A Fork in Time

Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder

Einstein

We are at the proverbial fork in the road.

Looking ahead on the path we are currently on, the future is crystal clear. Higher real estate prices (which are already beyond the means of the majority of those in our service industries), higher rents, fewer rentals, and, an end to the sense of community we have enjoyed up to this point.

The other path is blocked by existing land use zoning and fears that any increase in density is impossible due to lack of water and ability to literally deal with our shite. However, beyond those manmade barriers lie a brighter future…a sustainable future.

In a nutshell, what will it take to change direction?

It must start with making the simple decision that the current direction is unpalatable to this community.

Without that decision, as Einstein noted, nothing different will happen.

Who makes that decision, and who has the power?

It is the “community’s” decision to make, and our community’s two elected representatives (Trustees), hold the power to enact the decision through amendments to OUR Official Community Plan and OUR Land Use Bylaw.

(NOTE – It is important to note that our elected representatives represent our interests to the Islands Trust. They do NOT represent the Islands Trust’s “interests” to us. The Trust’s interests are represented through the Chair of the Local Trust Committee, who is elected by Trust Council.)

If, in the best interests of the future of our community our OCP and LUB require changing, then it is incumbent upon our representatives to make those changes.

Read the following section of the Local Government Act, and ask yourself whether our current OCP addresses our “housing needs” adequately.

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;

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

 Yes, there are two paths we can go by, and in the short run, it is time to choose which road to head down.

To continue down the existing path and expect a different result to magically occur is…well…as Einstein said, insane.

If you agree, call or email your two representatives and tell them its time to change course.

pgrove@islandstrust.bc.ca

lpatrick@islandstrust.bc.ca
 

Douglas Firs – Killers in the Making Near You

December 22, 2018

I was going to wait until after Christmas to write this, but, just got tired of telling a shortened version of it to others.

Over the past while I’ve been telling people on the island that most of them have never taken a good look into the future when it comes to our local “natural” world.

We are surrounded by these things called trees. Believe it or not, trees grow over time. They start small but can get very big and tall. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The tree du jour is the Douglas fir (“DF”). A DF can grow up to about 250 feet. For people who like storeys, that’s 25 storeys high.

The vast majority of DF’s on the island are about 60 – 80 years old. Why so young you ask? Well, the last major logging (other than the Texada cuts) were…wait for it…about 60 – 80 years ago.

At that time tree replanting was virtually unheard of. DF’s and other species repopulated as they felt like it, where they felt like it.

Now, if after the last great logging events, nature had been left to its own devises, we would have had a forest fire by now, primarily because lightning causes about 60% of forest fires in B.C..

The forest fire(s) that never happened (or were artificially suppressed) would have taken out the smaller DF’s along with high oil content trees like cedars. Up in a large puff of CO2 filled smoke.

The DF’s that would have survived (due to their bark, not their height) would continue on in their upward direction.

Those DF’s which grew in wet areas, where…wait for it again…water was plentiful, didn’t need to sink their roots in deep. That was not a good plan for survival on the West Coast, as we have just witnessed, because, as well as fires, trees have to withstand winds.

As trees grow taller, physics begin to work against those with shallow roots. Their canopy gets larger by the year, just like unfurling a larger and larger sail. When the mast (trunk) or rigging (roots) can’t take the wind we find just how puny BC Hydro powerlines and poles (and the odd automobile) are in comparison.

The point of this story is simple. People in wooden houses shouldn’t grow large trees around them. Large trees are for parks. Large trees block ocean views and sunlight, crush cars, demolish houses, kill people and occasionally pets. If large trees were people, they would be arrested for constantly threatening bodily harm and damage to property.

Yes, on a calm day they are pretty to look at. They can also heat your home cheaper than electricity, and, provide better coverage for your fingers than a leaf for your daily constitutional.

But, the idiotic idea of protecting Douglas Firs on Salt Spring, other than in a park is….oh…I guess I already said what it is.

The next thing you know, people will want to ban woodstoves…oh wait, they’ve already begun that protest too. Yes, by all means, lets ban the only logical, readily available, renewable, alternative fuel to electricity, that has been used since the dawn of humankind (as JT would say), to keep us warm in the winter, when the electricity is out, by freeing up stored solar energy.

We are all lucky not to be in sub-freezing weather at the moment. So, the next time you throw another log on the fire, don’t forget, that while Nature, in the form of wood, can keep us housed, wiped and warm, unless you cut down trees around your house there is a chance they will eventually have an unconscious, and unintended, tendency to crush you in the winter or burn you to death in the summer.

So, let’s all give a shout out for BC Hydro crews, Neighbourhood Forest Management Plans and the implementation of Fire Smart practices for all…and of course, lets hear if for the very recent plummeting of cord wood pricing…$250 a cord of DF ought to be about right…and it appears we have a few years of soon to be seasoned material on the ground, with more on the way as the trees which survived…wait for it…keep growing, testing the limits of Nature.

By all means (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) share this if you like. A little common sense used to go a long ways…lets see if that is still true.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

PS – Don’t believe me? –

200′ Douglas Fir Kills Two

Douglas Fir Kills Lady

PPS – Rotten Maples are as dangerous.

PPPS – https://www.smh.com.au/environment/green-ideas-must-take-blame-for-deaths-20090211-84mk.html?fbclid=IwAR3Sa7ZsJS7uakP9jtIQPHqHyFBuLY5N-ZDf0kvaAnmLtumt45t5RNzrBR0

 

 

 

 

 

Dead End Street Folks

Dead end

Its over. Get over it. This “community,” which used to be the “toast of our town,” is toast.

School enrollment is down. Number of available rental units down. Rents up. Average home for sale is over $1,000,000. Median house price is $850,000. Income required to qualify (with 5% down) for median house = $200,000/year. Homeless numbers are up. People are living in tents and cars and boats and trailers, not by choice, but by circumstance. Country Grocer is bussing employees in from Vancouver Island. Island Savings has a number of off-island employees. Businesses are having challenges finding people to fill starting positions because of lack of housing in the low end. Health care beds are full. Assisted care facilities are full. Waiting lists are full.

The above trends aren’t temporary unless something drastic is done to pull this community out of the nose-dive it is in, and all indications are nothing drastic is being contemplated.

So, please…someone…anyone… tell me how making climate change a “top priority” is going to make things better? I don’t see a voluntary decrease in line ups at the Co-op. I don’t see a decrease in ferry traffic. I don’t hear a decrease in islanders taking vacations in far away warm climates. I don’t see a decrease in food from other countries being bought and consumed on a daily basis. I don’t see a decrease in the number of wood stoves or fireplaces in environmentalists’ homes. I don’t see an increase in bicycle traffic.

Please, point me in the direction of the saint on the island who doesn’t have a carbon footprint, or even nominate the person with the smallest carbon footprint – likely a homeless person living in a tent.

And pray tell, why is the latest sideshow distraction the concern over the future of the Coastal Douglas Fir forest on Salt Spring? Really? Look out your window and I would bet each and every person reading this will see a 60+ year old Douglas fir. I would further bet there is a Douglas fir tall enough to be within easy falling distance of the majority of homes. I challenge you to drive along our road systems and find a stretch of road longer than a hundred feet where you won’t see a Douglas fir growing on the road allowance. Douglas firs are doing just fine. In fact, they are becoming one of the greatest dangers facing Islanders. Far greater than climate change over the next decade or two.

Believe it or not, each year those trees grow taller, and their “sails” gain more area. Last year’s windstorm gave us a glimpse into the future of falling Douglas firs near you. That was just the appetizer. Full course meals will be served on a regular basis.

And, as each Winter windfall season ends more debris is accumulated on the forest floor across Salt Spring, waiting for that fateful day when a spark ignites a conflagration.

Is anyone cleaning their forest floor? How many people have even read the Fire Smart guidelines, let alone put them into effect?

But, back to my main point – climate change and Douglas firs are not our immediate solvable problems. Immediate and long term, affordability and availability of housing are.

The local government that can do something about that is the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee.

The “what” they can do is to make immediate changes to the OCP and Land Use Bylaw to increase density island wide for community housing.

But that’s just not going to happen. NIMBYists and BANANAists have taken over the island.

Those opposed to development, of any kind, have the loudest voices, and, emotionally shout out “stop climate change!” and “protect Douglas firs!” and “there’s no water!” as they drive their SUV’s, throw firewood into their woodstoves, and have their 20 minute once or twice daily shower.

Those nagging voices of doom are being listened to over the voices asking for decent places to live, so they can work and raise young families here.

Practical solutions abound, and have been submitted ad nauseum, but aren’t being acted upon.

Here’s a truth – In the history of humankind, lip service and/or myriads of studies and/or clutching of pearls over environmental issues have never built a single home.

Goodbye Salt Spring, I hardly knew ya…

Rest in peace 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Myopic Vision of Mr. Attorp…

Myopic

Def. “myopic” – shortsighted, narrow vision.

That aptly describes Mr. Frants Attorp’s Viewpoint article in the December 12, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood, titled “OCP survey suggested.”

I don’t know when Mr. Attorp moved to Salt Spring, but, I’m going to assume it was sometime after the 2008 OCP review, and, given his viewpoint, it is clear he either hasn’t studied the housing challenges this community faces, or, is in support of a lifestyle-of-the-rich-and-famous version of Salt Spring one hundred years from now.

In 2008, when the Trustees of the day lowered the densities available for amenity zoning from 100 to 40, they cut off the community’s nose to spite its face.

Like Mr. Attorp, those Trustees had not carefully considered the economics of real estate supply and demand as it applies to the future.

However, Mr. Attorp has the benefit of another 11 years of economic history to draw from, but has still failed to grasp reality.

Allow me to spell it out for him, and anyone who at this moment tends to agree with his perspective.

The lowest priced home on Salt Spring right now is $424,500. To qualify to purchase it, let’s say you can scrape together a 5% down payment of $21,225 and Property Purchase Tax $8,490, CMHC mortgage insurance of say $16,000, and closing costs of say $1,000 = $46,715.

Your mortgage will be $403,275, with monthly payments of about $2500.

Great you say, I can afford that because I’m already paying $2500/month in rent….however, now, to qualify under the current federal government lending regulations, you will need to qualify for the mortgage at 2% above prime.

The consequences of that qualification requirement mean you will need to have a combined family income of about $110,000…to purchase the lowest priced home on Salt Spring in December 2019.

Let’s take a look at some other current real estate realities.

The average price of a home for sale on Salt Spring at the moment is $1,025,000.

The median price of a home for sale on Salt Spring at the moment is $850,000…to qualify for a median home, with 5% down, you will need an annual income of about $190,000.

I will take all bets that house prices will be higher 5 years from now.

I’m hoping reality is setting in a bit.

And this is only 2019, not 2119…long after Mr. Attorp has left the planet.

That, in a nutshell should make anyone with a modicum of math skills understand that, unless radical measures are taken, this community as we know it, with the economic diversity which has given us such the cultural mosaic we currently cherish, will DIE…and, that’s what we are currently experiencing…the death of this community as we know it.

We live in arguably one of the nicest places in the world. It will not continue to go unnoticed as Vancouver, Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo continue to develop into multi-level suburbias.

Mr. Attorp’s stated concerns would have us become a naturally gated/moated community of the rich and famous.

As a born and raised Salt Spring Islander, I’m going to continue to call bullshit on that vision…sorry…lack of vision.

The solution to our housing crisis, which is also the solution to creating a vibrant, diverse, sustainable community, requires a significant increase in density to achieve.

Who’s fault is the situation we now find ourselves in? You can lay that at the very entity charged with preserving and protecting this community – the Islands Trust. With the implementation of the Islands Trust Act in 1974, the dynamics of supply and demand were put into effect. The Trust limited the supply, while the demand grew. The population has about quadrupled since the Act came into effect.

While Mr. Attorp suggests Islands Trust Policy Statement may be violated if sufficient number of community housing densities, necessary to preserve and protect the community, are created, his alternative of basically “do-nothing-everything-is-all-right-Jack-because-I-already-can-afford-to-live-here” is, IMO, not only myopic, but, completely self-serving (in that his property value will continue to rise).

Mr. Attorp suggests “a detailed questionnaire (be sent) to every household outlining strategies for dealing with growth, people pressure and the climate crisis, all while emphasizing the limitations of living in a protected area.”

Great, but as well as all of the scare issues being sent to everyone, the challenges of housing, as it relates to the survivability of this community, should also be spelled out.

In essence this would be a vote for your choice of:

(a) Close down all development because we think we are incapable of dealing with issues, in spite of the fact dozens of other communities worldwide have met the same challenges, or

(b) Face our challenges and make the necessary, albeit difficult, changes required to ensure the community does not become another Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket Island or Vale, Colorado.

Pick your choice….mine is (b).

Myopic 1

 

Disgrace of the Commons -Open Letter to CRD Director Gary Holman

Centennial Park, along with the Boardwalk, including the walkway around Gasoline Alley, has become a dog park, where smoking, drinking, vaping, swearing, pot/crack smoking, heroin injection, littering, and partying into the night are all too common events.

Centennial Park is supposedly the jewel of Ganges, where the world renowned Saturday Market attracts off-islanders.

It should be a place where families and children should be able to relax and play without being assaulted by the aforementioned activities.

The CRD is the authority over all of the areas (including the right of way around Gasoline Alley) and, has bylaws in place which are not being enforced.

The situation is not getting better. It is has not levelled out. It is getting worse.

Every business owner in the area is being affected.

It is time for our CRD Director, Gary Holman, and/or PARC, both of whom have the authority to have the bylaws enforced to act.

The park itself in the middle of summer is a disgrace as it has turns into a dust bowl due to not being watered, while the CRD pumps out 115,000 gallons of near drinkable water each and every into the harbor.

As I write this, the playground equipment is being replaced. It is time for the CRD to take the park back and gently move those who are abusing the space on to somewhere else – e.g. Peace Park seems like a reasonable compromise.

Mr. Holman, you’ve been dead set against incorporation for the past 20 years. Great. You won two years ago. Now FFS take responsibility for being the singular representative who can actually do something about this.

Come up with a plan, enact it, and do the job the community elected you to do.

The existing situation is a disgrace which is remediable. Remedy it.

 

 

Send in the Bailiff

BC’s Water Sustainability Act came into effect in 2015.

One of the Act’s prime purposes was to ensure that water is being used efficiently and responsibly.

Section 32 (2) allows for the government to appoint a “Water Bailiff” in cases where: ”

(2) If an engineer reports to the comptroller or a water manager that works used by more than one person are not being adequately repaired or maintained, the decision maker may appoint in writing one or more water bailiffs, set the terms and conditions of the appointments and give directions to the water bailiffs, including, without limitation, directions to

(a) operate and inspect the operation of specified works, and

(b) perform routine repairs on and maintain specified works.

In other words, if, as an example, an Improvement District, drawing water from a lake which had many other water licences on it, had leaks amounting to 19,000,000 gallons a year (25% of its withdrawal), and the works (pipeline supply) in question had not maintained to deal with the leaks, or that the reported leaks had not been investigated, the comptroller can appoint a Water Bailiff to remedy the leaks.

Given North Salt Spring Waterworks has not addressed the self-reported, annual, 25% leakage in the St. Mary Lake system since the Act became law, perhaps its time for the comptroller to send in the bailiff.

What’s the point of having a water conservation law if its not enforced against those who waste 19,000,000 gallons/year?

bailiff

The Sky Isn’t Falling Just Because November Rain Isn’t

The article in Driftwood’s December 4, 2019 issue (see below) would have the average reader alarmed…OMG it has stopped raining on Salt Spring and St. Mary Lake is really low!!

IMO, this just one more example of fear being used to manipulate the masses on the water issue.

First, here’s the article:

Driftwood NSSWD article December 4, 2019

So, let’s look at St. Mary Lake levels as of November 29th:

St. Mary Lake Water Levels November 2019

The first thing you’ll note is they are at the same level as last year (2018) at the same time, and, up until the middle of November, had been higher than 2009, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Now, lets look at the precipitation for this year:

November 2019 St. Mary Precipitation

You’ll note we had more rain in September than the 5 previous years, and nearly twice as much rainfall than the 1981-2010 climate normal average. October was above “normal.”

Here’s the precipitation at St. Mary over the past 43 years:

Precipitation 1976-2018So, November this year was significantly below “normal,” but, does anyone truly believe, given the current lake level, and the likelihood of more rain in the next five months, that lake levels are concerning at this point in time?

I see the article as just another exaggeration in a series of exaggerations intended to make people believe we are in a crisis.

Now, take a look at this historic perspective of St. Mary Lake levels and ask the question, why on earth did NSSWD remove the beaver dam in 2006, and thereby reduce the volume of the lake in summer months by about 80-90,000,000 gallons? Unless you’ve been following this blog, you likely have never seen this analysis. (Data source – NSSWD)

Lake Levels Before and After