- Gayle Baker
Whatever is Draft Bylaw 530? And. . . Is it Part of the Solution for Salt Spring Housing?
A total of 14 joined all or part of the conversation with Trustee Laura Patrick at this rainy ASK Salt Spring gathering in the United Church Meadow. Laura offered a Territorial Acknowledgement in which she reminded us of the personal learning opportunity reconciliation offers each of us.
Laura began by highlighting important recent decisions made by the larger Trust Council at its June 2022 meeting: A new standing committee was formed to further explore Trust governance. She was one of the seven Trustees from across the islands elected to serve on this committee. Trust Council also voted (21-2) to formally request that the Province of British Columbia conduct a review of the Islands Trust's mandate, governance, and structure. Chair Luckham has already sent a letter to the Minister with this request.
Laura then spoke about two recent proposed bylaws addressing housing that were presented to the the Local Salt Spring Trust Committee for a decision. Both are amendments to the set of existing land use bylaws.
Bylaw 526 addresses housing in the agricultural land reserve (ALR) and on farms. This proposed bylaw helps to implement recent changes made by the Agricultural Land Commission. It also contains a provision for farms outside the ALR to exchange future subdivision potential for permission to add dwellings on their property.
Bylaw 530, regulates accessory dwelling units, which is the official name for cottages and suites. With this bylaw, the Trust is hoping to increase the number of our resident landlords -- people with a primary residence who are willing to rent out a secondary suite, a suite associated with an accessory building, or a cottage. For a link to the draft bylaw, see: https://webfiles.islandstrust.bc.ca/islands/local-trust-areas/salt-spring/current-projects/Housing%20Action%20Program%20-%20Accessory%20Dwelling%20Units/2.%20Proposed%20Bylaws/SS-BL-530_2nd%20Reading.pdf
If you are interested in learning more about these bylaws, there will be a virtual open house on Thursday, July 21 from 4 to 6 pm with Islands Trust staff. For the link, please see: https://islandstrust.bc.ca/event/ssi-ltc-open-house-526-530/. A public hearing on these bylaws will be scheduled later in August.
Much of our conversation at this ASK Salt Spring gathering concerned proposed Bylaw 530. Laura believes that Bylaw 530 will allow us to catch up with the other southern gulf islands by allowing cottages and suites to be rented to full-time, long-term residents.
One participant acknowledged that we need worker housing but believes that sprinkling rental units over the island is the wrong solution. In the opinion of this participant, we should, instead, plan housing in areas that already have the infrastructure (i.e.: roads, water, and sewage treatment).
Laura explained that this proposal is intended to take advantage of existing roads and other residential infrastructure by allowing full-time rental of suites and cottages near existing housing. Although a building permit would still be required, this bylaw will allow, for example, existing structures (e.g., artist studios or offices) to be converted to residential units. It would also allow the addition of a suite to an accessory building such as a garage.
Laura told us that, according to the most recent census, we currently have an average of 2.1 persons per dwelling on Salt Spring. By allowing one additional accessory dwelling unit on a parcel of land, how many people are you adding to that parcel? One? Two? Maybe a family of four? In Laura’s opinion, the net effect on average density will be small.
A participant expressed concerns that this extra rental unit would be allowed on almost every residential property on Salt Spring, even small lots without community water and waste systems. Another participant expressed concern that, over time, this scattered increase in housing could have major negative impacts - especially on water, waste, and transportation issues. Laura encouraged those that fear this change to look to the other gulf islands which have allowed this similar use for decades. She also reminded us that water and sewer issues must be addressed in order to obtain a building permit.
If Bylaw 530 is passed, Laura was asked what procedures would be developed to ensure that accessory dwellings are rented rather than used as short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). She was also asked how many STVRs had been successfully converted into rental units as a result of a recent bylaw allowing year-round rental of cottages on designated properties. Laura believes that STVRs will be better managed with a regional approach rather than continuing to ban them. This will take a cooperative effort between the Islands Trust, CRD, and the Province.
A participant believes that draft Bylaw 530 does not adhere to our Official Community Plan (OCP) noting a policy that says “zoning changes should be avoided if they would likely result in a larger island population than is expected under the development potential zoned in 2008. Exceptions to this policy are to be few and minor and only to achieve affordable housing and other objectives of this Plan.”
Laura believes that this bylaw is in alignment with “achieve affordable housing and other objectives of the Plan.” (TheTrust Council has declared a housing and workforce shortage crisis.) In her opinion, it also aligns with other objectives in the OCP including, for example, “To recognize the strength and exceptional value of the community's diverse human population - a population characterized by people of many ages and backgrounds who, through choice or circumstance, have a rich variety of lifestyles and livelihoods. To recognize the very real, if intangible, loss that is felt in the community when this diversity is diminished by external pressures and changes.”
When Laura was asked whether we have identified our carrying capacity, another participant replied that our OCP sets the limits. Laura replied that, while extremely valuable and the result of much volunteer, staff, and Trustee time, our OCP may not be as protective as some people perceive it to be.
With the ever-increasing demand for island property, Laura shared some advice she received from housing ministry staff: We should work through a series of questions as we review and update the OCP. Who needs to live in our island community? What types of housing do they need? Are our land use regulations driving the creation of this housing?
Laura believes that, in the coming term, the Islands Trust needs to reduce the polarization that has risen in the community around land use. The Trust needs to build its facilitation skills and embrace participative democracy in its public engagement. This could include facilitated group discussions that provide participants the opportunity to consider issues in depth, hear about and challenge each other’s opinions, and co-develop a set of informed recommendations.
As our time together drew to a close, Laura implored us to work together, seek facts before passing on everything we hear, and replace anger with a commitment to work together to solve our many challenges.
As we began to fold our chairs and bid others goodbye, having survived the brief rain with aplomb, we all thanked Laura for her dedication, visionary approach to complex issues, and tenacity to understand and connect the dots to find answers. (Thanks, Laura!)
Note: As our local election approaches, all declared candidates will be invited to be our special ASK Salt Spring guests. Hopefully when Gary joins us August 12 and Laura joins us again August 19, they will be joined by the other candidates for these important positions.
Interested in learning more about our roads? Please join us to welcome Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Area Manager.Owen Page and our roads maintenance contractor, Emcon, managers Dillon Thornton and Andrew Gaetz Friday, July 22, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow.
What would you like to ask them?
What should we do if we see a road hazard?
Why do our roads seem so different from other neighboring communities like Saanich and Sidney?
Why can’t we have speed humps to slow traffic?
What are current projects on Salt Spring to make our roads safer?
Sweeping is so essential for the safety of cyclists. Can you tell us why it is not done more often?
What can we do to help make our roads safer?
And. . . .
See you Friday, July 22, 11-1, at the United Church Meadow to welcome Owen, Dillon, and Andrew!
And, CRD Transportation Commissioners will stay until 2:00 to answer your questions and listen to your comments. Please join them for a casual conversation about what we can do to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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