Missing Diamonds

This is a tale of how things get lost between cracks on an island where there is no government cohesion, and history is lost due to bureaucratic and political turnovers.

In March 1994, the following was reported in the Driftwood –

“Two bylaws concerning a large subdivision on Stewart Road passed their first reading.

The first, Bylaw 323, proposes the 507-acre property be rezoned Comprehensive Development 9 (CD9)…

Under the new zone the same number would be created with a minimum average parcel size of 11.5 acres. The second bylaw, no. 325, rezones an 80-acre parcel of Rural Residential (RR) land to Parks and Reserves (PR). The land is slated to be given to the community by the landowner. Trust staff recommended Bylaw 323 be considered for fourth and final reading “if and when a comprehensive development plan has been registered against property titles at the expense of the owner.”

One month later, in April 1994, the following was reported:

“Swapping an increase in density for a new baseball park is a novel part of a rezoning bid for 507 acres of property between Stewart Road and Ford Lake. Proposed development of the property owned by Trincomalli Developments Ltd. requires rezoning of 427 acres of Upland and Forest-zoned property to a Comprehensive Development 9 zone through Bylaw 323… Current zoning would allow subdivision of the property into 21 lots. Bylaw 323 would increase that number to 37 and result in dedication of 80 acres of public parkland adjoining Crown land near Ford Lake.

As Salt Spring planner Linda Adams said strict rules and legal mechanisms are in the legislation. Adams explained last Friday, the ball park deal is possible because of a new Municipal Act section dealing with “amenities zoning.” In exchange for construction of a multi-diamond baseball facility, the developer could receive the equivalent of four more lots. Adams said strict rules and legal mechanisms are set forth in the legislation, so that additional lots would not receive legal title until the ball park was completed. She added that because the Salt Spring Island Parks and Recreation Commission was willing to give up the right to develop four lots on a property [210 Kanaka Road] it owns near the new secondary school in Ganges, an overall density increase on the island would not result Adams said the zoning for amenities concept comes from “a recognition that zoning authorities have incredible power to increase property values.

“If they are going to do that for a developer, the philosophy is that the community should benefit as well.” It is suggested that developers give communities some form of amenity valued at 75 per cent of what the developer gains from rezoning. If one new lot valued at $100,000 results, the community should receive $75,000 worth of amenities.

https://islandstrust.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/driftwood-bylaw-323.pdf

Bylaw 323 was passed into law, and, as a result, eventually, in 1997, a covenant restricting the number of dwellings on the Kanaka Road property was registered on title.

The Comprehensive Development 9 Zone, which was passed and put into Land Use Bylaw 123 specifies the requirement for a ball park.

And, the Schedule to the CD9 Zone has the exact specifications of the Recreational Ball Park Facility which was to be constructed.

So, fast forward to April 2021, 27 years later and guess what? There is no ball park. Call me crazy, but I’m just going to make the assumption here that no ball park will ever be constructed.

Which brings us to CRD PARC’s current proposal to downzone the Kanaka Road property from residential to a park maintenance facility.

With a few words and the stroke of a pen, the Islands Trust covenant could be removed by the Local Trust Committee, thus freeing up all 7 densities on the CRD property. With a rezoning application, both CRD PARC lots (210 and 220 Kanaka) could be amalgamated and rezoned to Residential 1 and voila – we could have 18 affordable housing dwellings.

The question which needs to be asked of our elected CRD and Islands Trust representatives is this – Are we in a housing crisis, or in a park maintenance crisis?

To date, CRD PARC’s version of events is sadly lacking in the above historical accuracy and details. Perhaps it is time they do some homework on the subject and rethink their decision.

Waking up to Trust’s Inefficiencies

Its now been a year since I took Trust Council to task in a rather stinging indictment of their self-admitted, less than 10% efficiency in processing applications…the lowest by far in the Province. (see – https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/reading-the-riot-act/ )

Trust Council has just published the results of their online survey on the 2021-2022 budget comments.

It appears Question 8 was as close as Staff wanted to get to the thorny, inefficiency issue.

“In terms of your support for increased funding for long-term planning work, would you still support this if it meant less funding for application processing, resulting in slower application processing times?”

262 people said No…the following are 200 of their comments, with my favourite ones highlighted in bold. My absolute favourite was short, to the point and underscored the $2,000,000+ waste of taxpayer dollars (about ¼ of the entire Trust budget) that goes on every year processing applications inefficiently – “The only thing slower than now is dead stop.”

.

Application processing should be sped up by simplifying and streamlining the process. At this point it looks like all the planners do is be nit-picky and have ridiculous requirements for changes that are just plain common sense. if the LUB was changed in a way that allows more freedoms for livelihoods and ecological, communal land stewardship and small-scale businesses, there would not be a need for so many applications!

Application process needs to at least stay the same or somehow carefully be completed more quickly

Enabling the application process should be the priority.

Application processing needs triage. Applications that favour OCP goals should come before some guy who wants to build a shed, for example.

I don’t support more funding for any part of your organization and I’m offended by the way this question presumes a given opinion

not in support of increased funding

applications should be looked at and decided on much quicker. perhaps a “common sense” approach for simple or routine applications

The only thing slower than now is dead stop

It seems to me that long term planning is not related to “application processing time.” This seems to be a sleight of hand.

Application processing should be removed from your purvue.

I don’t support more spending and would prefer you out of this

Any and all application should be processed in no more than 2 weeks.

The application process needs to change too. It needs to be more efficient, collaborative, and respectful of the input and knowledge of the applicants.

Don’t support

Cut the new projected by law enforcement officers, and get people working CREATIVELY on new ideas.

This is not just Saltspring’s problem, this is many communities problems. We need to find a way to make it possible for the average Joe and Jo to live and work here and be clean, safe and healthy! If not, what will happen to this island?? We need living places for nurses, care aids, grocery store workers, gas station attendants, let alone teachers and doctors and optometrists! Come on guys, we need a full vibrant community that includes EVERYONE.

I’m was totally unimpressed with the delay tactics I saw put into use: there must be means to put local= interests and community interests above private interests. Not all projects before the trust should be dealt with in the same manner—some should even be expedited with faster processing times!

ridiculous leading question. please focus on getting present crisis solved

There is no reason to slow the processing time with less funding.

This is a shockingly poorly worded question… who wrote this question?

but I don’t support increased funding

I don’t see how long term planning and application process are in the same ball park

The application process is not the issue–relying on constant planning is the issue

The current application processing time is excessive.

I don’t see why times would be reduced. The process should remain the same.

I am convinced the better use of people resources should be the target.

The application process was already very slow, so it would discourage residents taking permits for work if it takes even longer.

Processing times are ridiculous slow right now!

I said to decrease funding for planning work, not increase…

There is already too many levels of government involved in getting anything done. As someone who has renovated my house I have seen the costs of having to apply for the same thing to multiple government agencies combined with a bizarre application of rules that appear at the last minute after initial approvals have been given.

awaiting results of policy statement changes

There is already such a slow process for planning applicants; a streamlined, much speedier process is needed – not more delays.

Planning time is already far too slow

I don’t support increased funding.

I expect processing times for routine requests to be reasonably short.

Same trust needs to go

Need to speed up not slow down planning processes

Planners seem to know little about our community and give us theories of planning.

That is a hard one. I like a thorough review process on all application…not just community projects like Affordable Housing.

No increased funding for planning please.

Less red tape and simplified processes would alleviate the issue

I don’t support increased funding.

Applications already take years to get through on every project that our community fully supports – especially any type of low income housing. Why isn’t there a tax like Vancouver – extra tax on any home that is someone’s non-main residence? We have tons of houses that are mainly empty for the year, and no low income housing for the folks that live and work here year round, it is a disgrace.

question is confusing/increase funding in first part and less in second

It’s already stupidly schlerotic

Time is of the essence.

Streamline your process with clearer regulations and guidelines.

Just prioritize the work.

I don’t understand why the two can’t happen together

Silly question . What would be your answer ?

I have been through this process. It is tediously slow already.

Odd wording

This is a leading question suggesting I support….when I just answered in the negative to the previous question.

My opinion is that a reasonable amount of time must transpire. Most delays add to cost. Processes need to be fair to the question at hand and the larger good and fair to the person attempting to accomplish a goal.

You should be able to increase it all with more taxing I would assume. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul

It is important to process applications on a timely and fair basis otherwise people will avoid the application process altogether by a variety of means undermining the reasons for planning policies in the first instance

in my taxes I pay $75 for RCMP, $53 for the Langdale dock, $80 for the hospital and $513 fir the Islands trust. Enough said!

I think most of the slow down is due to ever increasing requirements with virtually no benefit

sorry but services still need to be maintained. However, if the slow down in speed was due to more care being taken in terms of the review of the application, then that would be a good thing.

Move away from complaint driven enforcement.

Red tape is too long now

Sooner is better!

I do not support increased funding

I noted I DON’T support increased funding. This is a slanted questions.

More efficiently not more funding

Move resources from BEO/BEN to free it up for OCP and LUB allocations. If the bylaws are not in keeping with community will (as on Denman) then bylaw enforcement is a waste of tax-payers money.

I see that as causing more issues for our residents.

Just slow down the planning for 2 years until the pandemic settle down!

Processing times are already very lengthy for projects currently underway

There appear to be other areas to find savings.

As it is I feel the application process is sometimes onerous for applicant

Turnaround time of permit applications has ben too slow

I don’t support increased funding.

Simply, speed up the process by being less intensive in staff studies and presentations

The two aren’t mutually exclusive

The IT need drastic budget cuts.

It doesn’t need a tradeoff…. reduce costs everywhere and the process will speed up.

Applications are already too slow & costly to the applicant.

I do not support increased funding for long-term planning work.

the application process need to be redesigned to be simpler, quicker and less restrictive for small scale projects.

With increased funding there should be a fair process to deal with applications in a timely manner.

Not sure how long processing takes now but understand it’s slow

Slow application processing is a problem, please don’t reduce resources there.

Wake up folks. It high time you learn to reduce spending.

Application processing is one of the major interactions withe community and should be a program focused on quick response. Can this be optimized to improve efficiency. Eg standard/routine applications dealt with almost by rote

Depends on how long we’re talking

Already takes forever to get applications approved.

Frustration leads to non compliance

Be more efficient with use of current funding.

Public service is a public service. Taxes pay for public service. I support taxation.

What objectives or incentives do planning staff members have to meet set approval time objectives but it depends on how much slower the application processing time would be; 6 months, a year…?

the IT is underfunded. is there any way to get money from the provincial government to compensate for the low level of municipal/provincial property taxes going to the IT?taxes

Reduce processing times by eliminating

Same reason as before. If you got the big bucks you got IT’s ear.

slower application processing time isn’t sustainable

The only excuse for slow processing times is too much red tape. I think much of the problem stems

from the IT not properly understanding its role and how to design its operations to fulfill its mandate in an efficient manner than employs the local community even more than it already does..

Failure to “Wake” Up to Affordable Solutions

Everything Old is New Again

The following are draft minutes from a January 31, 2011 advisory meeting, held outside of the public’s eye and knowledge, with former Whistler Housing consultant, Tim Wake, Trustees George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson, Henry Kamphof, CRD Housing, Trust Planner Susan Palmer, Islands Trust Regional Planning Manger David Marlor (now Director of Local Planning Services) and housing consultant Janis Gauthier. If you want to skip the notes and go to the recommendations (highlighted in red), scroll down to the bottom.

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.

In Response – Covid, HCQ and zinc

Proposed Salt Spring Island Animal Control Leash Law Amendment

March 15, 2020

CRD Director Gary Holman

Hi Gary

As you are aware, the dog situation in Ganges has become a nightmare for many, including those trying to walk with small dogs on leashes through packs of unleashed dogs.

The current CRD Bylaw does not require dogs to be on leash, only under “direct control” which is not defined, and, effectively means if an owner of an unleashed dog says, “Fido come here,” and the dog obeys, it could be argued the dog is under “direct control.”

I witness, on a daily basis, dogs off leash crapping in Centennial Park or digging up the park’s plantings, or barking or snapping at children and parents, etc..

The situation is out of control, and, before someone is seriously injured, I believe it is time to put a “leash law” into effect for the Ganges area.

This is a link to the Community Discussion group…I’ve done a search of the group posts with “dog” in it, and it gives you a good idea of the state of affairs – https://www.facebook.com/groups/536195140049782/search/?query=dog&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Rather than trying to amend the existing CRD bylaw, I’ve done an amended version which would be specific to Salt Spring, designating an area around Ganges as a “leash area.”

While the bylaw duplicates most of what is already in the existing bylaw, it is likely the easiest way to get the bylaw through the CRD, by making it Salt Spring specific.

All commercial businesses, and the vast majority of the public, including the schools, would applaud you for making this a reality, and, it would give bylaw enforcement a greater ability to get the situation under control.

Give me a call when you have a minute to discuss.

Thanks.

Eric

Kanaka Place

Kanaka Place, consisting of 32, energy efficient, apartments, is now in the conceptual design phase.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest in the form of a quick, 12 question survey here.

We ask that you please share this with any of your friends, employers, employees, and family members through social media.

With your help, and if we get enough positive response, this green housing project may come to fruition.

Initial, preliminary, conceptual site design and floor plans include:

  • 600 square feet
  • one bedroom
  • Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction
  • Net Zero insulated, (R70 equivalent)
  • low energy
  • polished concrete floor
  • radiant air heating
  • covered, enclosed patio with passive solar design
  • 5 appliances
  • grey water recycling for toilet and laundry
  • heat pump hot water system
  • all units south facing
  • soundproofed
  • fireproofed
  • full 4 piece bath
  • solar assisted radiant heat
  • centrally located with easy walking/biking to all services
  • wheel-chair accessible on main floors
  • common roof top deck area
  • 2 person maximum per unit
  • $1,600-$1,800/month, long term lease (not including utilities)
  • possibility of long term lease to own.

Proposed floor plan layout:

Proposed conceptual site plan:

Solutions

I don’t believe in complaining about problems without offering solutions.

I have previously outlined a number of actions which can be taken by our locally elected representatives, known as “local trustees,” to alleviate the housing crisis on Salt Spring.

This article will again offer those solutions.

  1. Legalize all 900 potential seasonal cottages on Salt Spring which were not legalized under the recent Bylaw 512.
  2. Legalize the use of suites on every property on Salt Spring.
  3. Rezone all Rural (R) and Rural Uplands (RU) properties to allow for a density of one permanent dwelling per 2 acres. (e.g. 10 acre properties may have up to 5 dwellings), with the following restrictions enshrined on title:
    1. On properties with more than one dwelling, all dwellings must be strata-titled via a building strata with designated common property and limited common property,
    2. Each building strata lot in excess of one dwelling on a property, must be covenanted, in favour of the Islands Trust, to restrict the sale price of the dwelling to the actual cost of the construction and sale, plus 25%. E.g. – Cost of construction and sale $200,000 – Sale price = $250,000, with a maximum ceiling sale price of $300,000 (as of 2020).
    3. Resale value of secondary dwellings will be restricted in the covenant to the purchase price plus the accumulated average, annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase, on Vancouver Island and the Capital Regional District, plus improvements up to a maximum of $5,000/yr, and $25,000 cumulative.
    4. Similarly, rents are to be pegged via covenant at a rate no more than 10% above amortized monthly cost of equivalent sale price at current 5 year fixed rate term mortgages. (e.g. $300,000 sale price = $1276/month, 5 year fixed, 25 year amortization. Add 10% = $127.00 = $1403/month rent. )
    5. Sales and rentals of secondary dwellings will be restricted to those who meet island resident/employee eligibility criteria.
  4. Apart from Islands Trust covenant ONLY CRD Building Inspection water, septic building code requirements need to be met prior to issuance of building permit.
  5. Tiny homes, Z240RV trailers and 5th wheels, are to be included within the definition of “mobile home” within the Land Use Bylaw.

Note that at the proposed maximum sale price, $300,000, minus 25%= $240,000 divided by approximate cost of construction $300/sf (2020) = 800 sf. maximum. Thus by capping the sale price, and profit, there is an automatic, de facto, tflexible, cap on the size of secondary dwelling size.

Given the caps are related to CPI’s, the theory is, as time moves along, pricing should follow suit.

Some of the components of the above solutions aren’t mine. I was advised of them in 2003 by Whistler Housing Authority consultant, Tim Wake.

Tim subsequently tried to get the message across to Trustees in 2011, but his advice was actually censored by them (see my expose at https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2020/02/05/hopefully-post-mortem-comments-on-512/ ).

The benefit to the Community in implementing the above solutions is that they allow private property owners to become part of the solution. The 25% profit margin and caps, with reduced red tape, work hand in hand to encourage community housing creation.

All of the above bylaw changes could easily be implemented in less than 6 months.

BUT, that would require political will power that is apparently virtually nonexistent.

Crisis “Redefined”…

Definition of crisis

1a: the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever

b: a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function

c: an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life e.g. – a housing crisis

2: the decisive moment (as in a literary plot) e.g. – The crisis of the play occurs in Act 3.

3a: an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending especiallyone with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome e.g. – a housing crisis, the island’s rental crisis

b: a situation that has reached a critical phase e.g. – the employment crisis caused by the housing crisis.

Take your pick of virtually any of the above and ask yourself if, after over 20 years of being in a “crisis,” is waiting another 2 years, or more, to take concrete action at solving the crisis treating the crisis like a crisis?

Sorry Trustees. Not. Good. Enough.

Summation:

1. Salt Spring’s housing crisis has existed for over 20 years.

2. The housing crisis is getting worse, month by month, as rental units are sold and occupied by permanent residents.

3. House prices are now far beyond what any young person or family can afford.

4. Construction costs are skyrocketing and will continue to do so because of the new BC Step Plan building code.

5. MINIMUM combined market bare land lot cost and 1,000sf new construction cost = $500,000.

6. MINIMUM house price for sale of existing stock now $500,000+

7. Rental stock is decreasing every month. Virtually no existing houses are being bought for investment as rental units.

8. Rental rates are increasing every month due to low supply and high demand.

9. 23% (10,000+ acres) of our entire island’s Douglas fir forested area is already preserved and protected in perpetuity in conservation covenants and parkland, and yet is not managed.

10. Island employers and employees are severely impacted by the housing crisis.

11. None of the current “affordable housing” projects are “owner occupied”…they are ALL rentals, thereby condemning occupants to a lifetime of rental servitude.

12. There is an insignificant number of illegal Short Term Vacation Rentals as evidenced by the only 21 outstanding bylaw files on illegal STVR’s.

13. Employees are now being ferried/bussed in from off-island, ala Nantucket Island or Martha’s Vineyard.

The proverbial writing on this wall is clear. The real estate market trends are clear. The NIMBYism and BANANAism trends are clear. The rental trends are clear. Increased construction cost trends are clear.

With all due respect, the only thing that isn’t clear is why our elected politicians aren’t clear that it is far beyond time for studying, bringing in new regulations, and/or more environmental navel gazing.

We are now being told that all we need is to consult with the public, find out what they want and/or need, and then try and please everyone with a solution.

I have news for you. You will NEVER please everyone. If you go down this road of yet another costly, 2 year study, plan, long/drawn out consultation, you will end up not a single step closer to a solution than you already are.

With all due respect again, this is NOT leadership in the face of a 20+ year crisis that worsens by the day, as construction costs follow suit with rising real estate prices. There have been over 45 home sales on the island this year OVER $1,000,000. The average home for sale is already OVER $1 million.

Delays in decision making are expensive as witnessed by the delays in Salt Spring Commons going from a $6.5 million budget to close to $10 million over a period of a few years.

The fact that someone has to ask the Local Trust Committee to place affordable housing on the priority list speaks VOLUMES.

I recommended to one of the Trustees back in December to pass a standing resolution to direct Staff that ANY application before the LTC which had a component of affordable housing be given priority over other applications. I reiterated that recommendation again 3 months later. The Trustee agreed with me in both instances, and here we are, 9 months later and no action.

Real action is needed now, not in 2 years. Trustees were elected to lead and solve land use issues. Under the Local Government Act they are, in effect, elected to ensure sufficient housing is available for their community.

You knew, or should have known, about the crisis before you were elected. You should already have envisioned what is necessary to solve the problem. You should have been prepared immediately to take whatever action is necessary to address the problem.

It is NOT good enough to say, after 2 years into your 4 year mandate, we just need to form just one more committee, consult just one more time with the community (and listen to all the naysayers), get just one (or a dozen) more professionals’ advice on how to solve the problem.

The answers were all available 20 years ago. The answers will NOT be liked by everyone.

To restate, it is, and will be, IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone. The opportunity to secure land for community housing becomes less with the passing of each day, week, month, year.

What IS possible is decisive action. Action that may result in you either being re-elected because you have actually done something to solve the problem, or turfed out on your ear (if you intend to run for public office again) if your proposed solution was unpalatable. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes the right thing to do is not the popular thing to do.

I was once asked, “What’s it like to be a politician?” My response was, “Its like winning a popularity contest, where the first prize is you immediately become less popular.” What I didn’t add on was “…if you’re actually doing your job.”

Salt Spring Island politics shouldn’t be about being loved by everyone. It should be about being able to do the right thing in spite of what a vocal minority says. It is about putting the Community’s interests before a neighbourhood’s interests. There is no “Official Neighbourhood Plan.”

I realize this rant will fall on deaf ears. My rants on the crisis have been falling on deaf ears for nigh on 20 years.

I’m posting this, not in expectation that anything of any significance will be achieved, BUT, in the hope that 2 years from this November, 2 young, creative, visionaries will be elected to do what is necessary to solve the crisis…piss some people off by doing not the easy thing…but the hard thing…the right thing.

I truly hope I am wrong, and this new committee and LTC will bravely go where we need to go, but obviously I am not optimistic given the number of committees and regurgitated studies which have historically come before this “new” proposed committee and study.

I once asked Kevin Bell advice on an issue that was before me as an elected Trustee. Without batting an eye he said, “Why the hell are you asking me? I voted for you because I believed you were an intelligent enough guy that would do what was necessary. Do your job!” I took that compliment and piece of “advice” to heart.

Yes, we elect leaders to….wait for it…lead. To make decisions which, if we use Provincial or Federal politics as any kind of an indicator, will at best, please less than 1/2 the voters.

Be brave, do what you think is right. But PLEASE don’t take OUR time to do it. You may have heard recently that there is a “crisis” going on. Please don’t turn the crisis into another two year, make work project for bureaucrats, like the recent “seasonal cottage” project, or the phased secondary suite project before it, both of which, at the end of the day, did virtually nothing to solve the problem.

Be radical and propose bylaws that will actually solve the crisis, vote on them, pass them, and then stand on your laurels proudly. I can guarantee you many people will hate/vilify you for your decisions…BUT…if you think you’re smart enough to craft bylaw amendments that will increase density in some neighbourhoods (the most basic of necessity in addressing the crisis) without pissing a good number of people off, I’ve got news for you – you’re not…its a fool’s errand.

If, on the other hand, you are NOT prepared to take the heat that will come with ANY decision which will significantly address the crisis, I respectfully suggest you get out of the kitchen now….not 2 years from now…but now…resign and make room for someone with fortitude and the best interests of this dying community.

But there I go again, repeating myself… https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/dead-end-street-folks/

Yes, there has been a crisis in progress on this issue for decades, now there is yet one more delay in progress…one more study…one more committee…two more years.

Water is not the only thing that’s Leaking

I have a friend who earlier this year experienced a water leak in his system. He only discovered it when he received a bill for over $3,000 from North Salt Spring Waterworks District. He investigated, found the source of the leak, and repaired it.

However, while reviewing NSSWD’s “Leak Allowance Policy” he couldn’t believe what he was reading.

Here’s the long and short of it. If you experience a major leak, which is not in the main line from the meter to your home, you may be held responsible for thousands of dollars of charges.

How in the world is this, in any way, shape or form, representing the best interests of ratepayers of the District?

Let’s look at what actually occurs when there is a leak – water runs, the meter spins, the ratepayer is charged for the water running through the meter.

But, and this is where a major question arises – what is the actual monetary damage to the District? Virtually zero dollars in comparison to the District’s own reported annual leakage from the St. Mary Lake system, which, in 2018 was recorded as 19,282,132 gallons per year.


Even a hundred thousand gallons is literally a drop in the bucket compared to the District’s own leaks, which have been consistently in the 25% range of total water extracted from St. Mary (see chart below)

Read that last sentence again. 25% of all water which is pumped out of St. Mary, and treated (at some cost), is leaked out into the ground somewhere.

Using NSSWD’s billing costs, to calculate a proportionate cost, would mean that leak should be billed at $425,000 a year.

In December last year I asked the Board the question why an acoustic leak survey has not been conducted to identify where the 19 million+ gallons a year is leaking. Cost of the survey would likely be under $20,000.

So, while a number of ratepayers are penalized thousands of dollars for their relatively minor, accidental leaks, the Board has turned a blind eye to major, ongoing leaks, while claiming we are in a water crisis year after year.

Accountability to ratepayers…its a thing….which is also evidently sadly leaking.

PS – The Channel Ridge lawsuit is suing for the promised water supply for about 300 densities. Using the BC standard of 2.5 residents per lot, 230L a day per person X 365 days = 13,868,392 gallons per year…or, about 5 million gallons LESS than what is currently leaking out of the St. Mary system. The lawsuit could claim as much as $40,000,000 in damages…plugging the leaks could make it all go away.

St. Mary Data and Calculations

St. MaryBulkMeteredLossLoss GPY
201385,053,86062,297,98327%22,755,877
201486,074,31164,945,92325%21,128,388
201573,256,77856,670,00823%16,586,770
201680,619,25056,159,76130%24,459,489
201773,757,56054,825,53026%18,932,030
201874,229,22054,947,08826%19,282,132

PPS – Last posted Water Audit was in 2018….

BS in Paradise

Response by Eric Booth to “Development has put Gulf Islands in death spiral” by Frants Attorp in the Victoria Times Colonist, August 1, 2020 edition.

(Mr. Attorp’s original comments are in black italics, and Mr. Booth’s comments are in blue.)

One of the world’s natural wonders is being lost to development.

This is an unmitigated lie, commonly known in rural areas as bullshit (BS). And, while that may perhaps at first blanch sound a little harsh, the rest of his article is wrought with more BS. Development on Salt Spring, where Mr. Attorp resides, has seen less than a 1% per annum growth rate for over 10 years…it is hardly being “lost to development.”

 The most recent trouble in paradise comes in the form of a housing crisis which, tragically, is perceived by many as an isolated incident with a simple solution — create more densities.

The “housing crisis” has been going on for over 25 years, with as many studies and reports on the issue in the same time frame. It is certainly not “recent.”

In fact, the Gulf Islands are caught in a complex humans-first syndrome that, unless broken, will result in crisis after crisis and the inexorable urbanization of a rural area protected by law.

The history of the Islands Trust government tasked with protecting the fragile ecosystems is important: In 1972 an all-party special committee of the legislature was established to investigate the unique problems facing the Trust Area. The committee concluded that pressures arising from the area’s proximity to major urban centres were damaging the very features that made the Trust Area so attractive to residents and visitors.

In response to these findings, the provincial government enacted the Islands Trust Act in 1974. While each island has its own story, the general trend throughout the archipelago is from low to higher density.
More BS. The last census showed that, within the Islands Trust Area as a whole, ONE new person was added to the area every 6 months. In other words, while some areas, like Salt Spring are experiencing minimal growth in population, the trend on other islands is actually depopulation.
This progression, which mirrors events around the world, is viewed by many as normal, inevitable, and even desirable. It also flies in the face of the Trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate.

More BS. Each island has developed its own Official Community Plan (OCP), the development of which was done in careful consultation with the islands’ residents. The policies established by the “Islands Trust Council” establish the parameters which OCP’s and local bylaws are required to meet, including strict environmental protections.

Islands Trust documents contain many references to limiting growth, but are sadly lacking in detail. The words “rural” and “unique amenities,” for example, are left open to interpretation. Is “rural” one or five acres? Are shops a “unique amenity”? And why say “we accept there are limits to the ability of our environment to absorb continued development” without defining what those limits are?

Mr. Attorp has no understanding of the ability of our environment to absorb the little growth that is still allowed for under our OCP’s. The Trust has effectively locked the door after developing the OCP’s which provide the guidance for the future development of the community. Anyone knowledgeable of the Provincial Local Government Act Section 473 (see extract below), which Mr. Attorp arguably has no knowledge of, knows that it mandates local governments to review their OCP’s on a regular basis (e.g. every 5+ years) to ensure there the community’s needs with respect to housing, schools, commercial, and industrial properties, etc. are met. Without necessary changes, community can, and will, wither and die.

473   (1) An official community plan must include statements and map designations for the area covered by the plan respecting the following:

(a) the approximate location, amount, type and density of residential development required to meet anticipated housing needs over a period of at least 5 years;

(b) the approximate location, amount and type of present and proposed commercial, industrial, institutional, agricultural, recreational and public utility land uses;

(c) the approximate location and area of sand and gravel deposits that are suitable for future sand and gravel extraction;

(d) restrictions on the use of land that is subject to hazardous conditions or that is environmentally sensitive to development;

(e) the approximate location and phasing of any major road, sewer and water systems;

(f) the approximate location and type of present and proposed public facilities, including schools, parks and waste treatment and disposal sites;

(g) other matters that may, in respect of any plan, be required or authorized by the minister.

(2) An official community plan must include housing policies of the local government respecting affordable housing, rental housing and special needs housing.

The Islands Trust was unquestionably established to put the brakes on development, but in 2003 it shifted its focus from environmental to social goals.

This was reflected in Trust correspondence which, for 30 years, contained the tagline “To Preserve and Protect,” but suddenly and without explanation, changed to “Preserving Island Communities, Culture and Environment”.

The acknowledgement that the Trust Act was meant to address all three legs of a healthy community stool – environmental, social and economic – was the reason for the “change,” which wasn’t a change…it was, as stated, an acknowledgment.

Salt Spring, the largest and most populous of the islands, is the epicentre of the current malaise. There are countless illegal dwellings across the island, many of them unfit for human habitation.

The reason illegal dwellings exist is a direct result of mismanagement and poor planning of the Trust itself. The basic real estate economics of supply and demand were never taken into consideration. When you limit supply (which the Trust Act did), in an area of high demand (which is the entire Trust Area), the result is an increase in property values, which leads to a situation where typical investment rental properties are no longer viable, leading to the steady decline in rental availability with the associated increase in rental cost. We have a less than zero vacancy rate with rents rising virtually by the month as long term rental properties come onto the market and are sold to people moving to the island to escape urban environments.

The Trust has conceded the problem, fuelled by islanders seeking extra income, is widespread and that “most are flying under the radar.” Concurrently, there is a housing shortage that has forced many into substandard premises and turned bylaw enforcement into a nightmare.

The housing shortage Salt Spring is experiencing is similar to what Whistler went through – a shortage of affordable, employee housing as a result of rising real estate values in an area of high demand. The median house price on Salt Spring is now $850,0000 while the average house price is over $1,000,000. And yet, the Local Islands Trust has taken no proactive measures to address the situation. It has now been 12 years since an OCP review.

At a recent public meeting, Trustee Laura Patrick discussed the endless battle of trying to enforce the island’s ban on short- term vacation rentals (STVRs). She indicated that, for every one that is closed, more pop up.

The oft bandied about rental boogeyman – illegal STVR’s – is a proverbial drop in the bucket and has no significant effect on rentals on the island. This is perhaps best quantified in the fact there are currently only 21 bylaw investigation files open on STVR’s on Salt Spring in spite of the fact bylaw enforcement have PROACTIVELY been seeking them out for 2 years.

The rules-be-damned culture runs deep on the islands, but there are consequences: lawlessness makes a mockery of planning and, in the case of STVRs on Salt Spring, reduces the housing stock for full-time residents, thereby forcing elected trustees to consider ever higher densities.

“Reduces” by less than 21, since, if the illegal STVR’s were forced out of business, the vast majority would either not be let for long term rentals, or, would be put onto the open market for sale where they would be bought by new fulltime residents, not rented to low to middle income renters.

The lack of accommodation for local employees is of particular concern as it affects essential services. Since the Trust has no tools to designate new densities for employees only, it uses a housing shotgun to blast target areas in the hope that some of the shot hits home for local workers. Unfortunately, it also blows holes in the 17,000 population cap specified in Salt Spring’s Official Community Plan.

More bullshit. (a) The Local Trust Committee could actively work with not-for-profit societies to rezone land and place upon the land covenants to restrict the property to employee housing, similar to Whistler’s model. (b) There is no quantified 17,000 population cap in the OCP. The only cap on population is relative the number of potential properties which can be created by subdivision times the average number of residents per property, which currently, according to the last census was 2.1, below the provincial average of 2.5.

Meanwhile, housing groups have formed and are putting intense pressure on trustees. A key organizer has written about the need for “many thousands” of new affordable housing units, an incredible number for a protected island that has a population of only 12,000 and where water is so scarce the local water utility has placed a moratorium on new hook-ups.

The only “key organizer” I am aware of who “has written about the need for “many thousands” of new affordable housing units” is ME. Currently the population isn’t 12,000, its only 10,500+, and, water is not scarce. Water consumption data clearly shows there is an abundant supply of water in the majority of areas of the island. The scarcity myth that we are running short is exactly that – a myth. The current moratorium is in spite of the fact there is over 50,000,000 gallons a year available BELOW the conservative limitation placed on the licensed amount (72%) which was recommended to account for future, potential climate change.  

Housing advocates oppose gentrification, but seem less concerned about the environmental impact of changing the demographics of the island.

This statement is incredibly insulting to every housing advocate on the island. I am not aware of one advocate for community housing who is “less concerned about environmental impact” than providing housing for those who need it.

The debate raises the question of whether the Gulf Islands can be a regional go-to spot for people seeking affordable housing, while still meeting the goals of the Islands Trust.

Housing for the service industries on the islands (hospitals, schools, ferries, grocery stores, RCMP, construction trades, etc.) is a critical factor in providing for a healthy community.

The Gulf Islands are in crisis, and it must be remembered that their protection is not just for the benefit of those who live there, but also British Columbia generally.

The province must intervene to help with issues such as enforcement, water shortages and clearcut logging on private land. Above all, those in charge must work co-operatively to create a long-term plan to limit growth.

There is already a “long-term plan to limit growth.” Its called the Islands Trust Act. The long-term plan that is lacking is HOW to provide for a sustainable community….one that has affordable housing for its service industries.

I agree the Province should step in, however, not for the reasons Mr. Attorp outlines. The Trust bureaucracy is out of control, and, the Trustees are, to the peril of the health of the community, ignoring the challenges of crisis.

Failure to do so will see the islands lose their natural splendour and fade into something bland, ordinary and uninspiring.

Without community housing growth, like the kind that Whistler implemented through its Housing Authority, Islands Trust Area communities, including Salt Spring, will continue to wither and die as market forces, created unconsciously by the Islands Trust’s failure to address supply/demand dynamics, continue to erode the affordability of the population which serves.

Frants Attorp is a Salt Spring writer who has worked for several Gulf Islands publications.

Eric Booth is a born and raised Salt Spring Islander who has been an Islands Trustee (2002-2005), realtor, developer, local talk radio host, political activist, Salt Spring Dollar co-creator, Salt Spring Flag co-creator, and outspoken active community member.