Firehall, Local Community Commission, Warming Space, Parking and Noise. . .a Rich CRD Discussion
Only seven joined us for this Zoom gathering to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman. (In hindsight, weather would have permitted us to gather in the United Church Meadow. . .hopefully next Friday!) While offering us a Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary spoke briefly about the recent Provincial denial of a subdivision on James Island: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/james-island-subdivision-rejected-1.6477735).
Gary sees this as a very positive provincial reconciliation decision, reminding us that BC is leading the nation in supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html) as well as taking additional legislative actions to implement it. (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022IRR0018-000457). Gary believes that this James Island decision is a signal of a provincial action-based commitment to reconciliation.
Before beginning, the group discussed how ASK Salt Spring should proceed as the election nears. It was agreed that the second Friday of the month should continue to focus on CRD issues and that all who declare their intention to run for Electoral Director will be invited to participate. Gary indicated that his decision about whether he will run or not will be announced soon.
When asked what was on his mind, Gary began by speaking about the firehall referendum. With ballots already sent to properly owners and due June 30, 2022, Gary reminded us again to remember to witness our ballots and follow the marking instructions so the ballot will not be disqualified.
Strongly-supportive of a Yes vote in the referendum, Gary is hopeful that voters will finally approve this long-denied firehall. He feels strongly that we need this new emergency building and that costs will only continue to escalate if we do not approve it this time, as clearly-evidenced by past history.
He is also excited about community acquisition of the current firehall if the referendum is approved - at a nominal cost. (Note: CRD has also committed to support the construction of the new firehall if it is approved with $1 million of our Community Works - Gas Tax - funds.) He sees the re-purposing of the current firehall in the centre of Ganges village as a wonderful opportunity to add some vibrancy to our village, envisioning a farmers’ market in this space.
Gary told us that, if the referendum is approved, the firefighters will still have free use of the building for four more years while the new firehall on the donated Brinkworthy property is being completed. Clearly understanding the structural issues of the building, during this time, CRD will assess whether the building can be utilized for community uses. If the challenges of the building outweigh its benefits, Gary is confident that ownership the land itself will still be of great benefit to our community.
A participant shared that he had just completed his ballot with a Yes but with sadness that Fire Trustees had - again - not appeared to listen to the community. He was also sad that renters could not vote. (Inability of renters to vote is not a Fire District decision but is based on Provincial legislation that applies to all Improvement Districts.) Gary pointed out that the Fire District has listened to the community regarding the size of the building, reducing it from 18,500 to 11,500 square feet. They have collaborated with the CRD to secure gas tax funding and built up capital reserves to reduce the taxpayer cost of the new hall by $4 million, ensuring that the carrying costs on borrowed funds do not require a requisition increase.
Gary also spoke about the Local Community Commission Advisory Committee meetings, three so far, and its plans to distribute copies of minutes and the Discussion Paper at the CRD offices, the Library, and Visitors’ Centre. This Committee will see a copy of the draft bylaws establishing the LCC and identifying its powers at the beginning of the week of June 20. They will have the opportunity to meet with CRD staff later that week to discuss the draft bylaws and recommend changes. If all goes as planned, these LCC bylaws will be given their first, second, and third readings at the July 13, 2022 CRD Board meeting and then included in the October 15, 2022 local election for voter approval.
When Gary was asked about the possible dissolution of the four island-wide Commissions (Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, PARC, and Transportation) if an LCC were approved, he agreed that efforts should be made to continue to engage experienced volunteers and the broader community. While details have not yet been fully-explored, Gary agrees with suggestions that less formalized advisory committees, or even societies, could be established to help the elected Local Commissioners better understand the issues.
Gary also cited the formal relationships or contribution agreements CRD has with some local societies to deliver services. That relationship has been longstanding with some societies, like the Library Society and Community Services, and has just been formalized with others, like Island Pathways. He has hopes that, with approval of the LCC, these CRD/Volunteer relationships can be expanded to deliver important services very cost-effectively.
Gary also told us that, due to the October election, the CRD budget, normally submitted in October with final approval in March, will be presented in September. This budget will include funding to cover the referendum cost for the LCC (which will be minimized by holding it during the election) and proposed remuneration for Local Commissioners which might be in the order of $10,000 annually. Naturally, if voters do not approve the proposed LCC, this money will be backed out of the budget before its final approval in March, 2023. Before this budget is taken to the CRD Board, Gary will present it publicly as our Electoral Director whether or not he decides to be a candidate.
Gary was asked whether there had been any further consideration of the Warming Centre proposal so that the worry and evictions of last winter are not repeated. (For a more detailed description of the Warming Space, please see the March 11, 2022 ASK Salt Spring Report: https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/whatever-is-a-warming-space). We learned that, while Gary had participated with the proponents in a circle conversation led by Restorative Justice as well a subsequent private meeting, he hasn’t heard from the group about current progress.
While Gary was criticized by one participant for not meeting with the Warming Space advocates sooner (which he acknowledged), he was applauded for eventually meeting with them, his openness to trying to modify bylaws to be more accommodating as well as the possibility of providing funding support through a Grant-in-Aid. Participants expressed an understanding of Gary’s requirement that, before offering any CRD support, a society or organization needed to accept responsibility for the Warming Space.
In closing this discussion, a participant reminded Gary that winter weather is not that far away and that talks to avoid a repetition of last winter should begin immediately. While Gary has hopes that the fall completion of the Supportive Housing project on Drake Road and BC Housing’s promise to continue funding Community Services’ shelter until March 2023 may help to alleviate a problem next winter, he promised to reach out to begin the Warming Space conversation again.
We also learned a bit about the promise of a Salt Spring Makerspace (https://www.usnewsglobaleducation.com/all-advice/what-is-a-makerspace/) on Hereford Avenue that welcomes all, without the added risk of allowing alcohol or drugs in the space. This group has formed a society, and it is Gary’s understanding that they will be leasing space from CRD at the Middle School.
When Gary was asked why there were so many unleashed dogs in Centennial Park, we learned that all dogs are banned from Centennial and Portlock Parks but that bylaw enforcement was difficult and seldom pursued unless there is the threat of a dangerous dog. We also learned that there is no leash law in Ganges. Instead, dogs are required to be under the control of their owner. Often difficult to determine, Gary is open to exploring a leash law for our village, but he has heard conflicting views on its merits.
A participant complained about the cacophony of roosters, vehicles, dogs, chain saws, and weed eaters. We learned that, while a variety of quantitative methods are used in other communities such as decibel readings, Salt Spring CRD staff have advised Gary - and other Salt Spring CRD Directors - that the qualitative approach is better. In practice, it is generally only the unusually loud infractions, especially late at night and during the early morning hours, that are cited.
Gary mentioned that lowered speed limits could also reduce the noice of vehicles - as well as making it safer for all and reducing the wear and tear on our roads. With the advocacy of the Transportation Commission and support of our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Area Manager as well as several other MoTI managers, Gary is hopeful that the long-standing request to lower Ganges speed limits to 30 km/h will be successful., We have recently learned that MoTI plans to study this issue as part of the Ganges Hill repaving project, to be completed later in 2022 or early 2023.
Our last question of our time together concerned parking and why CRD was not doing anything to address it. Gary replied that currently the authority to manage parking rests with landowners (i.e.,the Ministry on road rights of way, and private property owners). When he created the Transportation Commission in 2007, he added the option of establishing a parking service in its bylaw. Over the years, Transportation Commissioners have recognized the need to manage parking, but, when faced with the costs and logistics of such an undertaking, have deferred that decision. Gary believes that CRD must eventually play a role in managing parking. CRD staff have promised the current Transportation Commissioners a report detailing the challenges and benefits of such a parking service, so that conversation may soon begin once again.
Our time together over - and hopeful of being able to gather in the United Church Meadow each Friday for the rest of the summer - we thanked Gary for coming to ASK Salt Spring the second Friday of every month to answer our questions, seriously consider our opinions, and share the details of his extremely-complicated job. (Thanks, Gary!)
Please join us Friday, June 17, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick.
What do you want to ask her?
What are the 2022-23 Trust Council initiatives?
What are some of the issues before our Local Trust Committee?
What is the status of some of the major planning initiatives?
What progress has been made on the engagement process for the Trust Policy Statement and the recently-released Islands Trust Governance report (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/TC_2022-03-08_GNMC-MarchPresentatin_PowerPoint_FINAL.pdf)?
And. . . .?
See you Friday, June 17, 11-1, at the United Church Meadow to welcome Laura!
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