Reasons to Reason

Islands Trust dismisses Booth’s ‘RARguments’ was the headline in the Driftwood on May 18, 2011.

“The Islands Trust’s director of local planning services has dismissed a former local Trust committee member’s argument that suggests no action to implement the controversial Riparian Areas Regulation on Salt Spring is needed.

Former trustee Eric Booth argues that the island’s local Trust committee need not incorporate the Riparian Areas Regulation because he and fellow trustee Kimberly Lineger formed an opinion, in 2005, that local bylaws met and exceeded the RAR requirements.

Booth’s view that no more work is required to comply with RAR is based on Section 12 of the provincial Fish Protection Act.

“The Islands Trust’s director of local planning, David Marlor, has carefully reviewed Mr. Booth’s opinion indicating that no further work is required to comply with the provincial Riparian Areas Regulation,” wrote Linda Adams, the Islands Trust’s chief administrative officer, in response to a  question about the Trust’s position on Booth’s argument. “Mr. Marlor does not believe Salt Spring’s current bylaws comply with the Riparian Areas Regulation or that Mr. Booth’s arguments are supported by provincial legislation.”

Adams said the Trust would write a letter to Booth outlining the reasons behind its opinion and may obtain a legal opinion on the matter.”

So, here we are, May 31st, over two weeks after Ms. Adams told the Driftwood (a) I would receive a letter from the Trust “outlining the reasons behind its opinion,” and/or, (b)  the Trust “may” obtain a legal opinion on the matter.

To date, I have not received any explanation from the Trust,  I am not aware of any legal opinion contradicting my opinion, and, I have not been contacted by the Trust.

It’s easy to “dismiss” anything without reason. However, one has to question “dismissal” without rationale.

As I alluded to in my article on May 25th, the public record (in the form of all adopted minutes of the LTC from March 2005 to June 2006) supports my position (a) the LTC had considered it was compliant with the RAR, (b) there have been no resolutions made by the LTC to date to request any extension of time (beyond March 31, 2006) from MoE to be compliant with the RAR, and (c) there were no staff reports made to the LTC during that period which suggested the LTC was not already in compliance with the RAR.

According to the public record, it appears Islands Trust Staff, including senior management,  (a) may have made a number of erroneous recommendations to Trustees, (b) improperly exercised authority beyond their legislative abilities, (c) failed to understand the FPA and the RAR do not apply to the “Islands Trust,” or the “Islands Trust Council,” (d) failed to properly inform “Local Trust Committees” that only the LTC’s have the authority (under the FPA and RAR) to decide whether their existing bylaws meet FPA and RAR requirements, (d) consistently misled LTC’s regarding options available to them, (e) have misled riparian area development applicants since 2006, (f) have been aware of major riparian are mapping irregularities for a number of years, but failed to bring to the LTC’s attention the magnitude of the irregularities, (g) forwarded inaccurate and/or improper mapping to one or more Qualified Environmental Professionals in the past 5 years, and (h) continue to mislead the public during the current proposed OCP amendments.

Further, the government biologist whom Trust staff have relied on for RAR information, Ms. Marlene Caskey, Ministry of Environment, misled Island Trust Staff, starting in September 2007, by telling them the RAR applied to certain island projects, when in fact it did not. She did this in spite of having previously told Ms. Kathy Reimer that while the Islands Trust had a policy which said developers should do a Riparian Area Assessment, the Trust could not force someone to comply. For two and half years Ms. Caskey continued to falsely pretend to the Trust that she/MOE had the authority to require that development on Salt Spring comply with the Riparian Area Regulation. Her efforts were only brought to a swift halt after I lodged a complaint with the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environment.

As I stated in my May 25th article, and as senior MoE staff members confirmed, Ms. Caskey has no authority in this matter.

It is now nearly two months since I challenged the LTC with my opinion that Salt Spring does not have to change its riparian protection. During that time Ms. Adams, and evidently Mr. Marlor, have made statements which they have no authority to make. They cannot retroactively change the opinion held by the local government of 2002-2005.  They cannot disagree with an opinion formed at that time without providing at least a logical rationale.

They can however use diversionary tactics and spin-doctoring in an effort to “dismiss” valid opinions without reason.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE – JUNE 15th – I have still not received anything in writing from David Marlor or Linda Adams. Given the Public Hearing is now less than a week away……

A Peer’s Review of Peer Review

Climate alarmists often brag that all information coming out of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) has been “peer-reviewed.”

However, a recent examination of so-called UN IPCC “peer reviewed” articles has exposed that lie.

(See – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/01/24/the-scandal-deepens-ipcc-ar4-riddled-with-non-peer-reviewed-wwf-papers/ )

This has raised a number of questions, not the least of which is “How much faith can the public put in the “peer review” process?

The Lancet is one of the most prestigious medical journals on the face of the planet. Listen to what it’s Editor in Chief has to say about the “peer review” process:

“The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability—not the validity—of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.” – Richard Horton, Editor in Chief, Lancet

(Source –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Horton_%28editor%29 )

So, the next time you hear “peer review,” be skeptical…be verry, verrry skeptical.

PS – Skepticism (or scepticism) has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude of knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts,  or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere

Another Mountain to Climb and Fall Off Of

I read with interest in the Driftwood yesterday the start of another local business by two young (at least compared to me) island entrepreneurs with a dream. Mt. Maxwell

Their business, while bothering no one, and helping sustain the local economy, will undoubtedly soon garner the wrath of Islands Trust bylaw enforcement.

Their crime will be success. Repeat business. All of the things fledgling companies aspire to.

Instead of being embraced by the “leaders” of our community, and given a hearty pat on the back for being fine, upstanding citizens making their way in the world,  instead they will likely be reviled, their business shut down, possibly fined and/or taken to court if they put up resistance. Such is now the “rural” way of life.

After all, everyone now knows it is unacceptable on Salt Spring to be successful if you are a coffee roasting company. According to Trustee Ehring, it devalues the neighbours’ investment they have made in their quality of life, and who, as Trustee Torgrimson alluded to, could possibly be in favour of light industrial “sprawl”?

And so said all of “them.”

Has anyone else, besides me, had enough of their rubbish?

I wish good luck and God speed to Maxwell.

Unless things change this November, you’re going to need it, because if just one single person, neighbour, or competitor, complains, you’ll find yourselves sourcing out warehouses in Richmond.

Salt Spring’s Version of the Fukushima Meltdown – Residents Evacuated by Government

The Fukushima Crisis

The world watched in horror as the nuclear crisis at Fukushima unfolded and was mismanaged day after day, week after week. It was apparent the corporate officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at first didn’t want anyone to know how bad the situation was. Next, the company’s officers’ ineptitude and failure to report to the public the magnitude of the problem was evident. That was followed by the less than adequate measures being taken to prevent further damage. And, now, here we are, some two months later with residents within 20 km displaced from their homes, possibly for decades.

Salt Spring’s Fukushima disaster? – The Community Housing Crisis.

The mismanagement of this crisis also lies with two corporations – the Islands Trust Council (ITC) and the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (SSILTC). The effective “Shareholders” of the SSILTC are the electorate of Salt Spring Island.

The housing crisis was effectively born out of the formation of the Islands Trust in 1974 and the failure of government planners to project what would happen if development was limited, in one of the arguably nicest spots to live in the world. The Trust ignored the real estate maxim that when you restrict supply of available land in demand, property values will continue to increase over time.

The first indication of this crisis was recognized in the early 1990’s. The SSILTC corporation established committees of Shareholders to examine the problem. Solutions were offered to the corporation, but, none were effected. That was followed by study after study, committee after committee, with no effective remedy ever being implemented.

After having myself  been elected as a corporate Trustee, I took measures to start addressing the crisis. During my term of office we (a) approved the Murakami Gardens project (27 units), (b) approved the Norton Road Affordable Housing rezoning (26 units)  project and gave it 3 readings (but, to this day the project remains stalled by the current SSILTC), and (c) acquired funding for accurate mapping of existing and potential housing densities, and (d) established what I hoped would be the last committee (boy was I wrong) to provide the basis for major changes to the Land Use Bylaw to support community housing.  The final report of that committee was presented to the new corporate Trustees George Ehring and Peter Lamb in December of 2005.

Since 2005, there have been numerous additional reports, studies, needs assessments, and strategies brought forward. However, in 2008, in what now can only be seen as a regressive move, Trustees Ehring and Lamb made changes to the Official Community Plan that would, 3 years later, create a false roadblock to the legalization of suites and cottages – the concept of using a “pilot area” approach to the crisis.

Consultant Hired to Advise on Crisis

Most recently the SSILTC hired consultant Tim Wake to provide his experienced advice to the situation. His sagely, bottom-line advice, given first at the corporation’s “Special/Secret Meeting,” held on January 31st, with no members of the press or pubic present, was to simply legalize all illegal suites and cottages, and get on with the real challenge – providing entry level, home ownership opportunities for residents (details at the end of this post).

Did corporate Trustees listen to Mr. Wake’s advice…advice that would help to begin bringing an end to the crisis?

As first reported in the Islands Independent,  ( see http://islandsindependent.p2ionline.com/flip/sitebase/data/editions/134316/img/large/2252307.htm ) history now clearly shows us not only did they not listen to the advice, they have actively tried to destroy and suppress evidence of its very existence.

A strong allegation, but, one which, I submit for your judgment, is proven below.

Suppression and Erasure of Consultant’s Advice on Crisis

February 10th – SSILTC Meeting

The draft minutes, of the above mentioned January 31st meeting, were presented to the corporate Trustees on February 10, 2011 for approval. However, the minutes were not approved. Instead, the Trustees passed the following resolution regarding the draft January 14th and January 31st meeting minutes.:

SSI-20-11 It was MOVED and SECONDED that the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee defer discussion of the above captioned two sets of draft Minutes. CARRIED Regional Planning Manager (RPM) Hartley will circulate revised Minutes for approval by a Resolution-Without-Meeting.

As noted, for reasons which are unrecorded, discussion on the draft minutes was “deferred.”

However, and for some unknown reason, RPM Hartley was going to ensure that “revised Minutes” would be circulated to the Trustees for approval. But, since discussion had been deferred, how could approval take place without discussion?

March 3, 2011 – SSILTC Meeting

The record indicates the draft, revised minutes were not circulated or approved prior to the March 3, 2011 meeting, nor were they even mentioned in the March Agenda package. Rules of Order are that minutes are to be adopted in historical order, not randomly. This provides proper context.

April 1st – Where are the Minutes?

The Agenda Package made available to the Public the week prior to the April 7, 2011 corporate meeting, also offered not a trace of the as yet to be adopted January 31st minutes. They appeared to have disappeared off the table.

Deadline Imposed by Shareholder

Following the release of the April 7th Agenda package, RPM Hartley was evidently demanded, by a Shareholder, in writing, to produce approved minutes of the Jan. 31st meeting by April 8th. That “request” evidently prompted a late revision to the April 7th Agenda to include the approval of the January 31st minutes as circulated.

April 7th – SSILTC Meeting

4.4 Draft Minutes of the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee Special Meeting, January 31, 2011. By general consent, the minutes were adopted as circulated.

Where’s the Discussion?

The public record indicates there was no public discussion of the minutes, which suggests one of two things (a) there was no discussion by the Trustees of the minutes since the early February LTC meeting, or, (b) the discussion of the minutes was held outside of the public’s eyes and ears, and/or, (c) the minutes were amended  by Islands Trust Staff for some, as yet to be determined, reason.

When and Why were the Minutes Sanitized, and, by Whom?

A comparison of the draft minutes, in the February Agenda package, and the final adopted minutes of April 7th, indicates a major edit occurred.

In the original draft there were 1779 words of recorded comments. In the adopted version, the comments had been slashed to 282 words.

85% of the original comments were eliminated, struck from the official public record.

What went “missing”? Every single piece of advice from the consultant, Tim Wake.

Further, the fact that “No members of the public were present” was also stricken from the record.

Why Eliminate a Paid Consultant’s Advice from the Pubic Record?

To understand the answer to that question, I recommend you read the full text of the original draft at the end of this post.

As you are reading through it ask yourself why every comment from Tim Wake was eliminated from the minutes by the Trustees. 

What possible benefit could be gained by the removal of Mr. Wake’s advice? The only plausible reason is that Mr. Wake’s advice is contrary to the direction the Trustees have chosen to go in. In my opinion, which I have provided to the SSILTC in writing, and posted on this blog, the Trustees are entirely misguided, and, their proposed “solution” will do absolutely nothing to increase the supply of affordable housing. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest it may have exactly the opposite effect – worsening the crisis.

Suppression of Video Containing Mr. Wake’s Advice

And, just before I leave you to your reading assignment, consider this – At the beginning of the SSITLC’s February 21st Public Discussion on Suites and Cottages, at which Mr. Wake also provided advice, RPM Hartley stated that because the content of the meeting was so important to islanders, the SSILTC had hired a videographer to record the meeting, and, that the video of the meeting would be posted online for those who could not make the meeting that night.

To date, over 2 1/2 months later, (a) the video has not been provided to the public, (b) has not been posted online, and (c) no mention of the video appears in the public record. Fortunately, Shareholder Jill Treewater, also recorded the meeting and has made the video and audio available to the public free http://www.imaginesaltspring.com/tim_wake.html

Where’s the video the Shareholders paid for?

Fukushima Salt Spring Style

The housing crisis continues, unabated, with no real solutions on the table. Residents have been evacuated within a 20 km radius of Ganges due to high housing costs, and this community is in meltdown, while corporate Trustees twiddle their collective thumbs and prioritize transforming ditches into streams.

My Conclusion?

Having been a big supporter of “Fun with Phonics,” the attitude of our corporate Trustees in this crisis can perhaps be best described as  “Fukusaltpring, we don’t need no stinkin’ consultant’s advice.

As a Shareholder, I submit, this is just not good enough. The slow death of this community, as a result of the housing meltdown, is now being caused by failure, on the corporate government’s part, to listen to experienced advisers.

While Salt Spring burns, our Emperors fiddle about, singing soothing songs for the masses, about how they are making great strides to deal with the crisis, when in fact, less than nothing is being accomplished.

Move over red-legged frog, they’ve just added the average citizen to the endangered species list.

Eric

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FULL TEXT OF ORIGINAL DRAFT MINUTES OF THE JANUARY 31ST SPECIAL SECRET MEETING:

The Chair asked each Trustee and guest for their priorities for the day’s discussion using the circulated “Guidelines for discussion with Tim Wake”.. The following priorities were articulated:

– How to maintain affordability other than with housing agreements;

– How to use the local bylaws to control affordable housing;

– Housing agreements;

– Creation of a housing council and the Whistler experiences;

– Water supply;

– Discussion should be grounded in the reality of the current situation;

– Pilot areas within the Salt Spring context; and

– Best approach to existing suites and cottages.

The Trustees outlined the key issues on Salt Spring Island for Tim Wake.

Tim Wake commented that the Salt Spring Island situation is similar to Whistler insofar as there is a challenge to supply both workforce housing and “other” supportive housing. It’s important to keep the two separate. The gap between people who can afford market ownership housing and those who qualify for subsidized housing has grown. This is referred to as middle sector housing or workforce housing and represents the biggest need.

Wake noted that there is a good system in place for the delivery of subsidized housing which requires major funding from senior levels of government.

Wake suggested that putting housing agreements on rental units is not the best approach given the cost. It’s better to respond to people who want to own their own homes and consider how to make ownership possible for these people. This in turn will reduce pressure on the rental inventory. The first thing to do is to legalize suites.

Janis Gauthier observed that the seasonal use of cottages is an issue on Salt Spring. It means many people have to move each spring. There are concerns about the poor condition of some cottages.

Tim Wake said that Whistler had success enforcing and inspecting units based on health and safety issues. When they hear about substandard conditions, the fire department is asked to inspect.

There are concerns that legalized cottages could be used as short term vacation rentals. Rental agreements would better ensure there are controls.

Tim Wake explained that Whistler had the same problems with suites as with separate buildings (cottages). Secondary suites have always been permitted in Whistler and initially the market was providing them at a rate of about 50 per year. For the owner, the suite provided security and helped with the mortgage. In 1990 and 1992 when house prices rose, the number of new suites decreased. About 1997, Whistler required that every second residence in a new subdivision include a suite before the owner received an occupancy permit. The suite had a covenant on it that specified occupancy and rent. This was not a good solution because suites were being built under duress and never rented. Enforcement of the housing agreements was difficult. The conclusion was that you can’t force people to rent suites in their houses.

Other communities (Bowen Island, for example) have not had a lot of uptake with straight legalization of suites even without any income or rental restrictions. Adding a housing agreement would likely reduce the uptake further.

Planner Palmer asked if having a housing agreement on a suite or cottage would affect the owner’s ability to get a mortgage.

Tim Wake responded that it is usually not any more difficult to get a mortgage, but when doing a statement of income, the owner can only apply 50% of the rent as income. Thus with a lower, more affordable rent, it may be tougher to get a mortgage. This leads to vacation rentals being so attractive.

The Whistler Bylaw requires that suites be rented for not less than one month. In addition, commercial accommodation is taxed differently. Another tool is the Occupancy Declaration on employee owned deed-restricted units. They started with a Statutory Occupancy Declaration, but abandoned that. Now it’s voluntary and compliance has improved; 66% of 500 units complied.

The Declarations (who was living there, where they worked and the rent amount) are sent by email so it’s easy to administer.

There are no Housing Agreements on the 1000 rental suites. Generally owners didn’t charge exorbitant rents because when they do, the number of people living in a unit tends to increase, with resultant wear and tear or damage. 850 of the rental suites are market rents; the rest are mostly covenanted and affordable. Suites have always been legal and only a small percentage are cottages. Legalizing suites provides more opportunity for surveillance and assists in managing the existing inventory.

It was noted that the growth rates experienced by Whistler are very different from the Salt Spring situation where only 38 building permits were issued last year. The Chair noted there is a desire to ensure affordability if suites are legalized. Tenants might have more clout if suites were legal.

For Tim Wake, the solution starts with affordable home ownership. If you apply Housing Agreements and restricted rents to suites, you’d be moving middle income tenants out of their accommodation in order to house needier people. Subsidized housing is not a municipality’s responsibility. Housing Agreements are costly up front, and they’re better used on ownership units.

RPM Marlor commented that Housing Agreements can work if governments are providing something as well, i.e. funding, increased densities or other incentives.

The potential for more STVRs operating out of legalized cottages is a real concern, on Salt Spring, and the STVR Bylaw is costly, slow and difficult to enforce.

Tim Wake spoke of one STVR enforcement case in Whistler where bad publicity played an effective deterrent role.

Regarding multi-unit buildings, Tim Wake said Housing Agreements on such projects are not very attractive to developers. You need to be able to bonus the developer to get him to build, and then have some means for the housing authority to take ownership. It’s hard to impose covenants on a third party.

There was a question about available government grants (RRAP for secondary suites), and Tim Wake replied that $24,000 is not a sufficient incentive to shift someone into accepting a covenant on their property. Incentives that do work for developers include an increase in density, relief from fees and charges, and creating good communication opportunities with developers. It’s important to explore where the ‘win-win’ is.

There was a question about the cost of managing Housing Agreements. Tim Wake responded that every project is a one-off, with the standard costs plus, and further, that Housing Agreements seem to need ongoing modification.

There was a question about whether a Housing Agreement with an expiry date might be an alternative, but Tim Wake said it wasn’t really a viable approach.

In general, said Wake, Housing Agreements are not worth the effort for a handful of rental suites, but are worthwhile on affordable owned units. He added that putting occupancy restrictions on owned units did not work. The focus should be on letting the market provide rental suites and finding ways to make it work for the market.

At noon, Henry Kamphof arrived at the meeting. He said there is talk of doubling the CRD’s affordable housing budget and that there should be more emphasis on worker housing.

Traditionally 75% of funds have gone to supportive housing.

According to Wake, continuing the status quo with suites and cottages will have a negligible impact on affordable stock but would affect standards of health and safety and the existence of sub-standard units.

The discussion moved on to the matter of the proposed pilot project for legalizing suites and cottages. The Chair outlined the reasons a pilot project has been proposed, noting it takes into consideration Salt Spring’s water issues and also responds to the results of community consultations. One goal would be to gather data from the participants.

Henry Kamphof spoke about the so-called California model where developers must address different income segments in the community within a development proposal.

Tim Wake reported that Bowen Island is looking at zoning solutions to create opportunities for building more affordable ownership units i.e. zoning to permit smaller units, combining lots to permit multi-family units, upzoning to permit more units; creating more duplexes, stratifying large homes into flats and other innovative approaches to encourage the creation of smaller homes.

He noted that people often don’t want to buy units with Housing Agreements; they commonly see home ownership as the route to a retirement fund.

Returning to the subject of the pilot project, Planner Palmer asked if a time limited Bylaw with a sunset clause might work as a tool to legalize suites and cottages.

Tim Wake responded that it’s better to open a door and encourage compliance, not open a window and require people to jump through it.

Henry Kamphof added that a pilot project would need to run for 3 – 5 years to get a good sense of how it is working.

Trustee Ehring is concerned about how to deal with suites and cottages which are outside the pilot area and are therefore illegal.

Trustee Torgrimson commented that pilot areas would be compliant with OCP criteria and reflect the heightened concern about watershed areas on Salt Spring.

Tim Wake suggested that a pilot area might only apply to new development, and the rest would be grandfathered. He asked if Salt Spring would likely see a lot of applications to build new housing with suites? There could be issues around grandfathering suites which don’t meet building code, a matter which might call for legal advice. RPM Marlor said it would be possible to do a bylaw review when a certain number of suites are registered. If legalization were opened up to the whole island, you could then develop strong arguments for some exclusion.

There was some discussion about jurisdictions implementing regulations around the collection of rain water as a means to resolve water issues.

Janis Gauthier commented that ‘pilot’ implies a sense of temporary or provisional status. It was agreed that ‘pilot’ was perhaps not the most useful term.

Henry Kamphof mentioned that Esquimalt is talking about allowing housing in back yards or on back lanes.

Tim Wake made several closing points:

1) start a housing corporation or authority as soon as possible: regional would be work best for all the islands. It would be an agency that would facilitate partnerships to develop nonsubsidized affordable home ownership. The Whistler Housing Authority is a good example of an agency that brokers between developers and the local government and is not a top-down funded model. Funding comes from the projects, not from taxes;

2) focus on affordable ownership units; and

3) legalize suites and cottages without restrictions.

Open Letter to Trustees – Community Housing Strategy

April 11, 2011
 
To – Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee
 
Dear Trustees
 
I want to once again express some of my thoughts to you on the subject of Community/Affordable Housing.
 
Correct me if I’m wrong, but here is what I think we know now:
  • Tim Wake’s (the consultant brought in to advise the LTC) advice, based on other jurisdictions experience, was to legalize suites and cottages outright.
  • We currently have approximately 200 – 600 suites and cottages being rented out.
  • With rising real estate prices the trend will be less, not more suites and cottages being rented out. This means, all things being equal, 5 years from now there are going to be fewer illegal suites and cottages than there are right now.
  • Also with rising real estate prices there are less market rentals (fron Janis Gauthier’s housing needs assesment report)
  • The Stats Canada numbers Janis has quoted stated there are 795 rentals on the island, and for arguments sake, lets say none of them are suites or cottages (albeit unlikely), so it is safe to say we currently have less 800 legal rental homes.
  • The evidence from other jurisdictions suggests there won’t be any increase in the number of suites and cottages if they are legalized since economic reasons are the primary driver – what we see (or don’t see) in the way of illegal rentals, is what we have.
  • 75% of island homes are estimated to contain only 1 or 2 people.
  • Illegal suites and cottages likely occur in every zoning, including watersheds.
  • CRD is not interested in entering into, or maintaining, housing agreements for single units – i.e. suites and cottages
  • If you proceed with a “pilot areas” suites and cottages outside the proposed pilot areas will become deer in the headlights of complaints. It would only take one person inside the pilot area, who has gone through the process of spending say $20,000 to upgrade, or create, a “legal” suite to take offense to those outside the pilot area who are flaunting the new law, to have dozens of people evicted. And don’t for a moment think those kinds of people don’t exist on Salt Spring.
  • The OCP conditions regarding taking an “incremental” approach to legalization were placed there in 2008, prior to what we know today. The fear was there would be a rush to the CRD building inspection office if suites and cottages were legalized. There is absolutely not a shred of credible evidence to support that fear.
Given the above information, like Tim Wake, I have to ask what are the downsides in just legalizing existing suites and cottages?
 
If it is extremely unlikely we are going to see a proliferation of new suites and cottages created for rentals, and we’re certainly not talking about any additional impact on water, sewer or the environment than what we have right now.
 
Since our bylaw enforcement is usually based on complaints, I am of the opinion the number of formal complaints against illegal suites and cottages could be used as an approximate gauge of public opinion as to whether the community has already accepted the estimated 200-600 illegal suites and cottages as a necessity.. I suggest you ask staff, “How many complaints against illegal suites or cottages have there been in the past 5 years?” My best guess is that there have been, at the most, a handful.
 
From what I witnessed at the LTC meeting in March, with all due respect, I think this issue is suffering from “overthink.”
 
I would recommend you take the time to meet with the real estate community (including the property managers on the island) and listen to their views on the subject. They are the one local group most in tune with the subject. They deal with homeowners, suites and cottages (legal or illegal), and live with the trends daily. I would be happy to try and arrange a brainstorming session on the topic with them. We held one back in 2007 or 2008, with Trustees Ehring and Lamb, but the consensus from this side of the fence was the LTC wasn’t at that time ready to listen to what was being said. Perhaps its time to revisit the advice given.
 
Any action the LTC takes which may potentially decrease rentals on the island will likely be met with strong opposition. And, I suggest the pilot area approach comes under that category
 
Personally, I think you have too many significant items on the LTC’s plate to do any of them a real service (housing, RAR, Climate Action, applications, etc.), and, from an objective viewer, it is clear the strain is starting to show on staff as well. Given you only have 7 months left in your term of office, I appeal to you to (a) take pause, seriously consider taking Tim Wake’s advice, and rethink your current approach to housing,  (b) have staff develop a bylaw to just legalize suites and cottages everywhere on the island, (c) pass the bylaw, and (d) meet with the real estate and development community (as Tim Wake also suggested) to discuss potential long term solutions to housing ownership affordability which may be addressed in the next term.
 
While you have no “deadlines” (other than those self-imposed) for completing any of the work on your agenda, the housing crisis is, without a doubt, the single issue which is causing the most impact on this community. Please don’t make it a priority, make it THE priority.

Eric
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Of Orwell, Huxley, Bateman and Booth

“In the new edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are quoted. Orwell feared that truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. I fear that they are both right. It has been said that to have a real democracy the rulers must be open and transparent in their actions. Think about this when you choose which…candidate to vote for.” Robert Bateman

Having been a politician who believes in truthful, open and transparent government, I completely agree with my fellow island developer/artist.

Actions always speak louder than words, and the concealing of truths by politicians, from those they represent, is an unforgivable betrayal of trust.

I am often taken to task for articles I have written, or speeches I have given.

However, seldom do I meet someone who can give me a good, unemotional and rational argument to contradict what I say.

Last summer, a friend of mine related a rather amusing story. He had just been speaking with a mutual acquaintance who said something to the effect, “I don’t understand it. People either really like Eric Booth, or they really dislike him. I know Eric, and I just don’t get why there is such a 50/50 polarized, kneejerk response to even the utterance of his name.”

I laughed out loud when I was told this tale. It has been my experience that most negative responses to my musings are ad hominem attacks on me ala – “I don’t want to discuss what he said, he just…well…he just shouldn’t have said what he said…and….because he said it, he’s a jerk.”

I’m sure that will resonate with many readers. Some will laugh, and some won’t.

So, here’s a Spring challenge for all of you out there who believe in truth, and open and transparent government (like Robert Bateman, Ghandi and me). Take a few minutes, pick any one of my posts to pick on, and send me your best rational arguments in disagreement with what I have said.

As long as you quote what I have actually said that you disagree with, your comments are “expletive deleted,” and you use your real name, I’ll post them. Perhaps we can have some unemotional, rational discussion and debate on island issues like RAR, community housing, carbon footprints, water, etc..  Tell us how you believe our current local government is acting in an open and transparent fashion. I want to hear your side of the stories, you’ve certainly heard mine.

The lines are now open…hit me with your best shot, fire away….amuse us to death 🙂 E

As always, if you like what I write, please click on the Subscribe button on the top of the site, and pass along “Trust Matters” www.islandstrust.org to your friends and neighbours.

Special/Secret/Illegal Meetings? – Take Your Pick

When is Enough, Enough?

When the public’s confidence in an elected government has been shattered, when the public is continually misled, misinformed and lied to, when the public is continually brushed aside, when the public is purposefully kept in the dark by the very people elected to represent them, when elected officials object to accurate records of public meetings, when minutes of meetings are editorialized and/or sanitized to reflect political agendas, when protocols and policies are willfully ignored, when the public asks extremely relevant questions to major issues and are completely ignored, when laws are prepared and rammed through for no other reason than political expediency, when the rights of citizens to freely speak their minds is interfered with, when experienced consultants’ sound advice is completely ignored at a time of crisis, when laws are proposed with thinly veiled, agendas, cleverly hidden in small print, when those entrusted with the public’s trust have broken it, it is time for someone to call for resignations. And, just before you jump to the conclusion I am referring to either the Federal or Provincial governments, I am not.

I have sat in witness of all of the above well documented occurrences over the past few months. I have been increasingly appalled as event after event has unfolded. This is not about a couple of honest mistakes, or oversights, which anyone can make, apologize for, and be forgiven for. The arrogance and disrespect for the public has become endemic. And, no one is taking responsibility for any of it.

The latest prime example came the week of April 18th. In a rush to make no less than 50 amendments, apparently the result of a legal opinion, to what can only be seen as an over-reaching poorly crafted Riparian Area bylaw, a “Special Meeting” of the Local Trust Committee was called.

My investigation into the background of the “Special Meeting” resulted in the following presentation made to the Local Trust Committee yesterday, May 5th:

Madam Chair – I rise to a point of order.

On Monday morning, April 18, 2011, at 11:12 AM, a “Special Meeting” of the Local Trust Committee was called by Regional Planning Manager Leah Hartley.

The meeting date was set for Wednesday, April 20th at 3:00 PM, and according to RPM Hartley, the sole notice of the meeting was posted on the Islands Trust bulletin board at 11:12 AM or shortly thereafter.

Apparently only one member of the public and a Driftwood staffer, who happened to be in the Trust office on the Tuesday afternoon before discovered the notice. The Driftwood had not been notified of the meeting, however, it managed to make a late insertion under “News Briefs” in the edition that came out the following morning. If neither of those two members of the public had seen the notice, not a single member of the public would have known the meeting was going to be held.

Madame Chair, you explained the statutory requirement of having to post notice 48 hours in advance of a special meeting had been met.

However, when I asked you why the Trust hadn’t used their electronic “meeting notification” system to send out the notice to the public, at no cost to taxpayers, you referred the question to RPM Hartley. That question has today been answered by Ms. Hartley – “Posting of meeting notices on the website or circulation through the electronic system is a courtesy.” Evidently it was a “courtesy” to the public which was not extended in this case.

To uninformed members of the public this may sound like a staff oversight. The only problem with that assumption is that it ignores the fact this had already happened twice before within the past three months. Two other “Special Meetings” had been called, the public were not informed of either, the meetings were held, and, NO members of the public or press were present, at what were supposed to be “public meetings.”

First Special Meeting

The first “Special Meeting” was called by way of a Resolution Without Meeting (RWM) on January 27, 2011.  RWM’s are official resolutions of the Local Trust Committee, and there are legislative requirements to be fulfilled to ensure legitimacy. The RWM’s must be made available to the public. The Jan. 27th RWM is posted on the LTC’s website (at http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/ltc/ss/rwms.cfm ).

After the first “Special Meeting” (Jan. 31st)  there was an outcry – why wasn’t the public properly notified? The effective answer? “Hey, not our problem, we gave you the statutory notice. If you aren’t checking the bulletin board in our office every day, that’s not our fault is it?” The notice for that particular meeting, scheduled for a Monday morning at 10:00 AM, was posted on the Friday afternoon. So, if you didn’t happen to be in the office between say 3 and 4:30 on Friday, or between 9 and 10 Monday morning, you wouldn’t have seen it. In other words, the public was effectively given less than 3 hours opportunity to notice the notice.

Subsequently, did the Trustees instruct staff to ensure notifications of any future Special Meetings were sent out electronically and as quickly as possible? It is obvious from RPM Hartley’s reference to “courtesy” no such direction was recommended or given by the LTC to staff.

Second Special Meeting

The second Special Meeting (Feb. 21st) held less than 3 weeks after the first, followed the same modus operandi. No electronic or public notice, no members of the public or press present. However, absent from this meeting was a RWM calling for the meeting.

And, in all three cases there was nothing remotely resembling an apology for not keeping the public reasonably informed. Instead, the consistent excuse which has been given is the Trust had met the statutory requirements. I submit not only is this is clearly not good enough, but, it is in fact a falsehood.

Bylaw 391

The requirements of calling a Special Meeting are clearly stated in Bylaw 391 – “A Bylaw to establish Procedures for Meetings of the Local Trust Committee”  see http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/ltc/ss/pdf/ssbylbaseadmmtg0391.pdf

I am familiar with this Bylaw, as I was one of the Trustees who adopted it on March 31, 2004.

Paragraph 6 states –  “Any two members of the Local Trust Committee may call a special meeting by giving notice of the day, time, place and purpose of the meeting to the third member of the Committee by telephone or written notice delivered to the trustee at least 48 hours before the time of the meeting, and by posting the notice at the place specified in Section 3, except that notice to Local Trust Committee members may be waived by unanimous vote.”

This clearly indicates that only “any two members of the LTC may call a special meeting.” It does not allow for a staff member to call a special meeting. It does not allow for one Trustee to call a special meeting.

Therefore, it is my understanding, directly from RPM Hartley’s explanation to me today, that she called the meeting.

Therefore the special meeting held on April 20th was ultra vires of Bylaw 391.

Trustee George Ehring said “We didn’t have any more notice ourselves. We gave as much notice as we could.” This supports Ms. Hartley’s representation Trustee Ehring was not involved in calling the meeting.

(Trustee Torgrimson has stated she was out of town.)

Further, since there is no record of a RWM for the Feb. 21st special meeting, it is not unreasonable to assume that meeting was ultra vires as well.

If my accusations are correct, and I stand to be corrected, it follows that any resolutions which occurred at either of those meetings must be struck down. Further, any matters which flowed out of either the Feb. 21st or April 20th meetings must be struck as well.

Paragraph 7 of the Bylaw states,  “If the Chairperson is not one of the members calling the special meeting, the members calling the special meeting shall, prior to doing so, advise the Chairperson of the calling of the meeting and consider the Chairperson’s representations, if any, regarding the calling of the meeting.”

In my email exchanges with you, Madam Chair, you were unable to answer the question “Who called the special meeting,” so, I assume it was not you.

Since it was RPM Hartley who evidently called the special meeting, the statutory requirements under this section were not met as well.

It is not good enough for anyone involved, staff or Trustees, to plead ignorance of the law in this matter.  Am I to believe no one has read the Meetings Bylaw?

I therefore, hereby request you, as the Chair of the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee to (a) call for an immediate independent investigation into the propriety and validity of the calling of the two special meetings of February 21st and April 20th, and (b) the suspension of all matters and issues flowing from those two meetings, pending the outcome of the investigation. Those matters include the proposed riparian area bylaw before you today for consideration.

Thank you.

Eric
As always, if you like what I write, please click on the Subscribe button on the top of the site, and pass along “Trust Matters” www.islandstrust.org to your friends and neighbours.