Ten joined us to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman at this ASK Salt Spring gathering. After his Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary spoke of the progress made in the first two Local Community Commission meetings, gradually adjusting to being one of five making decisions about the majority of Salt Spring CRD services but also appreciating being part of a hard working team.
(NOTE: The inaugural meeting, June 20, lasted five hours and was largely focused on administrative requirements such as the formal swearing in and orientation by CRD staff: CAO Ted Robbins, Corporate Services Manager, Kristen Morley, and Salt Spring Manager Karla Campbell. In addition to this orientation, some progress was made understanding meeting procedures as well as planning future meetings.
The second meeting, July 11, invited commissioners from the dissolved island-wide commissions, Parks and Recreation, Community Economic Sustainability, Liquid Waste, and Transportation, to review their progress and suggest future directions.
The third six hour meeting was Tuesday, July 18 at 9:00 a. m. Two August meetings have been scheduled: August 22, 9:00 a.m. and August 31 in the evening with what is expected to be a town hall format. All meetings will be held in SIMS, the former Middle School.)
Gary spoke briefly of the Alternate Approval Process (AAP) that will be initiated later in the summer or early fall to authorize CRD to borrow up to $85 million as housing project opportunities and partnerships arise (https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/news/article/2023/06/02/crd-to-increase-borrowing-authority-for-housing).
The original $40 million borrowed by the CRD for its Regional Housing First program (and matched by both BC Housing and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation - CMHC) has been fully subscribed, building between 1,700-1,800 new units of affordable housing across the CRD region. Croftonbrook received $3.5 million and other Salt Spring affordable housing projects have benefitted from other CRD funding programs.
Gary hopes that this referendum will be successful and that this borrowing will be matched by senior governments. If you support the borrowing initiative, do nothing, as only those opposed to the borrowing need to submit a petition. Information about this AAP and deadline for filing a petition will be widely publicized.
The CRD is also seeking a consultant to lead a Regional Housing Acquisition Strategy (https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/contracts-rfps/current/regional-housing-aquisition-strategy). The CRD Board has approved an overall strategy that will include land acquisition, complex care, and affordable housing in rural areas, including the three CRD electoral areas. Gary indicated in the meeting, and subsequently confirmed with CRD staff, that possible elements of a rural strategy could include a specific funding allocation; incentives for affordable suites (to top up recently announced Provincial tax credits for suites); and a staffer assigned to help facilitate projects in rural areas. Gary’s only concern regarding a rural funding allocation is concern that it would preclude Salt Spring from successfully competing for other grants.
At the July 12 CRD Electoral Area Committee (EAC), CRD staff presented a report on bylaw enforcement practices for alternative housing options that are not BC Building Code compliant (including tiny homes and recreation vehicles): (https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/board-committees/meeting-schedule/event/2023/07/12/ilegislate/3631electoral-areas-committee) The EAC recommended and CRD Board approved the staff recommendation that the existing policy for alternate housing be continued - that enforcement would be based on the more serious safety, health, and environmental concerns, This enforcement would continue to be generated by complaints or staff observations in their course of their normal duties.
The EAC also recommended a resolution passed by the CRD Board asking the province to review the possible inclusion of alternative forms of housing in the BC Building Code.
Gary also spoke briefly about a recent Salt Spring Solutions report on affordable housing, Homes for All, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5af718fb8ab722c6b4a05028/t/643dd94215bcc61d7a64c458/1681774936764/Homes+for+Islanders.pdf)) and their recent inter-agency forum.
One key recommendation from this forum was that the CRD establish a local housing entity to provide leadership on housing. Until recently, Gary had believed that the Salt Spring Housing Council, a decade old non-profit society comprised of housing leaders, would provide this leadership. Recently, he has been informed that the Housing Council does not have the capacity to take this role.
Whether the Housing Council takes this role or not, Gary believes that a lead housing group could play in important role. He also maintains that the first step should be to clarify the objectives, functions, funding requirements and governance structure of such an entity.
We also learned that another option to a Salt Spring housing organization could be to fund a staff member in the already-existing CRD Regional Housing Program to focus on rural needs in the CRD, an option Gary has since confirmed is being considered by regional staff.
Gary reiterated again that, in his opinion, available land is not the key barrier to producing more affordable housing options on Salt Spring, citing a more than a half dozen properties in or near Ganges that are already designated or zoned for housing.
Gary did agree that North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s (NSSWD) moratorium is a major impediment to the development of some of these properties, although several are proceeding by using alternative water sources, primarily groundwater. He has proposed inter-agency collaboration with NSSWD to explore possible measures to free up water, particularly for suites and cottages which have already been legalized on hundreds of properties in the NSSWD service area. In his opinion, some option to explore include transferring unused CRD Highlands/Fernwood licences on St. Mary Lake to NSSWD, or allowing NSSWD properties using wells to transfer their licences to the water district. Gary believes that new NSSWD Board members and staff may be open to such conversations.
In response to this week’s Driftwood headline that recent sampling and testing indicates our Ganges Harbour water is safe for swimming, Gary believes that other safety and environmental issues challenge our live aboard community. He supports exploration of improved management and basic services. While local governments have some responsibilities, Gary recommends that representatives of provincial and federal governments, including our MLA and MP, also be included in discussions seeking solutions. Gary also agrees that live aboards must be included in the conversation seeking a cleaner, safer harbour.
We talked briefly about the Growing Communities Fund (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/local-governments/finance/growing_communities_fund_q_as_rds.pdf), a onetime provincial allocation of $1 billion to communities, allocating about $100 million to CRD. As with gas tax revenue, Salt Spring and the other unincorporated communities will access this funding through an application to the CRD Board. Salt Spring’s application requests upgrades to the Ganges sewage treatment plant and collection system. If approved, this could allow for up to 500 units of additional housing within its service area.
Switching gears to active transportation, the agenda package for this Tuesday’s July 18 LCC meeting includes the long-awaited Ganges Active Transportation Plan: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/salt-spring-island-local-community-commission/20230718/2023-07-18agenda.pdf?sfvrsn=115305ce_1). At first blush, this plan takes a practical approach, guiding us to inexpensive priority actions to implement immediately to make Ganges a more accessible and safe place for pedestrians, cyclists, and even vehicles. Stay tuned for LCC recommendations regarding this long-awaited plan.
One immediate conversation will likely focus on the upcoming Active Transportation grants, due October 21, 2023, for up to $500,000. As shovel-ready plans are required for the submission of these grants, will any of these recommendations be ready to submit for funding this fall?
By the way, 30 km/h Ganges Speed Limit Enthusiasts: You will be pleased to know that this is the second study in the past few months that has strongly-supported lowering our village speed limits!
A representative of Island Pathways (https://www.islandpathways.ca/) spoke briefly about a renewed focus on cycling with a growing Cycling Salt Spring (a committee of Islands Pathways) Board and over 800 on the mailing list. This group strongly advocates for the continuation of the repaving and bike lane project on Fulford Ganges Road all the way to Fulford. This enthusiastic group is also focused on the extremely-dangerous Vesuvius Bay Road as well as needed improvements in areas around our schools that challenge cycling students. He also asked Gary to suggest to the LCC that they contact the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) to remind them of the importance of bike counters on Ganges Hill (both directions) as well as on Long Harbour and Vesuvius Bay Roads.
As 1:00 was already here, a concerned resident asked about shoulder painting on Fernwood Road along a well-traveled pathway used by classes walking to the beach. Essential for keeping our children safe, she wondered how to get protective lines painted soon. We learned that, as the result of an environmentally-generated provincial law banning oil-based paint, our water-based paint simply does not last, making advocacy to paint our faded lines an on-going task. The good news is that the line painters and those applying thermoplastic to our crosswalks will soon arrive! Gary asked this participant to write an email to the LCC asking them to make sure that, when the painters arrive on Salt Spring this summer, they do not forget to paint the path used by elementary school children from the school to the beach.
Time to go and after acknowledging Lyra, my granddaughter, as the best ever cookie deliverer, we thanked Gary for being with us each and every month to share his opinions, listen to ours - in his words If I have to, I guess, - and work with us to find solutions to the issues that matter most to us. (Thank-you, Gary!)
Please join us this Friday, July 21, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Courtyard to welcome a newcomer to our housing solutions, the Umbrella Society (https://www.umbrellasociety.ca/). Currently managing the Kings Lane supportive housing, please join us to meet them and learn.
What would you like to ask them?
Tell us about your organization.
What are the challenges and success of the supportive housing community on Kings Lane?
What would you like to accomplish on Salt Spring this year?
What do you see the best opportunities for the Umbrella Society on Salt Spring in the next five years?
Please join us Friday, July 21, 11-1, to welcome the Umbrella Society in the SIMS Courtyard.
Note: As we will be outside, please bring sun protection and your favorite drink.
ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!
***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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings and
monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?
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!