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  • Gayle Baker

Water Woes Join Housing and Even Pickleball (!!!) Worries

April 14

Only nine joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering welcoming CRD’s Gary Holman. In response to my apologies for low numbers, Gary wryly responded that he would take this as an acknowledgement that CRD was, well. . . .quite perfect :).

After our Territorial Acknowledgement, which concluded in Gary noting that he was hopeful for the trend of reverting management of large tracts of Crown land to First Nations, we asked him what excited and delighted him. While he would not go so far as characterizing it as delight, it was clear that the just-concluded Fulford Water District meeting was on his mind.


We learned that this CRD-managed water district (one of five area-specific water districts and two sewage treatment plants managed by CRD) had just received a report analyzing this system and recommending a replacement strategy (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/fulfordwaterservicecommissionssi/20230414/03-14-2023agenda.pdf?sfvrsn=f47559ce_3). The report identified replacing the supply line from Weston Lake as a top priority, since a break in that line would impact the entire water system. Concerned that they had not been given a chance to speak to the consultant writing the report to offer some local knowledge, these elected Fulford Water District Commissioners recommended meeting with the consultant before proceeding.


While the report detailing issues with the Fulford Water District system may have been concerning, they were not likely a surprise. We learned from Gary that our water systems - including North Salt Spring Waterworks District - are largely old, leaky asbestos/cement lines that are estimated to lose 20-30% of its potable water each year.


A complication for Fulford Water District is the proposed Vortex development (https://www.saltspringvortex.com/) at the site of the old Fulford Inn. Having received Islands Trust development permit approvals (the zoning was already in place), this proposed project still requires approvals for potable water.


Will Fulford Water District (FWD) provide water to Vortex? With unused water licenses for Weston Lake, this may be possible, but does the lake have the capacity to supply future development already within the FWD service area, the Vortex development, as well as additional properties along the supply line to the development ? A recent Salt Spring Water Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) report on Weston Lake indicates that when all licenses on Weston Lake, as well as environmental flow requirements on fish-bearing Weston Creek, are taken into account, the lake is already over-subscribed, much like St. Mary Lake. But, if capacity to expand to Vortex and neighbouring properties were determined to be a viable option, would Vortex pay for some of the recommended replacement of supply and distribution lines as their contribution for a hook-up? Good questions with no answers yet. Stay tuned. . . .


A participant asked why rainwater catchment and storage wasn’t the first thing mentioned each time water shortages were discussed. An extremely reliable source of water, it is also an expensive option. While Transition Salt Spring, with funding from the CRD stormwater and watershed management service, offers up to $500 rebates for non-potable water catchment systems for private well owners (https://transitionsaltspring.com/cac-rainwater-harvesting/), a participant remarked that the program was always oversubscribed. This participant asked Gary to seriously consider increasing in this yearly water catchment rebate program.


Before transitioning from our water conversation, a participant asked: Does SSI have a limit on population? Gary responded that it is our zoning that effectively limits our growth. Given present zoning regulations, Gary indicated that our population, currently at roughly 11,000, could increase by about 5,000-6,000.


But, of course, this could change if the province mandates densification and/or legalization of secondary suites on all properties (https://bc.ctvnews.ca/budget-2023-province-looking-to-incentivize-secondary-suites-1.6297152). It could also change if Islands Trust Bylaw 530, (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/island-planning/salt-spring/projects/), now revised and reintroduced for another public hearing, is approved.


The recent adoption of Bylaw 526 also will increase density on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties by allowing a primary residence with a suite, a cottage, and even campground, subject to provision of water and waste disposal. (Formerly, secondary cottages were only allowed if it could be demonstrated it was necessary for farm workers.)


Changing gears, a participant spoke with passion about pickle ball, reported to be the fastest-growing sport on Salt Spring - and even throughout Canada (https://usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/). Currently, the many local players share one court at Portlock Park with tennis players. (Tennis players have another three unshared courts.) Always being used, sometimes to the point of, in this participant’s opinion, serious overcrowding, this one shared court can accommodate four pickleball games simultaneously, totaling four games and 16 players at once on one tennis-sized court.


While far from a perfect situation, this participant was concerned with the Portlock Park management planning that is underway, possibly recommending that all tennis/pickleball courts be moved to Rainbow Road. Why, you may wonder. . . . For years, PARC has tried unsuccessfully to acquire property for a senior baseball field. Currently, our fields are only big enough to accommodate softball, with senior ballplayers (12 years and over) forced to travel off-island to play. If Portlock Park were reconfigured, with a new track circling a new baseball field, it is believed that PARC would be able to accommodate its recreational needs without acquiring additional property.


While details are not yet available, this participant had two concerns:

  1. Will this new track circling the baseball field be level? We learned that this track is currently used by many needing this flat, smooth track for rehabilitation as well as sports needs.

  2. Will the pickleball court at Rainbow Road be shared with basketball players as initially indicated? In her option, this would be a problem, creating conflicts as very different types of players vie for inadequate space.


Calling Portlock Park the Hub of Happiness, this participant asked Gary to carefully consider upending this much loved park with changes that might impact existing users. Gary asked her to contact him and promised to learn more about these possible changes. He also reminded her that this decision would be made by the Local Community Commission, on which he has one vote, rather than resting with him alone.


A representative of our new radio station, CHIR.FM (https://chir.fm/) joined us. We learned that this new radio station is well on its way to full functionality (currently online only). Receiving its approval January 2022, it has until January 2024 to raise all the funding needed to buy the equipment, and get it installed and operating. Buoyed by some recent big donations (including a CRD grant in aid), we learned that 80% of the needed money has been secured, and it is very likely that CHIR.FM will be on our radios early next year. This radio station is a registered society run by about 20 volunteers and supported by about 70 VIP mentors in addition to a robust mailing list of over 400.


As many of you know, we had a local, commercial radio station from 2007-2015. Unfortunately, the off-Island owner did not follow the demanding reporting requirements of the regulator CRTC, and this radio station lost its license, all its equipment sold.


Confident that this new local radio station will have a happier fate, if you agree and want to support it, use the GoFundMe button (https://chir.fm/). And, even if you do not have extra cash, what about those vinyl records, tapes, and cassettes that are taking valuable space in your basement? They are hot items, and CHIR.FM would love to take them off your hands, reselling them for needed funding. Bring them to the portable building at SIMS, former Middle School, any Saturday from 11-3!


Almost 1:00, we concluded out time together briefly touching on housing. (For a more in-depth housing discussion, please come to ASK Salt Spring Friday, April 28, 11-1, in the Lobby of SIMS.) Gary reiterated that he was focused how CRD can play a role on a number of properties that are currently zoned for affordable housing or in the rezoning process, including:

  • Drake Road, five acres donated by School District 64 some years ago, and to be leased to BC Housing for 60 years. The site of the 28-units of supportive housing, there can also be an additional 50-80 densities on the rest of the property if sufficient water can be proven, to be determined by well drilling and testing later this year.

  • Meadowlane on a Kings Lane property owned by Gulf Islands Seniors Residents Association (GISRA), currently challenged by funding but infused with new energy at the management and Board levels.

  • Bracket Springs, the former Land Bank property on Rainbow Road, which is being reconsidered by some nonprofit societies.

  • Dean Road, a home currently being renovated by Lookout Society, a bright new light in terms of our local housing nonprofits (https://lookoutsociety.ca/), with up to a dozen boarding house units.

  • Seabreeze Inne, owned by Lade Minto Foundation, and, while currently delayed due to tenant negotiations heading for the Supreme Court in September, it will eventually provide up to 18 units of invaluable healthcare worker housing.

  • Dragonfly Commons (https://dragonflycommons.com/), with CRD agreeing to consider becoming the water utility operator for this strata development, could be building 30 workforce homes for purchase very soon.


Gary also mentioned another, already rezoned property, which can’t be divulged at this time, that a nonprofit, in partnership with BC Housing, is also considering.


In closing, a participant, climbed on his proverbial soapbox to state his conviction that workforce housing for those who fuel our economy is now our top priority. It is his belief that there are local folks who would like to donate and invest in this workforce housing. His concern is that, while so many nonprofit groups are working hard to address our housing needs, there is not a single group that can focus our energies by actively seeking housing projects, accepting donations, buying land, and strategically advocating for enhanced rental (and purchase) opportunities throughout our community.


His message was to get together on this huge challenge: Work as one, and get it done! Gary noted that virtually all of the projects listed above are, or will be providing housing for employees, including Dragonfly and the Seabreeze which are dedicated to worker housing.


With this impassioned plea, we thanked Gary for sharing his information, hopes, plans, and even opinions with us every month. . .and, each time, listening and learning from us as well. (Thank-you, Gary!)


Please join us this Friday, April 21, 11-1 in the Lobby of the Former Middle School to welcome MLA Adam Olsen.


What would you like to ask him?

  • We loved that you invited Minister Farnworth to join you last month. Can you tell us about the positive outcomes of this visit?

  • Will you also entice other Ministers to join us soon? Who?

  • What is the progress with the Police Act Review?

  • What are your thoughts about Premier Eby’s housing announcements, including legalizing all secondary suites in BC?

  • What are you priority issues for the rest of 2023?

  • And?

Please join us Friday, April 21, 11-1, to welcome Adam!


Big News:

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: ask@asksaltspring.com

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!



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