Wednesday, June 12, 2024
June 12, 2024

Viewpoint: More than meets the eye


Those who control the process control the outcome. For evidence, look no further than political machinations on Salt Spring.

As the Local Trust Committee (LTC) seeks to add potentially thousands of additional suites and cottages through proposed Bylaw 530, an unspoken battle is brewing over sections of our official community plan (OCP) specifying that growth must be “incremental,” changes “few and minor,” “eventual population” limited  and all densities considered, even those not yet developed.

OCPs are typically reviewed every five to 10 years. Salt Spring’s has not been reviewed since it was adopted 15 years ago, so a broad community discussion about the future is long overdue.

The District of Sooke writes: “An OCP review involves significant public involvement from beginning to the end so that goals and policies reflect community concerns and hopes for the future. During an OCP update, the review process is open, transparent, and requires broad input from residents, elected officials, staff and stakeholders.”

What a contrast to Salt Spring where trustees are working to avoid a full and inclusive discussion of the big ideas — questions relating to growth, population, sustainability, settlement patterns and housing options — and where trustee Laura Patrick has creatively coined the expression “focused OCP update” as a cover for “strictly limited discussion.”

The previous LTC asked staff to proceed with Bylaw 530 despite a legal opinion from Trust lawyers stating it is a violation of the growth limits in our OCP. Now it is back on the table just before a planned OCP amendment (as opposed to a full review), and without an impact assessment. This means the public will be allowed to address details, but not concepts.

How is that even legal? As Trust lawyers have explained, it may not be. But who has the funds to mount a legal challenge?

The public consultation process was derailed three years ago when trustees decided to abandon a full OCP review and go with a fragmented committee approach that sidestepped a community discussion of the bigger picture (i.e. the vision).

The establishment of the single-issue Housing Action Program Task Force was particularly consequential as its recommendations are now being implemented. The chair of the task force speaks of “sustainability” and “protecting resources,” yet has no problem using the density shotgun to give property owners permanent, lucrative entitlement to more development while producing only a handful of rental units.

How is approving all that potential development without a covenant requirement and a long-term impact assessment “protecting resources?” And there’s more. According to the chair, “permitting accessory dwelling units is just one first step of many recommendations” designed to create “a diverse and healthy population with minimal impact per capita on the environment.”

Bylaw 530 is about much more than creating a few extra dwellings; it’s about using per capita calculations to focus on individual environmental footprint rather than total human impact, breaking free of Islands Trust restrictions, subverting nature and allowing Salt Spring to be developed like any other area. It’s a developer’s dream come true.

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  1. Brilliant! Frantz Attorp defines so precisely what is blatantly lacking in the shallow thinking (rather the lack of deeper thought) with proposed Bylaw 530. Nature responds without conscience to inappropriate human impacts. The limit of Salt Spring’s water is what falls from the sky. Our capacity to store whatever is unquantified. unquantified. Late summer lake levels are precariously pinched and becoming more so. Groundwater storage limits vary continuously with each aquifer, , some of them studied, some of them not sufficiently, some not at all. . A serious wildfire here would have catastrophic impact on burnt ground to store water, resulting in increased runoff. Why are trustees not facilitating discussion the fuller discussion of a much needed OCP review. I do not appreciate the blind ignorance of Trust governance which ignores matters of such primal consequence.

    165 people are currently seeking accomodation on Salt Spring
    This hardly merits the magnitude of Bylaw 530 to meet such development. BUT people are transient. We move constantly seeking our current needs, housed and unhoused. It’s an unending migratory market phenomena. How many people over the long term can be sustained? What are the sustainable limits of water supply. Nobody knows, yet. Earth breaking temperatures, storm events, wildfire and drought are nature’s language for humanity to ‘cool it’.

  2. In my view, it is time for a change to OCP legislation in BC such that it is strengthened to protect the long-term needs and wishes of a community. However, my caveat is that I am extremely jaded, with zero faith whatsoever in any OCP processes. Anyone who has tried to , or who wishes to defend farmland, (or farm buffer, parkland, or lower density regions designated as rural lands) from increasing densification (which can prevent future generations from being able to make their own land use choices, including choices based on needs for increased food and water security), would do well to rethink reliance on any OCP or OCP processes to offer any guidance or protection for future land use choices. If a local government wishes to do something that is abjectly against the OCP, then they may do so. OCP’s don’t protect community wishes. Voting in local government candidates who care about community wishes is the only effective measure. Here is a local-ish example for bedtime reading, in case anyone interested holds a belief that OCP’s are worth more than the paper on which they’re written: 2011 BCSC 491 ( and
    2011 BCCA 484 (
    And, if OCP legislation is to be rewritten, carrying capacity of ecosystems to support populations must be taken into account, along with specific measures: food security, water availability, availability of viable farmland, etc.
    Just sayin’.

  3. Thank you, Frants.
    This is obviously a politically driven agenda which cannot bear the scrutiny of an OCP review. Trustees are paying lip service to the long-term expectations of the Trust mandate to meet the short-term goals of a plan that ultimately will not solve the housing shortage. It may in fact result in creating adverse environmental impacts for the existing community. The Trust has responded many times in the past to those voicing concern “so take us to court”; a threat they know will make the complainant consider the time and expense of a legal challenge too intimidating to pursue. Given the history of the provincial government’s reluctance to become involved in local matters, even to support its own legislation, it has been a safe bet. Unfortunately, tactics like this question the credibility and sincerity of Trust Council and staff of the Islands Trust to carry out its object (sec. 3 of the Trust Act.) Bylaw 530 is another good example of why the Islands Trust needs structural change, a reconsideration of its organization and a renewed vision of its policies.


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