It’s reasonable to assume that the Islands Trust is endeared by many but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. As one of your hard-working trustees, I’ve encountered seemingly endless criticism that at times can be disheartening. I do this job because I love these islands just like many of you. We want to maintain our island culture and its uniqueness, but we also want to sustain our communities, economies and quality of life, ALL within healthy, fully functional ecosystems. These things are not at cross purposes to each other, because they are all dependent on each other. To be very clear – I am not saying do one at the expense of the other.
In its March 2021 meeting, Trust Council affirmed its understanding that the mandate of the Trust, which is embodied within the Islands Trust Act, includes the concept of, and protection of, healthy and inclusive communities including (but not limited to) housing and transportation. This affirmation is not a shift in direction or a reordering of priorities; it is a statement of clarification. I have always understood the mandate of the trust to mean that I have a responsibility towards our constituency (people) AND the environment. The Trust is different from every other “local government” in British Columbia because we have a statutory legal obligation to the environment, in addition to all other obligations.
With the start of a new fiscal year and budgets now approved, we are getting to work on a number of interrelated and intertwined planning activities to address what matters to Salt Spring residents the most: housing, Ganges Village, water sustainability, AND protecting the environment. All of this work will respectfully and meaningfully consider Reconciliation, equity and climate change. As you know, the Islands Trust is not a fully-fledged local government entity; however, the Local Trust Committee is enabled and entrusted with the responsibility, through the Local Government Act, to direct the location, density and form of all housing. Zoning, subdivision and other land use bylaws are powerful and foundational tools that our community can use proactively to achieve a diverse and sustainable supply of housing, and to curtail residential development that is out-of-step with our community’s climate action and equity needs.
We need to work towards intelligent and comprehensive solutions that simultaneously address multiple issues confronting our island -- such as housing, biodiversity, watersheds and water supply, the climate emergency, forest health, land use, small business health, food security, and the community spirit and resiliency of our society. We know that finding consensus might be difficult, but with respectful, considered dialogue we can and must find common understanding.
You need to know that we are NOT meeting in the dark and drafting contentious new bylaws. We are committed to early and ongoing community dialogue because the decisions we make today shape the lives of future generations. If you have questions, please ask us! firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Here is a quick update on the planning activities underway.
Ganges Village Area Plan
This will be a detailed plan that guides development in Ganges Village. Task force members have been appointed. Additional task force members will be recruited to expand the diversity and capabilities of the group. The task force will start to meet and kick off the community -engagement activities. The trustees and staff have initiated community-to-community meetings with First Nations to dialogue about this plan and the other planning activities. Staff have initiated dialogue with a number of key stakeholder agencies and organizations.
Housing Action Plan
The first deliverable will be prioritized options. Any solutions that address urgent housing needs will be advanced immediately. “More study” is not anticipated. We expect the task force to carefully mine the many existing reports. Task force members will be appointed at the April Local Trust committee meeting. Expect community engagement activities to begin soon.
Protection of Coastal Douglas-Fir and Associated Ecosystems
This project is currently in the information gathering and education phase. No policy or regulatory bylaws have been developed. Available soon will be a series of educational materials that will help guide your own stewardship activities around your home. A science working group is assessing existing information to identify any gaps. Once their review is complete, community engagement will be initiated to explore what, if any, policy or regulatory approaches are needed.
There are a number of planning activities occurring: proof of water for subdivision; Weston Lake water availability and climate change assessment; and, a watershed protection strategic plan.