Fifteen joined us for all or part of this ASK Salt Spring conversation with Kylie Coates and Gary Holman, two of the three candidates for CRD Director in our October 15 local election. (Jesse Brown had also just declared as a CRD candidate, but, due to a prior commitment, was unable to join us. All three candidates plan to be at ASK Salt Spring Friday, October 14, 11-1. We will gather in the United Church Meadow if weather permits. If a wet weather location is needed, see asksaltspring.com for location)
After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we began our conversation by asking candidates why they would ever want to take on the complicated and challenging job as CRD Electoral Director. Kylie began by telling us about his upbringing on Salt Spring and his deep concern about the anger he saw expressed throughout our Island when arrived home during the Incorporation debate. He believes that our challenges are not being successfully addressed. Saddened by issues like housing, water, and that long-awaited HarbourWalk that linger decade to decade, Kylie decided to run, confident that he can find solutions. He spoke of his involvement getting our much-needed laundromat. He is focused on replicating the smiles he saw everywhere when the Laundromat opened through progress on our other challenges. He believes that he can offer what Salt Spring needs: A reset of our Start switch.
Gary spoke with equal passion of the progress we have made during his term and his wish to continue this progress, including:
120 units of affordable housing built or funding committed (SSI Commons, Croftonbrook, Seabreeze Inne, and supported housing on CRD's Drake Road property),
Voter approval for the new fire hall,
Acquisition of the Ganges firehall for community use, and
Securing the right of way for the Harbourwalk.
Gary was also acknowledged by a participant for his role in initiating positive discussions with CRD to build and operate a water utility at Dragonfly Commons, allowing this project of affordable, owned homes for 30 families to finally proceed.
Gary also has hopes that the Land Bank properties, including Grandma’s House, Dean Road, and the affordable housing property on Rainbow Road can be revitalized with new and restructured ownership. While he agreed that we still have much to do, Gary wants to continue working on these kinds of issues.
Gary also mentioned unexpected opportunities such as the five-year lease of the Middle School providing affordable rental space for a number of local community groups, as well as the fundraising efforts for acquisition of the Mount Maxwell property. In closing, he urged voters to support the proposed Local Community Commission (LCC) that would significantly broaden elected CRD representation, make decision-making more transparent, and better coordinate services. If elected and if the LCC is approved, his priority will be to establish the LCC's strategic focus and work to expand its control beyond the current 14 services.
When a North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) Trustee announced its resolve to work more closely with Islands Trust on water/land use issues, both CRD candidates urged NSSWD to include CRD in such discussions.
Candidates were asked if Salt Spring’s placement in the CRD was appropriate. Candidates differed, with Gary listing the advantages we get from being in the CRD, like free recycling, over 1,000 acres of parkland purchased by CRD parks, and millions of CRD Housing dollars to our affordable housing projects. Kylie expressed his intrigue with exploring the move to the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), citing common issues and rural similarities not found with the Victoria municipalities. He also spoke of yet-unexplored opportunities for Salt Spring to join a tourist-oriented Vancouver Island municipality with common interests.
Candidates also differed on their plans for addressing Salt Spring water concerns. Kylie supports amalgamation of all of our water districts under the leadership of NSSWD, along the lines of the recommendations of the recent Water Optimization Study: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/project/salt-spring-island-water-optimization). Believing water to be a shared concern throughout Salt Spring, Kyle proposes that one office and one board manage all our water districts. Fearing that ratepayers in these water districts may not initially approve such an amalgamation, he would like to convince the province to mandate this centralized governance model on Salt Spring for four years before taking it to voters. His theory is that once ratepayers see that is working, they will embrace it. Kylie would also lobby for the lifting of the NSSWD moratorium as well as finding funding for the Mount Maxwell water treatment plant. In Kylie’s opinion, Water is a mess. If elected, he intends to fix it.
Gary agrees that there are issues of common concern and possibilities for collaboration, but reminded us that each water utility has assets and liabilities that are owned by its ratepayers and cannot be converted to island-wide assets and liabilities. Their water resources are also different, comprised of separate lakes, drinking watersheds, and groundwater recharge areas. He also asked how a small district with less than 20 ratepayers would be fairly represented on a large, consolidated Board with Trustees elected at large.
While negotiations regarding NSSWD joining CRD failed, if elected, Gary is committed to collaborating with our most important water district, particularly on strategies that would facilitate affordable housing. Also, rather than promising a move toward amalgamation of the smaller water districts, Gary believes that meetings of water districts, such as already organized under the auspices of the SSI Water Protection Alliance (SSIWPA), will nurture information-sharing and collaboration without altering their governance.
Switching gears to recent events concerning SeaBreeze Inne, Drake Road, and the temporary housing recently constructed on the Kings Lane property, a rather heated discussion ensued to determine what could have been done to avoid the missteps. A participant insisted that when the SeaBreeze Inn was for sale, Gary should have refused to allow BC Housing to build on Drake Road, possibly forcing BC Housing to buy SeaBreeze Inne despite their reluctance.
Gary stated that he worked hard with our MLA; other locally elected officials; and local organizations, including Community Services, to convince BC Housing staff, their Executive Director, and Minister, to purchase SeaBreeze Inne, but these pleas fell on deaf ears. In Gary’s opinion, had we refused to allow BC Housing to use the Drake Road property, we would have faced the high risk of losing this fully funded Supportive Housing opportunity entirely.
Gary agrees that BC Housing has mismanaged the Seabreeze/Drake Road issue, although they have moved very quickly to provide temporary housing on King's Lane for Seabreeze tenants, thanks to the cooperation of the Gulf Islands Seniors Residents Association. However, he insists that once this difficult transition period is over, our Island has won with SeaBreeze Inne slated to provide housing for needed healthcare workers and Drake Road Supportive Housing, although delayed, now expected to be completed next summer
There was quite a bit of discussion about the rights of SeaBreeze residents. It was unclear from this discussion what steps will be taken to protect their rights while also freeing SeaBreeze Inne for conversion to the healthcare housing which will benefit everyone.
Seeking to shift from blame to lessons learned, Gary has suggested to BC Housing that, rather than engaging in a legal confrontation, they incentivize SeaBreeze residents to relocate to Kings Lane by providing moving services and possibly even considering a moving allowance. And, Kylie ended this part of our conversation with his conclusion: The Kings Lane housing was created in a few weeks (and large infusions of money). We know it can be done. Let’s do it again and again!
As 1:00 was fast approaching, the proponent of filling in a portion of Fulford Harbour to provide needed ferry parking - and finally address serious pedestrian, cycling, and vehicular concerns on Fulford Hill - asked candidates to commit to this construction in the bay.
Gary is not necessarily opposed to this fill option, but he believes that a two ferry option should also be considered to empty the parking lot and adjoining road twice as frequently. This is similar to their solution for Vesuvius-Crofton route. It would avoid the environmental and First Nations concerns of filling in the harbour and would also facilitate more frequent bus service to Fulford. Kylie would support filling in a portion of Fulford Harbour, but he would also like to explore options to reroute ferry traffic on a bypass route away from Fulford hill.
Slightly after 1:00, some began packing up chairs while other smaller groups continued their impassioned discussion long after 1:00. Before dispersing, we all thanked Gary and Kylie for joining us for this rich conversation , appreciative of their plans for the next four years, willingness to listen and learn, and simple tenacity for offering to become our next CRD Director. (Thank-you, Kylie and Gary!)
Please join us this Friday, September 16, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome the many Islands Trust candidates.
What would you like to ask them?
What do you see as the top two priorities that must be accomplished in the next four years?
How would you proceed to address them?
How do you propose to find common ground from the seeming disparity of opinions over addressing our housing crisis?
Do you support strengthening the Islands Trust’s coordinating mandate? If so, how?
What would you like to see as the focus of the Policy Statement?
Do you believe that the Ganges Planning Task Force has important unfinished work?
If so, how would you proceed to move this work forward?
Please join us Friday, September 16, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome our Islands Trust candidates
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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