Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Salt Spring OCP/LUB work kicks off

If a recent ASK Salt Spring discussion is any indication, Salt Spring’s upcoming targeted official community plan (OCP) and land use bylaw (LUB) review could be pretty interesting.

Salt Spring trustee Laura Patrick and planner Jason Youmans were ASK Salt Spring guests on May 24, providing information about how community consultation for the review will shake out and answering people’s questions about the process that will focus on diversifying housing options.

Patrick said the problem to be addressed through the upcoming process is why the OCP’s current stated goal of creating a diverse community with diverse housing options is not being met.

“Why are we only getting more and more single family homes that the real community can’t afford to live in? How do we fix that? Those are the questions I’m going to be looking for as we go into this conversation with the community. How do we make sure that we have the housing we need for a healthy community?”

The topic and a staff report is also on the agenda for the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) business meeting on Thursday, June 6, accessible now through the website.

Those attending the May 24 session at the Salt Spring Island Multi Space heard how the review process will be supported by a provincial $150,000 Complete Communities program grant, which Patrick said will provide all kinds of maps and data to aid the OCP/LUB updating process.

“So that we’re not walking into a room just having theoretical conversations, we’ve got information at our hands,” she said.

Frants Attorp, a frequent commenter on Islands Trust matters, was critical of the focus on housing and pressed for a full OCP review.

“You’ve already defined the goal. It starts with a goal that you’ve decided on, not one that the community has decided on. It’s predetermined, and it’s going to be housing. And that’s not the focus of the Islands Trust. The Islands Trust has a different mandate.”

Youmans defended the decision to not do a wholesale OCP review, observing that the existing document adopted in 2008 is “pretty good and most of it should probably be maintained in a form that looks pretty close to the way it looks today.” The point of this land-use planning update, he said, is to determine “how do we begin to get out the housing options and the housing equity that the trustees and many members of the community have identified as being shortcomings from which our community is suffering? The OCP doesn’t need a big overhaul. Housing has been identified as the area lacking.”

He noted that both trustee Patrick and Jamie Harris were elected in October of 2022 on platforms that promised ways to increase the island’s housing stock.

Attorp and Maxine Leichter also pressed Youmans and Patrick to explain how growth beyond the existing 17,000 population cap in the current OCP would be held in check. Leichter said she and some others felt the underlying purpose behind the OCP/LUB targeted update is to get rid of Section B. of the existing OCP, which states: “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.” The population number cited in the current OCP is 17,000. Salt Spring’s population in the 2021 census was 11,600.

Youmans admitted that policy was not “sancrosanct — it is a policy that was included in the OCP by the local trustees who adopted the OCP at that given time, and that can be revisited.” But he also pointed out that the LTC is constrained from eliminating development caps by a number of legislative factors such as the Trust Policy Statement.

“The latitude to depart grossly from the Policy Statement, or even the existing OCP as it reflects the Policy Statement . . . is very limited, right? Like this is not a place where you can wipe the slate clean and start fresh.”

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