Banking Our Most Important Resource – Water

Water drop

I recently posted a bit of a tongue-in-cheek “rainwater collection/graywater recycling” graphic .

However, that elicited a comment on Facebook that we should just store rainwater in the ground.

That made we ask myself the question – Is anyone doing that proactively, as opposed to passively?

One quick Google search later, I found this:

How We Can Bank Water Underground For Use Later On.

Now, take a look at the latest lake level data January 28, 2020 Lake Levels

Typically, from the beginning of December through to the beginning of May, millions of gallons of fresh water flow out of the two lakes and into the ocean.

So, drill some groundwater wells near St. Mary and Lake Maxwell, and pump water into the underground aquifer for 5 months, and then reverse the flow when/if water is needed in the Summer and pump water back into the lake.

Given no treatment would be required, total cost could easily be under a few hundred thousand dollars.

Now, THAT would be real water conservation, making the most of a controllable resource. Stop turning good fresh water into unusable salt water.






novacula Occami (Occam’s Razor) is the problem-solving principle that states that “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” The idea is attributed to English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), a scholastic philosopher and theologian who used a preference for simplicity to defend the idea of divine miracles.

It is sometimes paraphrased by a statement like “the simplest solution is most likely the right one”.

It is also sometimes paraphrased as Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

It is highly unfortunate that most bureaucrats never learned, or embraced, that principle, either in high school, or in the halls of higher learning.

With respect to proposed bylaw 512 our elected representatives could give us a KISS and simply remove the word “seasonal” from the term “seasonal cottage” and, by doing so, could legalize the hundreds of ILLEGAL rentals which have, for decades, and long before the Islands Trust Act, formed part of our affordable rental housing stock.

Its not rocket science and its not brain surgery, and its certainly not rocket surgery.

I put forward the following question to the Chair of the Local Trust Committee and our representatives on Tuesday night:

“After you have legalized, for long term rental, 400 of 1300 properties which can, or do, have a seasonal cottage on them, are you going to then enforce against the 900 ILLEGAL seasonal cottages and evict the illegal tenants? If your answer is “No,” then what good does Bylaw 512 actually do?”

So, please…give us a KISS solution and then get on with real solutions to the housing crisis because 512 is nothing more than an illusionary bandaid, and nothing closely resembling a divine miracle…which is what we need to save us from losing this community.

And, I’m going to respectfully suggest you KISS us sooner than later, because, from the tone of the crowd on Tuesday night, Salt Spring Islanders are getting tired of biting their lips.



Why “Vacant” Homes are Part of the Solution Long Term

Subtitle – “A Cow Named Density”

sacred cow

Rather incessantly I hear people say that vacant homes on Salt Spring are a reason why we have a housing crisis.

Uh…no…that’s not even remotely why, and, I’ll tell you why, and, why vacant homes are part of a solution to the housing crisis long term….stay with me here.

A vacant home is owned by someone, and, the likelihood is THAT someone, given they aren’t living in the vacant home, is living in another home somewhere else part of the year.

On Salt Spring, vacant homes usually are only vacant for maybe 8-10 months of the year, the rest of the time they are occupied, usually from Mayish to Septemberish, since the island is a world class spot to be in the late Spring, Summer and early Fall. Hardly any bugs, nice temperature, long daylight hours…and, to top it off, in Canada.

So, “vacant homes” would be better to be referred to as “semi-vacant homes,” which wouldn’t be available for renting full time, year round, to someone who needs a full time rental home.

The idea of extra-taxing “semi-vacant” homes is a separate matter, which I won’t get into in this piece…but, I will explain below why semi-vacant homes are actually a good thing when it comes to our current taxation.

The single largest issue which arises whenever the subject of additional development on the island is brought up is the local sacred cow we have, that goes by the name “Density.”

Density, long term, refers to the total number of legal homes, apartments, suites, townhomes, and mobile homes which can be built on the island.

Currently, that number is approximately 8,000. 5% of that is 400, which is what the current seasonal cottage bylaw is suggesting legalizing for potential rentals (an ill-conceived a proposal, in its current form, as there ever has been).

Now, 8,000 densities x 2.1 people per house average (2016 Census) = 16,080 people at buildout.

That’s about 6,000 more people than our current population.

BUT, we need affordable housing for the middle class, since currently you need to make $200,000/year to qualify to buy the median priced home on the island ($850,000).

Clearly, the “affordable” component will not be part of the 8,000.

And this is where vacant homes become a benefit to the community.

IF we say we need an additional 3,000 homes, at an affordable level, our buildout density would become 11,000 x 2.1 = 22,110 people.

BUT, if 25% of the 8,000 market homes were vacant, the year round population would drop by 4,040 to 18,070.

IF we could ENCOURAGE 40% of homes to be vacant, the population would drop by 7,070 to BELOW our current buildout population.

And yes, during the summer months our population would rise to around 22,000 for a few months, but, for the balance of the year we would actually have a SUSTAINABLE population of around 15,000.

The added bonus, is that the 25-40% of homes which were semi-vacant, would still be paying their share of taxes.

Realistically (and everyone reading this should come to grips with what I am about to say), vacant homes are not going to magically become affordable rentals.

Realistically, the number of rentals on the island is going to continue their current downwards trend, since, rentals are investment properties which eventually will be sold to someone who wants to move to Salt Spring. The average house for sale on Salt Spring in early 2020 is $1,024,000.

So Salt Spring, time to sober up and face the future…semi-vacant homes aren’t the problem, but, they can become part of the long term solution…but, first, and with apologies for the analogy to all animal lovers and vegans out there, we have to slaughter the cow named Density. We can do it humanely, and with acceptance, so that future generations of middle income residents will thank us for having the fortitude and vision to do what is necessary to create a truly sustainable, diverse community.

The alternative of course is to do nothing, and watch as the middle class continues to be turned into fodder for the sacred cow no one wants to talk about.



“Who” is the “Islands Trust?”

I often hear people saying something like, “The Islands Trust is proposing to downzone 400 properties and disallow the use of seasonal cottages as part of a B&B operation.”

The purpose of this article is to reveal/explain a couple of facts.

“The Islands Trust” does not exist as a corporate body. The Islands Trust is an Act.

As such, the only way that anything happens under the Act must be done by one two corporate bodies – “Islands Trust Council” or the “Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee.”(SSILTC)

Islands Trust Council establishes, by bylaw, the policies, required under the Islands Trust Act to ensure its preserve and protect mandate is respected by the SSILTC when it prepares its OCP and Land Use Bylaws.

Now, what exactly is the SSILTC? It is a corporation which is comprised, essentially, of three directors (called trustees, which is, IMO, a misnomer), who are tasked with making land use decisions for Salt Spring.

The three “directors” consist of two, locally elected representatives, “local trustees,” who….and this is important….REPRESENT THE ELECTORS…NOT ISLANDS TRUST COUNCIL.

The third “director” is the Chairperson, who is elected by Islands Trust Council, and, who represents Island Trust Council to the SSILTC. The Chairperson DOES NOT represent Salt Spring, because they weren’t elected by Salt Spring Islanders.

The reality is therefore this – When a bylaw is proposed to be enacted, or amended, it is NOT the Islands Trust who is proposing the changes – IT IS YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

The oath of office which each director (trustee) takes makes no mention whatsoever of being a Trustee who must represent the best interests of the Islands Trust Act.

The definition of a local trustee is as follows:

local trustee means a trustee elected under section 6 from a local trust area;

6   (1) For each local trust area, 2 trustees are to be elected to represent the electors of the area.

trustee means a local trustee, a municipal trustee and a trustee of the trust fund, or any of them, as the context requires.

In other words, the term “trustee,” as it pertains to a “local trustee” means…and this gives you an idea of the circular ridiculousness of the definitions in the Act –

“local trustee means a local trustee who was elected to represent the electors of the area.”

Do you see anything in there which suggests a local trustee represents the Islands Trust?


So, the next time you hear someone say “The Islands Trust is going to do xyz…” please correct them and say, “You mean our elected representatives are proposing to do xyz…”