The public laneway adjacent to the Tree House (aka Manson Rd) is within the core of our downtown, where we as community and tourists alike gather to share 111+ consecutive nights of great live music while dining under the stars, year after year, every summer. That all changes this year. It appears that the music will be silent and dinner will be absent from the Tree House Cafe several nights a week, every week, throughout this coming summer season. This must be the result of nearly two years of bureaucratic run-around and the ongoing lack of resolution to the 2014 July 1 Canada Day notice that the harbour authority served to the Tree House demanding that they cease alcohol sales to the cafe's outdoor tables. The harbour authority's notice also stated that they would no longer permit the cafe to place any tables at all outside along the walkway once the summer 2014 summer season concluded. Had the Tree House been forced to comply with this ludicrous seating demand, surely we would have all brought our own chairs down to the laneway in protest, night after night, week after week, until resolution was found.
With recognition of the support of our community, along with a rapidly-filled petition gaining over 2500 signatures, the cafe made the decision to resume placing some of their tables back in the laneway beyond 2014, where they’d been for years, and the tables have been allowed to remain ever since. Last week's article states that the harbour authority is now presenting a temporary “compromise” to the Tree House Cafe to allow adding further tables as well as resuming outdoor alcohol sales. The proposed compromise sounds a lot like a renunciation of the original nasty notice that HASSI served to the cafe on their busiest day of the year nearly two years ago, just so the Tree House could basically resume serving our community the way they’d been doing uncontested for years. On top of taking nearly two years to apparently come back around to square one, the openly admitted last-minute timing of this offer of temporary compromise/return-to-how-it-
As quoted in last week's Driftwood article, “HASSI heard the community, we heard the petition, we heard all that,” and “What we did was we immediately engaged in a process.” Hmm, you can bet that Mark and Terena LeCorre, owners the Tree House Cafe and very involved and bighearted community members, were forced to immediately “engage in a process” - an endless two year process of countless hours of frustration and dead-ends trying to figure out a way forward on any number of fronts that have resulted in nothing but remaining in limbo. The process that the harbour authority immediately engaged in, whatever that has been, has jeopardized the continued operation of the musical hub of our community and has resulted in the loss of our well known 111+ nights of music under the stars program this summer, and perhaps beyond.
In the prominently stated and ultimately confusing secondary headline from last week's article, “License of Occupation to Allow Tree House Cafe Use”, we are led to believe the implied notion that everything is resolved or that surely there must be imminent resolution, and that the issue can now finally be put to rest. Yet in the same article the DFO is stated as having said that “they could potentially support SSITC's [(Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission's)] application for the license of occupation for Manson Road”, and then the article lists a number of follow-up requirements that are still remaining to be met. Why haven't these follow-up requirements already been met over the last twenty-two months, particularly if HASSI engaged in a process immediately? How much longer is it going to take? And come to think of it, you might ask, and indeed you should, WHY is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
There may be a historical answer, related to where the land originated. Parts of this little section of land with outdoor tables next to the Tree House, which HASSI would like to see paved into a full road directly to the boardwalk, used to be shorefront before being infilled somewhere around 45 years ago. So, prior to it's current state, a slice of this area was part of the ocean, and even though this little piece of the core hub of our town hasn't been underwater for over four decades, in a sense it seems like a part of it has been dragged back under somehow during the past two years.
When this area was no longer shoreline, those parts that were filled in with Land should have ordinarily been transferred to jurisdiction of the local governing body on Salt Spring Island, but this step was apparently never officially completed. With the CRD being the local governing body of our island, they are the agency who should have open, transparent, and local decision making jurisdiction over this little parcel of land.
This is where our opportunity lies for resolution. If you value the Tree House Cafe and all they have been providing our community for so many years, and despite the threats they’ve been under throughout the last two, now is the time to contact CRD Director Wayne McIntyre, SSI Transportation Commission Chair Robin Williams, our MLA Gary Holman, and our MP Elizabeth May and let them all know you strongly support their resolving this jurisdictional issue as a priority and allow the License of Occupancy to be granted to the local CRD. We can’t afford to lose this community hub, and it can't afford to lose us.
Just One of Many Friends of the Tree House