Incorporation: We Can Do So Much Better

What we have on Salt Spring is rural sprawl. It’s the opposite approach to community planning that one would expect to see. Ganges is dead after 6PM, everyone clears out and goes home. You could fire a cannon and no one would even notice. What if home for more people was right in Ganges?

Just imagine that for a second… a vibrant, lively evening scene with galleries, coffee shops, etc, open. Maybe a hostel, or two. Mahon Hall being used more frequently as a go-to place for live entertainment.

Why has higher density not been adopted in and around town? Apartments, condos, etc. How about if the height restriction had been 3 stories within a given area around Ganges? We’d see the tried-and-true model of retail/commercial on the ground floor with apartments and/or condos up above used more widely. Even the library could have been designed with at least one layer of residential up above it, and that could have at least paid for that building’s overhead instead of being an annual financial drain. My point is, just look at Ganges and it’s all wrong.

This didn’t happen by accident, much of the area in and around town was laid out since 1974 (when the Islands Trust was created). Other developments happened during its mandate that have been disasters like Channel Ridge. And yet still more large developments are happening now (Skywater and the estates on Mt Tuam).

Where is the preserving and protecting, and how is continuing the rural sprawl with 5-acre lots protecting nature or stepping in line with 21st century smart living (density within commercial areas which would compliment walking and cycling safely, using water catchment instead of municipal systems, etc)?

Sprawl was backwards in the past and from where I’m sitting, still backwards. Yet it persists. There doesn’t seem to be room for vision in our current model. That takes leadership. What we have on Saltspring is the CRD which handles the capital expenses, and with Islands Trust the Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaws… zoning rules. What about beyond that? We have a technocracy. And to add to the story, the attitude from CRD Victoria is that we don’t exist because we’re an electoral district, not a municipality like the rest of the communities at the CRD table (Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, Saanich, etc)

So, our own Salt Spring CRD director goes to Victoria with his hat in his hand expressing our local needs and we’re left with the hind teat, as it were. The back of the line. Tons of money sitting in the kitty for our own needs here but we’re given a little trickle at a time. Is this fair? Do we deserve better? You bet we do.

Is there another way? You bet there is. Our needs in the community are evolving at a much quicker pace than the current disjointed system can accommodate. It tends to move at an agonizingly slow rate.

We have VERY high numbers of child-taking by the provincial ministry, domestic abuse, mental illness… and these issues are not just going to go away or get better on their own… they need attention, and funding. REAL funding, not a bake sale like we seem to usually rely on.

And housing. Thank heavens I managed to get into the market two years ago or I’d have to leave here, in spite of having a successful business. I know the rental market is scant all up and down the west coast, but here we have a double whammy… absolutely sub-par rental stock (rat infested and/or rotting) as well as enforcement against illegal suites. A building inspector told me a couple years ago up to 90% of the rental stock is not legal. Which means almost anywhere you rent, if you can even find something… is non-conforming and you can be kicked out. Musical chairs. It’s not fun any more. In fact it’s downright humiliating. Yet how many of the Trust planners are living in illegal housing? The Local Trust Council continues to grant itself time and time again temporary permits to keep the Islands Trust offices in its current location, despite the improper zoning. But I digress…

There’s lots of talk and a lot of promises of things happening on the affordable housing front, but we have yet to see the dirt being turned. So here we are holding our breath, trying not to suffocate. Things need to happen here. Right now. Like, yesterday. The world is not going to stop turning just because we live in our little snow-shaker of an island, many trying to curate it like it’s a museum.

This community is growing mouldy, we are not progressing. We’re stunted, and the cracks are definitely showing on our cheerful, rainbow, electric-car driving veneer. Where are the composting toilets? The local industrial composting facility which would accommodate table scraps as well as material from the sewage treatment plant? Centennial Park utilizing treated water from the sewage plant to keep it green through the summer instead of it turning into a dust bowl? The tiny home communities? The micro hydro power generated by using the Mt Maxwell NSSWD lines?

We’re ready for these things. It’s what the rest of the outside world is cheering us on to become. We talk the talk here, and Saltspring could be the poster child of progressive living. Without becoming a municipality these ideas will never happen, thanks to levels of red tape equivalent of an East African country… and we’ll be on the path to becoming an elitist island with diminishing services. And also a community of wanna-be’s, of coulda-woulda-shoulda…

I see so many clinging on here for dear life, but every so often something shakes the blanket and more fall off. Services will suffer. Teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters not having a place to live. I don’t want to see that happen, and that is why I am voting YES on Sept 9th.”

By Dave Campbell, 14 year resident, local tradesperson and musician.

July 19, 2017 9:05 AM