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  • Gayle Baker

CRD's Gary Holman Expresses High Hopes for Affordable Housing, Infrastructure, and Governance

January 13

After offering a Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary began by outlining a number of community projects in which CRD has played a role that will be coming to fruition in the coming term.


Affordable Housing: Leading the list of promising news was affordable housing. Gary stated that he will be focusing his efforts on six properties already rezoned or designated for affordable housing that could be developed during this term. They are:

  • The supported housing Drake Road project with 28 units, expected to be completed by the end of this year (https://letstalkhousingbc.ca/salt-spring-island-supportive-housing). Gary informed us that BC Housing will be holding an in person public meeting on this project in the near future and that he is working with neighbours, BC Housing, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), and Emcon regarding stormwater concerns.

  • CRD is finalizing a 60 year lease on the entire Drake Road property with BC Housing, which will be seeking proposals and funding for development of at least 50 more densities of affordable housing. CRD is proving additional water for these proposed units.

  • CRD is working with Dragonfly Commons’ (also on Drake Road) proponents to establish a water utility which will allow this proposed community of 30 purchased homes expected to proceed.

  • Gary expects full occupation of the former Dean Road Land Bank property soon. This property was recently purchased and now being extensively renovated by the Lookout Society (https://lookoutsociety.ca/), a welcomed newcomer to Salt Spring.

  • Another former Land Bank property on Rainbow Road, known as Bracket Springs, also has an accepted offer from a nonprofit which has plans for redevelopment, subject to the outcome of due diligence on this site.

  • The Meadowlane 50 unit seniors project on Kings Lane by Gulf Islands Seniors Residents Association (GISRA), which also owns and operates Meadowbrook, is being redesigned and reimagined. The timing of construction, as with most projects, will depend on securing grant funding and financing. Timing will also depend upon the completion of supported housing at Drake Road, allowing residents of BC Housing’s temporary accommodation at King’s Lane (graciously supported by GISRA) to re-locate.

  • The Seabreeze Inne will be renovated for at least 15 affordable health worker suites by our amazing Hospital Foundation once the unfortunate dispute can be resolved with the few occupants who have not yet moved to Kings Lane.

Combined, these six properties have the potential of adding over 200 more affordable units to Salt Spring’s housing stock. Gary reminded us that since most of these projects will prioritize Salt Spring residents, they will free up a substantial number of currently rented homes for other locals seeking housing, an often overlooked benefit of constructing new, affordable housing.


Gary also stated that CRD’s $120 million regional affordable housing program, a tripartite funding partnership between CRD, BC Housing, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Association (CMHC),is now almost fully subscribed and will be renewed this term. (https://www.crd.bc.ca/project/regional-housing-first-program)Gary is hoping that the CRD and senior government partners will commit significantly more funding with a much higher target than the 2,000 new units targeted by the current program. Salt Spring has, and will hopefully, continue to benefit from this program as well as other provincial and federal funding programs in place.


Gary also touched briefly on the recently-passed Islands Trust Bylaw 526 which was necessary to trigger provincial legalization of small cottages on all Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties, in addition to the already-allowed primary dwelling suites. He also expects some version of Bylaw 530, allowing accessory dwelling units in more zones or locations, to be adopted by the Islands Trust this year (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/island-planning/salt-spring/projects/.

Community Use of the Middle School: We learned from Gary that the former Middle School (also known as SIMS) is almost fully-subscribed, offering affordable rental rates for a wide variety of community non-profits (like ASK Salt Spring!), as well as our local Emergency Program. This opportunity has been made possible by the completion of a five-year lease with School District 64 - an enormous amount of work by the hardworking PARC Commission and staff - and a CRD requisition increase supported by Gary for the tax dollars needed to make these these reduced rents possible.


It is Gary’s hope that the five-year lease of the Middle School will be extended later in this term, which could allow CRD offices, currently paying commercial rates, to also move to this facility. (This longer lease would be required before expending funds for needed renovation.) Gary did warn us that using space for CRD offices could potentially impact the amount of space currently allocated to nonprofits. Also, this repurposing for CRD offices would trigger building code upgrades and require rezoning. Despite these challenges, Gary believes the potential taxpayer savings of moving CRD offices to the Middle School is significant. He believes that this location represents the best opportunity we have ever had to consolidate local government offices.


Before shifting to other subjects, Gary reminded us that the Local Community Commission would be meeting in the Middle School when it convenes, presumably June of this year.


Other Infrastructure: Gary summarized a number of other important infrastructure projects that are underway and will, or could be, completed this term:

  • Lady Minto Emergency facility construction is well underway.

  • Firehall is progressing well, and may be completed sooner than the four years originally estimated.

  • Centennial Park upgrade has been made possible by a $570,000 infrastructure grant.

  • MoTI’s repaving of Ganges Hill is beginning this year and expected to be completed in 2024.

  • Designs will be completed for the storage and electrification of our transit buses and a new PARC maintenance facility.

  • Detailed design for the HarbourWalk as well as harbourside pathway will be completed this year. (Want to know more about our long-awaited HarbourWalk? Come to ASK Salt Spring this Friday, January 20, to learn, share your visions, and discuss next steps.);

  • Construction of SSI’s first large scale Composting Project will begin soon.

  • The Root will open soon. (https://www.ssifarmlandtrust.org/projects).

  • The Malaview treatment plant is being upgraded.

Combined, these six properties have the potential of adding over 200 more affordable units to Salt Spring’s housing stock. Gary reminded us that since most of these projects will prioritize Salt Spring residents, they will free up a substantial number of currently rented homes for other locals seeking housing, an often overlooked benefit of constructing new, affordable housing.


Gary also stated that CRD’s $120 million regional affordable housing program, a tripartite funding partnership between CRD, BC Housing, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Association (CMHC),is now almost fully subscribed and will be renewed this term. (https://www.crd.bc.ca/project/regional-housing-first-program)Gary is hoping that the CRD and senior government partners will commit significantly more funding with a much higher target than the 2,000 new units targeted by the current program. Salt Spring has, and will hopefully, continue to benefit from this program as well as other provincial and federal funding programs in place.


Gary also touched briefly on the recently-passed Islands Trust Bylaw 526 which was necessary to trigger provincial legalization of small cottages on all Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties, in addition to the already-allowed primary dwelling suites. He also expects some version of Bylaw 530, allowing accessory dwelling units in more zones or locations, to be adopted by the Islands Trust this year (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/island-planning/salt-spring/projects/.


Community Use of the Middle School: We learned from Gary that the former Middle School (also known as SIMS) is almost fully-subscribed, offering affordable rental rates for a wide variety of community non-profits (like ASK Salt Spring!), as well as our local Emergency Program. This opportunity has been made possible by the completion of a five-year lease with School District 64 - an enormous amount of work by the hardworking PARC Commission and staff - and a CRD requisition increase supported by Gary for the tax dollars needed to make these these reduced rents possible.


It is Gary’s hope that the five-year lease of the Middle School will be extended later in this term, which could allow CRD offices, currently paying commercial rates, to also move to this facility. (This longer lease would be required before expending funds for needed renovation.) Gary did warn us that using space for CRD offices could potentially impact the amount of space currently allocated to nonprofits. Also, this repurposing for CRD offices would trigger building code upgrades and require rezoning. Despite these challenges, Gary believes the potential taxpayer savings of moving CRD offices to the Middle School is significant. He believes that this location represents the best opportunity we have ever had to consolidate local government offices.


Before shifting to other subjects, Gary reminded us that the Local Community Commission would be meeting in the Middle School when it convenes, presumably June of this year.


Other Infrastructure: Gary summarized a number of other important infrastructure projects that are underway and will, or could be, completed this term:

  • Lady Minto Emergency facility construction is well underway.

  • Firehall is progressing well, and may be completed sooner than the four years originally estimated.

  • Centennial Park upgrade has been made possible by a $570,000 infrastructure grant.

  • MoTI’s repaving of Ganges Hill is beginning this year and expected to be completed in 2024.

  • Designs will be completed for the storage and electrification of our transit buses and a new PARC maintenance facility.

  • Detailed design for the HarbourWalk as well as harbourside pathway will be completed this year. (Want to know more about our long-awaited HarbourWalk? Come to ASK Salt Spring this Friday, January 20, to learn, share your visions, and discuss next steps.);

  • Construction of SSI’s first large scale Composting Project will begin soon.

  • The Root will open soon. (https://www.ssifarmlandtrust.org/projects).

  • The Malaview treatment plant is being upgraded.

Gary concluded his lengthy, but informative, introduction by telling us that in addition to the Electoral Area Services Committee (comprised of the three electoral area directors within CRD), he has been assigned to four CRD Board committees, all of which deal with issues of importance to SSI: Hospitals and Housing, Regional Parks, Environment, and Governance. Gary noted that Governance Committee may be useful as CRD gains experience with our new Local Community Commission (LCC).


Speaking of the LCC, Gary confirmed that a tentative election date of May 27, 2023 has been announced. When asked about a Terms of Reference for these elected Local Commissioners, Gary told us that the two bylaws, Establishment Bylaw 4507 and Delegation Bylaw 4508 (lccsaltspring.com), will effectively serve as the Terms of Reference for these elected Local Commissioners.


In addition, as indicated in these bylaws, the LCC will be subject, at least initially, to existing CRD policies and procedures. Gary expects the LCC may want to revise some of these procedures for more effective functioning.


Gary is committed to help the LCC develop a strategic focus as soon as possible in this term, part of which will include the existing strategic and capital plans of the soon-to-be-dissolved island-wide commissions. In addition, there are also a number of other initiatives already underway or proposed that will inform the LCC’s strategic direction.


CRD Staff will be providing an orientation for new Local Commissioners and have even suggested an orientation for candidates before the May election. Another possibility for an orientation, not only for declared candidates but also for the public and potential candidates, might be the focus one of Gary’s regular visits to ASK Salt Spring the second Friday of every month.


While the delegated authority over specific services has been clearly-defined by bylaw, how many hours a month will it take to be a good Local Commissioner? What other responsibilities will Commissioners be expected to undertake in addition to LCC meetings and preparation? To a certain extent, it will be up to Commissioners to decide how much time they can devote to the position. For now, for these and other questions, Gary believes that we have to proceed without all the answers, ready to address issues as they arise, and remain flexible enough to solve and learn from them.

Gary has proposed that, in addition to existing capital and strategic plans of the four island-wide commissions (Economic Sustainability, PARC, Liquid Waste, and Transportation), each existing commission will meet with, and/or provide documentation to the LCC to pass on their knowledge and experiences.


While consensus will be sought, decisions of the LCC will be made by majority vote, with all Local Commissioners and the Electoral Director having an equal vote on delegated services. The Electoral Director may bring issues related to services not delegated to the LCC for advice of Local Commissioners (including all regional services), but Gary would not be bound by their recommendation in these instances. And in response to a question, no, Local Commissioners could not recall the Electoral Director: Any processes for this unlikely event would be found in provincial legislation, such as the Local Government Act.


There did not seem to be consensus among participants concerning remuneration for Local Commissioners: One participant expressed concern about the expected costs of the LCC, especially in light of a tax increase anticipated to be 3.5% (and, because of additional costs not included in the CRD provisional budget, including the LCC, probably even higher).


Another participant, from apparently a different perspective, questioned the adequacy of the remuneration, proposed at $10,000 a year. This participant reflected an often-heard sentiment that we need young folks to run for the LCC - but also questioned how a working adult could afford to give the time required for such a small stipend. Gary responded that the proposed LCC Commissioner salary was based on councillor salaries for other CRD municipalities of similar size in the CRD (e.g., Sidney and North Saanich), but, unlike the LCC, these councillors are also responsible for roads, land use, and policing.


Participants did seem to agree that at least some of the LCC meetings must be held in the evening or on weekends to make sure that all in our community can attend. While Gary is concerned about the potential extra staff (and therefore taxpayer) costs for meetings held beyond normal working hours, he noted that this is the kind of decision that must be made by the LCC. He also noted that he would be proposing that LCC meetings be videotaped and archived on the CRD website (as with all CRD meetings in Victoria) for public viewing.


The timing of LCC elections will give Local Commissioners the opportunity to participate in the establishment of the 2024 CRD budget. We were reminded that the final 2023 budget will be formally adopted in March, 2023. Since his election in 2018, Gary has held a budget information session each year, except this one, due to the local elections in October. But, Gary will hold this session before the budget is approved, which could be another opportunity for LCC candidates to gain a better understanding of CRD budgets. Stay tuned for time and place. . . .


In other news, Gary spoke briefly of then need to begin inter-agency discussions, also including First Nations, regarding the management of Ganges Harbour, characterizing it as “a bit of a wild west situation,” due, largely, to the neglect of federal and provincial governments which have authority over the harbour water column and seabed, respectively. Gary feels that local governments throughout BC are being forced to step into this management mine field because senior governments are reneging on their responsibilities.


Vancouver Island farmers are suffering great damage from the proliferation of geese, these quintessentially Canadian birds. Did you know that you have until January 23 to sign a counter-petition if you do not want CRD to embark on a new Geese Management service (https://www.timescolonist.com/local-news/crd-proposes-cull-egg-addling-service-to-manage-canada-geese-6354267)? Approximately 35,000 voters have to file a petition in opposition to defeat this initiative.


Gary noted that, if this referendum is approved, CRD will be collaborating with First Nations to provide culled geese for food. Want to know more about CRD’s Geese Management plans? (https://www.crd.bc.ca/project/goose-management). Gary supports the new service, from which Salt Spring farmers may enjoy some benefit, and to which local taxpayers will make a very modest contribution. He has been unsuccessful, at least initially, adding the hyper-abundant deer in the Gulf Islands to this new service.


We learned that the the province has recently-approved an additional $230 million for more RCMP officers: (https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/bc-government-police-funding-increase-rcmp-public-safety). Gary is working with RCMP’s Clive Seabrook and MLA Adam Olsen to determine whether Salt Spring is eligible for a needed increase in our local force. (For more information, Clive will be our special ASK Salt Spring guest Friday, February 24. Additionally, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth is undertaking community engagement about policing in BC. He is joining MLA Adam Olsen at ASK Salt Spring on Friday, March 3.)


The CRD has a number of contribution arrangements through which it offers local nonprofits ongoing funding to provide specific services. Examples include funding allocated to our Library Society, as well as Artspring, the Arts Council, our Recycling Centre, and Search and Rescue. Gary is proposing to expand this model this year through the CRD Community Economic Sustainability service. He has been discussing this approach with the Housing Council, Farmland Trust, Transition Salt Spring, and the Chamber about needed services they could cost-effectively provide for the economic and social benefit of our community.


One participant asked about the suggested use of the current firehall as a year ‘round farmers market. This participant shared some concerns from local businesses about the potential unfair advantage of offering this community funded space to farmers. While Gary has heard and understands this concern, he did point out that, in his opinion, this use of the firehall for local food marketing was similar to the current use of Centennial Park by market venders. He also noted the substantial economic benefit of such markets, which draw thousands of visitors, as well as the potential benefits to local businesses of extending this market into the winter months.


CRD’s first concern is to ascertain the cost and feasibility of bringing the current firehall building up to required Building Code standards. He understands that the building may not be salvageable but remains excited about the potential uses (including a public market, gathering space, and traffic flow improvements) - even without the building - of this prime, centrally-located spot.


Our tenacious ferry advocate spoke with passion about the value of revising and bringing back to the legislature Bill 7 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022TRAN0015-000256), which would allow the provincial government to impose certain policies on BC Ferries. Gary noted that there is a balance to be struck regarding ferries management, between a business-like approach and broader community goals.


Gary took this opportunity to remind us of BC Ferries proposals for improved ferry services for Salt Spring, including completion of Vesuvius and Crofton terminal upgrades by 2027 and accelerating the deployment of two hybrid electric ferries on that route to meet the terminal upgrade timing (https://saltspringexchange.com/2022/10/26/bc-ferries-four-year-plan-open-for-public-feedback-for-changes-on-salt-spring-island/).


Concerning Fulford, the BC Ferries proposal to the BC Ferry Commissioner also supports adding two round trip sailings to the Skeena Queen schedule during peak periods, starting this summer, and deploying a second ferry (the Quinsam) when the hybrid electrics are deployed at Vesuvius. The Ferry Advisory Committee on which Gary sits, has written in support of these proposals to the Ferry Commissioner.


This participant asked Gary if he would address the safety concerns on Fulford Hill by filling in a portion of the bay or pursuing additional parking by acquiring the Patterson property. Gary selected neither of these choices. While he believes that some expansion of the terminal may be necessary, he is convinced that increasing the frequency of service at Fulford, will help mitigate current safety concerns by decanting parked vehicles more frequently. And, unlike large scale harbour infill, increasing service levels would avoid major environmental and First Nations impacts. It would also result in the expansion of our transit systems as buses would meet these more frequent sailings.


To further address the safety concerns on Fulford Hill, Gary told us about the imminent release of MoTI’s safety study of our major roads, with an emphasis on the three ferry terminals. The results of this study will be used by a proposed inter-agency Working Group, consisting of our local MLA, CRD Director, MoTI, BC Ferries, CRD Transportation, the Ferry Advisory Committee, and, possibly Fulford Water, to address pedestrian, cycling and vehicle safety on Fulford Hill.


With 1:00 upon us, we left, disappointed that more had not joined this rich conversation but appreciative to Gary for his hard work, willingness to listen and answer our questions each and every month, and his obvious commitment to put all his efforts toward seeking an even better Salt Spring. (Thank-you, Gary!)


Please join us this Friday, January 20, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby to welcome HarbourWalk enthusiasts.


What would you like to ask them?

  • Tell us what completion of this HarbourWalk will bring to Ganges?

  • Can you describe your vision for us?

  • Tell us about the timing of this HarbourWalk.

  • What are the next steps?

  • What do you see as the major challenges of this project?

  • And?


Please join us this Friday, January 20, to learn all you ever

wanted to know about our long-awaited HarbourWalk!


Remember: the Middle School Lobby!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

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

monthly schedule of upcoming 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. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!





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