Wednesday, July 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

CRD Kanaka Road site plans shared

Salt Spring officials approved first steps toward growing and electrifying the island’s transit fleet, narrowly voting to advance plans for a bus depot — alongside an integrated facility for parks maintenance staff — on Kanaka Road. 

In a 3-2 vote, the island’s Local Community Commission (LCC) directed staff to submit a request to the Islands Trust for a relevant bylaw amendment for the land at 210 and 220 Kanaka Road, which abuts the western edge of the Gulf Islands Secondary School property.  

LCC member Brian Webster, who along with Gayle Baker voted against the proposal, had wanted to retain the larger 0.76-acre 210 Kanaka property for a housing project and put off bus depot plans, utilizing the smaller 0.46-acre parcel for the new parks staff facility. Those staff currently work out of an unventilated modular building on the property, with limited storage and no running water. 

But with no proponents having advanced feasible designs for housing at the site — and with other housing projects on the island that already have land allocated stalling — Capital Regional District (CRD) director and LCC member Gary Holman suggested it was economics, rather than available land, that needed to be overcome. 

“There are nine or 10 lots on Salt Spring already designated or zoned for housing,” said Holman during the LCC’s meeting Thursday, June 27. “The availability of land for housing is not the deal breaker; the deal breaker is funding.” 

Holman said BC Housing, the province’s principal funding source for non-market housing, had been contacted about the Kanaka parcels, and they had “no interest whatsoever.” That, he said, would likely mean any new residential property built on the site would have to pay for itself through market-rate sales or rentals.  

“Our objective should be to create a stock of housing that’s disconnected from the marketplace,” said Holman. “In order to do that you need funding, and Kanaka would have to get in line behind the other lots which already have proponents attached who are in active talks with funders.” 

While electrification of Salt Spring’s bus fleet may be a future aspiration, the need for a bus facility is likely to manifest sooner. Earlier in the same meeting, the LCC directed staff to reach out to BC Transit for revised costing for an expansion of bus service irrespective of fuel sources — prioritizing implementing 1,000 additional service hours on Route 2 (Fulford-Ganges) without adding year-round service to Beaver Point and Ruckle Park in January 2026, and an expansion on Route 7 (Cusheon Lake) to extend to Beddis Beach in January 2027.  

Both service expansions would require Salt Spring’s bus fleet to grow, likely to as many as 10 vehicles, according to Holman.  

Both Kanaka properties planned for the depot and maintenance facility are located in the Agricultural Land Reserve, although according to staff the CRD received confirmation from the Agricultural Land Commission that typical restrictions on use would not apply, as both parcels are less than two acres in size.  

The request to the Islands Trust will be a zone-specific variation based on an already completed conceptual site plan that CRD staff said had been made in collaboration with BC Transit staff. The land use authority would add the planned uses to the statutory definition of “Public Service” as a bylaw amendment — which currently includes facilities for road maintenance vehicles but does not note buses specifically.

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