Monday, May 27, 2024
May 27, 2024

Spike in Trust harbour complaints bursts budget

An extraordinary surge in complaints about possible bylaw infractions in Ganges Harbour has sent Islands Trust staff out to investigate in record numbers — and in excess of budget, according to enforcement officials, who say they are spending “hundreds and hundreds” of dollars each hour out on the water in response.  

Appearing remotely before Salt Spring Island’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) for a regular report Thursday, Dec. 14, bylaw compliance and enforcement manager Warren Dingman noted multiple complaints about potential non-permitted uses in Ganges Harbour  — 11 of them, he said, just since his last report. Those complaints included “liveaboards, the rental of mooring buoys, and the presence of floats and other non-permitted structures in the Shoreline 8 (S8) Zone,” according to the document prepared Dec. 5. 

“That is a high number of complaints for any file,” said Dingman. “In fact, it’s quite out of the ordinary.” 

Speaking last week at the Islands Trust Executive Committee, chair Peter Luckham said he had received some communication concerning the harbour on Salt Spring as well. 

“The liveaboard situation, and issues associated along the shoreline and Ganges village area, certainly are ongoing concerns as we experience this social crisis associated with housing,” said Luckham Wednesday, Dec. 20.  “It’s not unique, but it’s certainly problematic in our small communities.” 

According to Dingman’s briefing, bylaw staff are documenting non-permitted mooring buoys and Transport Canada is doing some enforcement in the harbour regarding those not in compliance with federal marking regulations; he said his understanding was that they had engaged contractors to remove them. 

“I know some have raised concerns about if we’re going to do any enforcement around the buoys, it will affect the liveaboards,” said Dingman. “That’s not what we’re doing at this time. If there’s a liveaboard vessel attached to a non-permitted mooring buoy, we’re not going to proceed on that.” 

Dingman pointed to the LTC’s existing deferred enforcement policy for non-permitted dwellings, which extends to people making their homes afloat. 

“The fact of the matter is we don’t have the resources to do that kind of enforcement, or even investigation, on the liveaboards in the harbour,” said Dingman. “There’s such a large number.” 

During that briefing, trustee Jamie Harris asked if Dingman could estimate how much money he would need to “do enforcement on the water.” Dingman said he hadn’t worked out a budget, but that it would realistically be a six-figure number. 

“We don’t have a vessel we can use, we have to hire water taxis,” said Dingman. “Water taxis get expensive; we’re spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour just to be out there, and we’ve gone over our current budget for travel this year — not just Salt Spring, but on multiple islands, we’ve had to hire water taxis and investigate uses out on the water.” 

Trustee Laura Patrick expressed frustration about the cost, noting the problem of enforcement on the water had been one of the reasons the Islands Trust Council had asked the B.C. government to review the funding model. 

“I think if the expectation is that we’re supposed to be out there on the water and doing this, then how are we going to pay for it?” said Patrick. 

Harris had earlier asked staff for an update on “the CASHI deal,” referring to proposed liveaboard regulations brought this spring to the LTC by a resident-led group called the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative. In June, the LTC had asked staff to review CASHI’s proposed bylaw and “report back” at a future meeting.  

Since the proposal is neither an application nor a project, staff said, its priority continues to be low — and will likely stay that way unless LTC directs otherwise, according to planner Chris Hutton, who reported they were “catching up” on their existing development application load but were still working on several major projects. 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Can I suggest a volunteer organization to just advise the new — and of course non-compliant old — what guidelines and issues they are in debate on.

    It may be easier to approach . . . non-formally … as people’s wishes … rather than a compliance or not?

  2. Everybody who lives on the boats and loves the water as they do supports Salt Spring in every way. Everybody does their business on Salt Spring and shops Salt Spring in the same way, whether you’re on land or living in a boat.

    There are also a lot of people living on the boats who work on Salt Spring because there are zero places to live and in the end it costs so much money for rent you can’t afford to live there because that is what land people are doing.
    This place is totally set up properly and great for boating people. Let’s keep it that way, thank you very much.
    I am a retired farmer and oil-field person who recently came here to Salt Spring. I love my houseboat. I support all the shops and do all my shopping here.

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