for some very large trees there. Is she responsible? What if they fall and take out power for all her neighbours? And, there is another row of large trees between her home and the neighboring property. She does not know if they belong to her or her neighbour. Should she have a survey?

It was suggested that her first call may be to BC Hydro to determine the danger of the trees at the corner and her liability for them. While it may be a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) or Emcon issue, the consensus was that BC Hydro would be the place to begin. It was also suggested that before she pay for a survey, that she and her neighbour should discuss the large trees near the line between them and, hopefully, agree to share the cost of an arborist to assess the danger. With this information, it was hoped that she and her neighbour could determine the best course of action, if any. This guest left with a commitment to begin with a call to BC Hydro and a conversation with her neighbour.

Response from Emcon's Andrew: Danger Trees: Trees that are located on MoTI Right of Way will fall under our jurisdiction. Right of Way widths for roads are different from one road to another. A good rule of thumb is everything between the back slopes of the ditches. The location of the issue raised was unclear but if there is any dead trees that pose a concern on MoTI Right of Way, please pass onto our Road Hazard Reporting Line (1-866-353-3136). Our crew will be dispatched to take a look, verify the location and plan accordingly or advise if the tree is outside of our jurisdiction and ensure that the correct agency or person is advised. Please be aware, we do not typically remove healthy trees, we are not improving peoples view, or reducing the fall work load of picking up leaves when we decide to remove trees. We have a finite budget for the entirety of South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and we must prioritize danger trees based on the level of risk to surrounding property and the probability of them coming down naturally. Trees actually provide soil stability along ditches and also help drink up some of the excess ground water that we seem to never be short of on the west coast.

We got an update concerning the laundromat. While most of this information was good, our guest did express worry that a few neighboring businesses had spoken to the landlord about their concerns that the laundromat could become a spot for those who were not working to hang out, potentially negatively-impacting their business. Concerned, the discussion went from the suggestion that Wagon Wheel might consider doing some outreach to their new neighbours to the fact that Community Services will have a shower and laundry facilities for those staying at the shelter (including, possibly, guests as well.) It was hoped that this information could allay some of the concerns of retail owners.

It was mentioned that a large number of users of the laundromat are likely to be summer tourists as well as those who simply do not have laundry facilities at their home. The soap refill station will also be a likely draw to a wide range of Salt Springers. For those wanting to contribute to this effort, Wagon Wheel now has a Go Fund Me account and has already raised $4,500.

Our next visitors came with a single purpose: something must be done about the danger of the walking lanes on both Crofton and Blaine Roads. Serving a large portion of our senior pedestrian population (Heritage Place, Greenwoods, Braehaven) as well as the hospital, with the expansion of Croftonbrook and Meadowlane, this concern will soon significantly increase. While the painting solution (Island Pathways will work with Ron Danvers and his Salt Spring painting company to get this done as early as possible in the spring - at Island Pathways’ their expense) was greeted with enthusiasm, it will still be dangerous even when well-painted. The big problem is that cars turning off Lower Ganges Road take the turn too fast and cut the corner too close, effectively driving straight across that pedestrian lane. It was suggested that this pedestrian lane be physically-separated from the road with barriers - possibly metal posts.

While the guests understood that this option was far more complex than painting, they encouraged our follow-up to make this area safer before Meadowlane and the expansion of Croftonbrook are completed. making the danger even more troubling.

Our next question was about the potential of using the abandoned childcare centre behind the Senior Services building. Our volunteer, Joan, knew a lot about this issue and assured us that great efforts had been made to repurpose this building, to no avail: unfortunately, it had been determined that this building could not be renovated.

This opened a line of conversation about the property, and we learned that Greenwoods owns quite a large amount of centrally-located property. While Island health seems to agree that it would be the perfect spot for a multi-purpose building serving seniors - housing, medical, support, etc. - it has not progressed beyond the talking stage for many years. Gary is in communication with the Greenwoods Board with the possibility of it being a CRD project that is leased back to Island Health. While they were receptive to the conversation, the Greenwoods board asked that this conversation be postponed temporarily.

We learned that the owner of Heritage Place has purchased the apartment building across the street. Needing quite a lot of work, that work is progressing. It is intended to provide housing for Heritage Place personnel as well as hospital staff.

Our guest asked how homeless workers could get paid for shoveling snow in the village. Last year, they did it for free; could they receive some renumeration for this service this year. We briefly discussed a Grant-in-Aid to coordinate willing workers with those needing help. Our guest will follow-up in hopes of developing such a service.

It was noted that our homeless community already self-monitors itself. When anyone new arrives, they tell them rules, including that panhandling is not accepted here on Salt Spring, one must clean up their litter, and illegal drugs are forbidden.

The conversation then focused upon the desperate need for mental health outreach for adults. It seems that, now that it has moved from Community Services, help is hard to find. While those with homes could get a visit from the service located in the Lancer Building, how do those without homes access this service? It was suggested that a presence at places like the Food Bank on Tuesday might be effective connecting those in need to counsellors.

An organization like Salt Spring Health Advancement Network (SSHAN), might be able to provide a map of our current mental health system as well as identifying gaps. Joan promised to follow-up and contact David, She will also consider joining SSHAN as a member.

One new resident to Salt Spring wanted to know more about water and issues surrounding it. As she his a part of the North Salt Spring Waterworks District, she was given contacts to individuals in that organization. She also wanted to find a group tuned into the 5G issue as well as a family doctor. She left with a number of contacts as well as an invitation to come back when she needs more information.

One guest, who had been strongly opposed to the Alternate Approval Process (AAP), came to offer his perspective about the failings of this option. While accepted as valid concerns, Gary countered that he did not have the budget for a $30,000-40,000 referendum and that this AAP option was his only alternative. It was agreed that certain issues are better for an AAP than others. Given the complexity of the Safety Referendum, with hindsight, it may not have been the best option.

One guest brought up a disturbing petition being circulated on Salt Spring soliciting signatures to agree with a hate-filled manifesto targeted at our homeless community. Seeming to be not unlike groups in Salt Springs’s past who beat up hippies, then harassed gays, these was much concern in the room about this disturbing formation of such an angry group.

Safety in our community - for all. How can we move forward? What is happening? Where are the gaps? First is to identify players and get them all into one room to talk. Gary was asked to let us know if he needed help addressing this complex issue.

Then - we discussed our next AAP. While Gary expects some will think that he was simply not listening, this is a regional effort to allow the CRD District to borrow money for Housing First initiatives. At $4 a month for householders, Gary is hoping that this AAP will be clear, simple, and supported. If not, it still could happen if enough municipalities (needing only a majority of council) and electoral districts approve it. This AAP will begin in mid-January and will extend until February 18. It was suggested that the process for submitting petitions be reviewed very carefully, hopefully addressing some of the concerns such as perceived intimidation when those came to file their petitions in the CRD Office. Maybe the Library could gather petitions in a locked box?

This ASK Salt Spring session ended with a quick review of various housing initiatives, including CRD land (donated by school district) Dragonfly, Norton, Road, and Brackett Springs.

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