Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

Letters: Housing frustrations, sustainable OCP

Dragonfly ending housing efforts  

Dear editor,

Dragonfly Commons Housing Society has been working for the past eight years to produce 30 individually owned units of affordable workforce housing. During that time, we have experienced many highs and lows and unparalleled community support.  

Our timing for this project was not optimal, as it coincided with the North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) moratorium on new construction, as well as with the provincial government’s new water legislation, the Water Sustainability Act of 2016. Even though both of these factors significantly complicated the process, we are proud of the fact that after years of perseverance, we were able to license the two artesian wells that we drilled on site, easily sufficient for the 30 homes. We were unable to complete the final step which required us to partner with one of the two entities on the island that have a water utility equivalency.  

We first attempted to partner with NSSWD which led to two years of frustration. Three years ago, with the encouragement of Gary Holman, we pivoted to partner with the Capital Regional District (CRD). This initially looked very promising but due to a number of factors including staff turnover, Covid but primarily due to a tragic disconnect between our elected representative’s enthusiasm for the project and inability to direct local staff, has caused numerous delays over the past three years, which continue to this day. It is sad that we have little or no local control over CRD senior staff on this island and have to rely on people in Victoria who are well-intentioned but do not have our best interests top of mind.  

Additionally, during the eight years that we have worked on this project we have seen the cost of construction skyrocket to the point where it is more than double what it was at the time we started. As a result of the significant increase in costs, what started off as a project targeting low-income earners had mutated into a project that would only be accessible to medium-income earners, which was not what incented us to initiate this project.  

The frustrations that we have experienced over the years have made us want to quit on a number of occasions, but we have persevered and have made every effort to make this work, in large part due to the incredible support of our board, elected representatives, and numerous members of the community. We would like to especially thank our board members Kisae Petersen, Robin Williams, Ron Cooke and Rhonan Heitzmann.  

Sadly, we do not feel that we are close to completing this project and no longer have the enthusiasm and energy necessary to continue. It is our intention over the next few months to wind down the Society and to sell the property. If anyone feels they have the means and interest to pursue this project we would be happy to discuss it with you to see if there is a fit, in which case we will provide whatever assistance we can.  

Fernando and Tammy Dos Santos, Salt Spring

Sustainability must guide OCP

Dear editor,

This February, Salt Spring Trustees requested $246,000 in public funds for what they call a “major amendment” to our Official Community Plan (OCP) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB). All these funds are for hiring “third party contractors.” Since Salt Spring’s OCP had its last public review in 2008, one might expect that changes costing Trust taxpayers a quarter million dollars would indeed be for a full official review.  

But rather than a comprehensive “review,” the words being used by our Trustees and staff are “update,” “amendment,” even “focused” and “targeted” amendment. The distinction is an important one. OCPs undergoing reviews must follow a set of key principles, foremost of which is the vision for the community’s future. This is the big picture exercise that guides changes to planning and land use decisions.  

The vision is reached through extensive community engagement and dialogue. A good example is Sooke’s soon-to-be-completed OCP review. Sooke followed a standard planning model with four stages, the first two focusing on visioning and growth scenarios, the third on implementation of the vision, and the fourth on revisions and approvals.  

We have to question why this important and logical process of community engagement is being ignored by our trustees. The answer seems to lie in the narrow focus the LTC has chosen. Housing development has become the key driver, specifically through the trustees’ Housing Action Program — which has so far given us the long fiasco of Bylaw 530. That failed because it was clearly unlawful under our existing OCP and relied wholly on the whims of private landowners.   

While we welcome housing initiatives that are properly planned and regulated, we are also acutely aware that changes to our OCP must focus, above all, on the sustainability of human activities, which all depend on ecosystem health. Salt Springers have not only local issues to consider, but also our responsibilities under the Islands Trust Act. The need for the Trust to fulfill its conservation mandate has never had greater urgency, given the huge challenges posed by drought and climate change.   

Sustainability means that build-out numbers are of key importance to the OCP’s long-term strategy for wise land use. Salt Spring is already growing at twice the national average, clearly too much for a protected rural area. A key principle in amending the plan must be to foresee and manage development potential, whether it is realized today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now. How will the island reduce the carbon emissions and other environmental harms of our current population, let alone a larger one? All options, proposals or changes should be carefully analyzed through this lens.  

If policies limiting growth are to be removed or weakened, islanders have the right to know the long-term consequences beforehand. This is our Plan. It will shape the community we live in and affect many aspects of our lives. Does the plan even need reviewing at all? If it does, it must be done right. All islanders must have an open process and a voice freely heard.  

Patricia Lockie, Positively Forward  

Ronald Wright, Keep Salt Spring Sustainable 

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