Significantly-different from the highly-energized group welcoming Trustee Laura Patrick, the 10 folks who came to discuss issues with Gary at this ASK Salt Spring gathering in the United Church Meadow were relaxed and savouring an opportunity to sit together in the shade of the apple trees.
After our Territorial Acknowledgement and a few brief words from Gary, mostly about his on-going focus on the safety concerns along the Booth Canal - Central Pathway, we began by learning quite a bit about Transition Salt Spring Enterprise Cooperative (TSSEC). Providing loans for green projects, it has provided 26 loans totaling $150,000 to local individuals, non-profits, and small businesses. The first such organization in rural BC, it has been giving loans for a decade. Boasting over 100 members, each member can lend up to $10,000, receiving their money back as well as some interest.
Remarkably, as these loans commonly are given to those who cannot get a low interest line of credit (often against their property), in its decade of operation, no loan has been defaulted. It was theorized that Salt Spring’s small, tightly-knit community is a strong contributing factor to this success. We learned that a large, regional enterprise cooperative just closed its doors, possibly because successful programs, such as Salt Spring’s, require a small, cohesive, community to thrive.
Currently, TSSEC has more money than projects and is seeking to offer loans. Any individual requesting money need only submit a personnel credit report. Interested? And. . . .there is also a board position available if you want to be part of this exciting incubator for our island’s green projects.
A participant asked a question - and none of us had an answer: With solar panels getting more and more efficient, many are replacing their decade-old panels with new ones. While understandable, she asked whether the rumour was true that these older solar panels were ending up in our landfills..Anyone know whether we have a local answer to this question?
Participants expressed concerns about the excessive speed on our roads. While municipalities can lower speed limits as needed, as rural roads in an unincorporated community, that decision is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). Rural, off-highway provincial speed limits are generally set at 50 km/hr or higher (with the exception of school zones).
While many feel that we should have control of our roads, a hotly-debated subject during our incorporation referendum, Gary reminded us of the kilometers of poorly-built roads with deferred maintenance that we would be inheriting. With many of our roads actually old logging roads without a good foundation, the incorporation study estimated that bringing them up to standards could cost an estimated $33 million of local taxpayer dollars. This estimate was based on a visual inspection of pavement condition and did not even include more fundamental and costly structural issues such as the road bed itself or culverts.
Gary also reminded us that, while we are taxed for road maintenance, the emergencies, like the washouts of Stewart, Walkers Hook, and Isabella Point Roads are funded separately by MoTI. A single event could cost millions to repair.
Without ownership of our roads, we are left with limited avenues for advocacy. But, slowly, the Transportation Commission and others are exploring these avenues, including:
- Petition: A petition to reduce speed limits in Ganges and signed by over 300 Salt Springers was presented to the legislature by MLA Adam Olsen, who is very supportive.
- Planning: It is expected that the Islands Trust’s Ganges Village Planning process, which will include the development of an active transportation plan by the Transportation Commission, will consider Ganges speed limits.
- MoTI Speed Limit Reduction Pilot Study: Later this year, it is expected that Salt Spring will be invited to submit a proposal to pilot reduced speed limits.
- Engineering Analysis of Current Limits: Our MoTI Area Manager has requested a study analyzing our roads from an engineering perspective to determine if our current speed limits are safe.
- ICBC Signage and Safety Marking Study: Salt Spring is on the list to get a study of our signs and road safety markings to assess where improvements are needed. Postponed due to COVID, we are hoping that this study will be completed this year.
- Support from our Area Manager: Our MoTI Area Manager has told us on several occasions that he believes that Ganges speed limits are too high.
While we might be making some progress on various approaches to reduce speed limits, even getting folks to obey the current limits is a challenge. An important step in this direction, our RCMP Sargent, Clive Seabrook, is ready to launch a Speed Watch Program, seeking volunteers to monitor a mobile speed reader in various locations around Salt Spring. Interested? Contact Clive: Clive.Seabrook@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Gary was asked what is taking so long completing the shovel-ready design drawings for the HarbourWalk. He reminded us of the long journey even to get to the point of proceeding with shovel-ready designs. After years of controversial attempts to rezone the upland in order to secure a public right of way (RoW) for the HarbourWalk, in 2018 the Trust finally submitted an application for a RoW to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development ( FlNRORD). (CRD subsequently took over this application.) Luckily, the lease of one of the largest lease-holders was up for renewal. Continued advocacy by the CRD and the Trust convinced FINRORD to include a clause in the renewed lease that allows the Province to provide a public foreshore right of away. With that assurance, further investments in detailed designs (for which gas tax funding has already been set aside) are possible.
This right-of-way will be legally secured when shovel-ready drawings are complete. Listed as a top priority by PARC late last year, Gary does not have a specific timeline for release of a Request for Proposals for the completion of these designs. He did remind us, however, of the large number of capital projects on PARC’s to list, numbering over two dozen. These include the huge new task of preparing a business plan for community use of the Middle School and the possible acquisition of a large property in the Maxwell Mountain area, opportunities which have emerged only recently and are time sensitive.
While the money needed for these shovel-ready HarbourWalk design plans has been secured, the funding for construction has not yet been identified. This funding could be secured through grants, community fundraising, and even a referendum. Regarding a referendum Gary reminded us of the two top infrastructure priorities requiring funding - construction of a new emergency room at Lady Minto and a referendum to replace our firehall with one that meets seismic and other regulatory standards, expected as soon as this fall or early in the new year.
Gary hopes that this new firehall will also house our Emergency Operations Program, currently located in an earthquake-vulnerable basement of the building housing provincial services. He also hopes that the current firehall will be retained by the community, possibly for an indoor Farmers’ Market.
As 1:00 approached, we learned that PARC is negotiating a five-year lease with the School District for the Middle School. If at some point, a longer lease can be negotiated, the co-location of CRD and even Islands Trust offices, all three of which are paying commercial rents, might be a possibility.
Gary also told us that CRD staff in Victoria will likely be requested to prepare an analysis of the costs and logistics of initiating a business licence program to better enforce the rules prohibiting vacation rentals on Salt Spring.
And, as Gary had switched his second Friday of the month to meet his schedule, it will be his turn again, Friday, July 9, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow
Would you like Gary to tell us. . . .
- What is happening to address the Booth Canal-Central safety concerns?
- How are talks with North Salt Spring Waterworks District progressing?
- When will the Middle School be available for community use?
- What is happening with the HarbourWalk Plans?
- How is the composting project progressing?
- Have the Burgoyne Wastewater Treatment ponds been decommissioned yet so that we can finally begin to move forward?
- And. . . .?
Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.
Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.
Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.
See you at the Meadow!
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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ASK Salt Spring