ASK Salt Spring with Salt Spring Islands Trustee Laura Patrick

First, how are you doing during this crisis?

Our household is adjusting to the stay home and social distancing norms. We worry about our eldest family members who are most vulnerable. My mother can now answer a FaceTime call, and she appears to be enjoying this form of communication.

Can you tell us what the Islands Trust, especially our Local Trust Committee (LTC), is doing to help address this pandemic?

On the operations side, Islands Trust has taken clear steps to minimize the transmission of Covid-19. This has included closing our offices to the public, sending most staff home to work, and suspending all site visits to limit off-Island visitors. As we emerge from this situation, the LTC will be eager to engage Salt Springers in a conversation about what regulatory and policy changes are necessary to ensure that our community is as resilient as possible to address future challenges.

In addition to Islands Trust business, I am chairing a task force to coordinate our business and farm response and recovery plan. This task force is focused upon coordinating support for businesses and farms to best utilize our resources and avoid duplication. This is all about locals supporting locals and building a more resilient community. We need everyone to help our farms and businesses as we move through this pandemic.

Both Trustee Grove and I attend bi-weekly emergency program stakeholder meetings run by the CRD where community needs are identified and actioned. We also participate in weekly meetings with MLA Adam Olsen and MP Elizabeth May.

Given the backlog in normal times, how will our LTC handle the many applications that have been put on hold during this crisis?

Staff are continuing to process development applications. However, an organization-wide moratorium on site visits and the cancellation of the March LTC meeting will put us a bit behind. Some applicants have actually requested their applications be held in abeyance due to uncertainty about financial or business plans. Nonetheless, the LTC has approved a few simple applications by Resolution-Without-Meeting, and we hope that once more people are comfortable with the new electronic meeting format, the LTC can consider development applications using that format.

What (if any) impact will the temporary postponement of Islands Trust initiatives have on the issue of logging on private land?

In our last LTC meeting, we directed staff to modify the Douglas Fir and Associated Ecosystems project charter to include more collaboration, education, and communication. I am looking forward to receiving the staff report with these modifications as well as their recommended next steps at a future meeting. In the meantime, Island organizations and scientists are requesting funding to prepare education materials about the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem.

Please give us your perspective on the proposal to give Islands Trustees the authority to approve Temporary Use Permits for full-time occupancy cottages.

I am currently chairing a housing working group that is developing a planning project proposal.This work is promising and exciting, and I prefer to wait for this proposal before taking any further incremental steps, such as enacting Bylaw 471 (temporary use permits for residential use, such as cottages, suites, and tiny homes). This pandemic is showing us how important it is to have a resilient community, and housing is a critical component.

What do you find to be your biggest challenge as our Islands Trustee?

It is important to me that the LTC obtain meaningful public input that represents a diverse community perspective. I continue to advocate for more community communication and collaboration.

Have there been any lessons learned from this pandemic that you would like to apply to future Islands Trust activities and/or procedures?

There is a high level of cooperation among organizations who are responding to the pandemic. The planning to help our community, businesses, and farms respond to this crisis will result in a more resilient community. Emergencies have a way of bringing people together, and I hope this spirit of cooperation carries forward into our LTC activities.

What are you able to do as a Trustee during this period in which you cannot hold regular public LTC meetings?

Salt Spring Island LTC’s inaugural electronic meeting is scheduled for April 28, 2020. (Stay tuned for meeting log-in information.) In the meantime, I have been attending LOTS of ZOOM meetings. As a Vice Chair, I have been meeting weekly with the Islands Trust Executive Committee to address issues impacting our organization. I have also been checking in with staff for updates on their work and to stay informed about upcoming LTC issues. On April 17, I chaired an electronic meeting of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) - an interagency group focused upon the health of our watersheds.

Is the LTC considering resumption of public meetings?

Islands Trust will continue to take direction from provincial health authorities concerning public gatherings. For the moment, there is no plan to resume in-person LTC meetings on Salt Spring. Interestingly, in March, the BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued an order allowing local governments to conduct electronic meetings without providing a physical space for the public. The Islands Trust was not included in this order. As a result, we still need to provide a physical space for the public to assemble for our meetings, even if the Trustees are all participating online. The Islands Trust Executive Committee made the decision to designate the boardroom of Islands Trust Victoria office as that physical space for all LTC meetings of the Trust Area, but please just log-in from home! (Remember to look for the log-in information for the April 28 LTC meeting.)

What is your perspective on tourists who are beginning to flock to Salt Spring?

Gary Holman, Peter Grove, and I have taken every opportunity to share our island residents’ concerns about tourists with our MLA and MP. The business and farm response and recovery task force which I chair launched a Stay Home Stay Safe campaign before the Easter weekend. I have been clear that now is not the time to visit our island. We must avoid a cluster of COVID-19 here, and, to do this, we must all practice social distancing, stay safe at home, and and follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s instructions.

April 29, 2020 8:00 AM

Community Comments