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  • Gayle Baker

Forests, Housing, and Islands Trust Policy - Just ASK Laura!

May 21

After a heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgment, 16 participants launched into our Islands Trust-focused conversation with one of the Islands Trust’s Local Trustees, Laura Patrick. She began by speaking about Reconciliation and how it makes her aware of language and the ways she makes decisions. She is excited to see various island groups and organizations taking steps toward Reconciliation. She acknowledged Salt Spring Art Council’s ArtCraft, which is undertaking a pilot project to bolster inclusion and build connections with Indigenous artists.

The owner of Taco Loco shared his efforts to make his restaurant more attractive as well as safer. She explained that the Local Trust Committee had proactively adopted a policy to permit local restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops to expand outdoor seating during the public health emergency. He currently has an active development permit application with the Islands Trust. Laura encouraged him to continue to work with Islands Trust staff.

The trustees have also referred this Taco Loco application to the CRD’s Transportation Commission for feedback on parking and pedestrian movement. This Commission will discuss these issues at its upcoming May 31 meeting at 1:00 p.m. (To attend, please email Shayla - - for a link before 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 31).

Asked to provide an update on the Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystem planning project, Laura responded that the Science Working Group is still active and has focused its efforts on ecosystem health in the watersheds.

A participant suggested the concept of a Food Forest be explored, paralleling the First Nation’s concept of tending forests as we do gardens. Referencing learnings from Indigenous knowledge holders, Laura suggested that we think about being human. We have responsibilities to take care of this place for generations to come.

Laura spoke of the divisiveness in the community concerning our forests. She is hoping to replace those divisions with conversations to define the problem and work together to seek solutions. The Local Trust Committee is a long way from proposing bylaws. Laura sees a journey of community education and engagement to understand different viewpoints. This understanding will lead to creative problem-solving, integrated solutions, and innovation.

At the federation level, the Islands Trust is in early discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs about gaining the authority to create a tree cutting bylaw.

When asked about expanding the use of secondary suites and cottages for affordable housing and concerns that they only become short-term vacation rentals, Laura explained that housing agreements (allowed under section 483 of the Local Government Act) are powerful tools. The Housing Action Program task force met for the first time this week to explore a wide range of options such as these housing agreements.

Laura believed a recently released Gabriola Island report offers a great foundation for this task force: A Strategic Approach to Affordable Housing, Biodiversity and Freshwater Conservation on Gabriola – A Community Informed Process:

Laura was asked how density transfers could be used on the island. The current density transfer system requires both a donor and receiving area, which complicates the arrangement. Laura believes density transfer (or density banks) is an important tool to move densities from ecologically sensitive areas to better suited locations.

A participant who recently applied to become a member of the Islands Trust Advisory Planning Commission asked for more information about this commission. The Advisory Planning Commission and the Agricultural Advisory Commission advise the Local Trust Committee on planning applications and proactive planning projects. Laura is keen for the Local Trust Committee to take a greater planning with approach rather than a planning for approach - resulting in more collaborative problem solving to discover and recommend innovative solutions.

The conversation shifted to an issue that has already caught a great deal of attention in the Driftwood and social media channels: The Islands Trust Council’s review of the 2003 Policy Statement. (This Trust Policy Statement is similar to a regional district’s growth strategy.) Laura explained that this review is focused on Reconciliation, climate change, and affordable housing. First reading by Trust Council is anticipated in July 2021 with public engagement in September.

As 1:00 PM approached, Laura shared her opinion that the divisive conversation about Islands Trust policy is an example of widespread feelings of anxiety and distrust, aggravated by the pandemic. Laura misses face-to-face conversations rather than the endless hours sitting alone in front of her computer. She admits that this is taking a toll on her own well-being. She is looking forward to emerging from this health emergency and attending that neighbourhood BBQ!

That said, one participant liked being able to access Islands Trust meetings virtually. Laura had some good news: It looks like the provincial government is seriously considering mandating virtual access to local government meetings.

Despite that positive impact of the pandemic, Laura longs for the time when we can all again gather together to share ideas and seek solutions. And. . . until then, don’t believe everything you read. Just ASK Laura!

We all thanked Laura for sharing her insight with us - appreciating her vision, tenacity, and willingness to address such complex issues. Satisfied from this rich, respectful conversation about the things that mean most to us, we promised to return next Friday to welcome our roads experts: Jake Roder, our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Area Manager, and Andrew Gaetz, our Emcon (roads maintenance) manager.

Please join us Friday, May 28, 11-1, to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Passcode: 186259

Any question, anytime:

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

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15

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