Eight hardy Salt Springers gathered in the cold rain and wind at the Portlock Picnic Pavilion to welcome Laura Patrick, one of our two Local Trustees for the Islands Trust, to ASK Salt Spring.
During her Territorial Acknowledgement, Laura spoke with deep appreciation of a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention workshop that she had recently attended, Pathways to Truth & Reconciliation. In this workshop, four esteemed panelists, including the Honourable Murray Sinclair, discussed how Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities can walk further along the path to Reconciliation. (Note: While the entire speech does not seem to yet be available on the UBCM website, you may find the following link helpful.
When asked to tell us what was on her mind before we launched into questions, Laura spoke about the power of community when working toward common goals. Laura is convinced that we can accomplish a great deal when we share and work toward common goals. She believes the local planning initiatives for housing and Ganges Village represent important common goals where islanders can help by taking action to shape our future.
We learned about the Islands Trust Federation’s (representing the entire Islands Trust area) community engagement strategy for the Trust Policy Statement update. Laura spoke appreciatively of the speed in which staff retained a consultant to analyze the situation and to propose an engagement plan that is strategic, clear, and expansive. Trust Council will consider the proposed engagement plan at its upcoming meeting, September 21-23.
Laura assured us that we will have many opportunities to share our opinions about the draft Islands Trust Policy in the coming months.
Laura noted that this Trust Policy Statement is required by provincial legislation, the Islands Trust Act, and provides the overarching vision and goals the Trust needs to carry out its preserve and protect mandate while also allowing each island to shape its own community plan to address its unique needs.
Specifically, the Islands Trust is mandated to:
. . .preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the Trust Area and of British Columbia generally, in cooperation with municipalities, regional districts, improvement districts, other persons and organizations and the government of British Columbia.
Laura was asked, Aren’t Salt Spring’s issues different enough to be handled separately with a different Policy? She replied that once this Trust Policy is adopted, it will apply to all of the member Islands equally; however each island still has its own Official Community Plan.
When a participant asked why we don’t just get rid of the Islands Trust, Laura replied that she was elected by her constituents to work within the existing governance framework to address the many critical issues facing islanders.
When asked what she had accomplished in her almost-three years in office, Laura cited the establishment of two Islands Trust task forces - the Ganges Village Plan and Housing. We learned about a largely-underutilized coordinating role defined in the Islands Trust Act: The Islands Trust can enter into agreements with one or more agencies to coordinate activities. (The Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) is an example of such coordination.) The Housing and Ganges Village Plan task forces, requiring coordination across multiple agencies, are other examples of the Trust’s coordinating responsibility.
With these two task forces, the Ganges Village Plan and Housing, in place and community engagement about to begin, Laura is convinced that we will soon see the benefits of these two important planning initiatives. For example, the Housing task force has just recommended a series of immediate actions to the Local Trust Committee for its consideration. Click here for more information about these two task forces as well as other Local Trust Committee projects.
It is Laura’s hope that these task forces will result in solutions that will direct future development in our villages. She believes that we need to create walkable, vibrant villages where people from all economic strata live, work, shop, and play.
One example of something that could be done in the near future is improvement of the density transfer option to fully compensate and incentivize landowners to transfer existing densities away from undeveloped areas and to our villages.
Laura spoke of an important lesson that she has learned in her role as a Local Trustee - the value of “lingering” in the project definition phase of an initiative rather than jumping to a solution. She gave the example of a coastline protection initiative that the Thetis Island Local Trust Committee (which she chairs) is considering. These Trustees decided to linger in the project definition phase, directing the development of a discussion paper defining the problem and exploring a full range of options.This discussion paper will be developed through dialog with First Nations, indigenous elders, and the community along with a thorough look at what other communities are doing.
Laura was asked about the Vortex development at the site of the former Fulford Inn. We learned that the land was already zoned for the development of commercial accommodations. The Local Trust Committee did approve a variance for a septic system that encroached into a setback but also amended the variance permit to require metering and monitoring of the system to ensure effluent meets the promised performance measures. A Development Permit must still be issued by the Local Trust Committee before the development can proceed. Other agencies may be involved in issues such as potable water approvals and archeological protection. When asked how a such development can move forward in an area subject to sea level rise, we learned that Salt Spring’s Official Community Plan and land use bylaw have not yet been amended to respond to the risk of sea level rise.
When Laura was asked whether we have adequate information about the magnitude of the impacts of sea level rise here on Salt Spring, she replied that good maps exist, both through CRD and as a part of our Salt Spring Climate Action Plan 2.0. Areas that are vulnerable include Fulford Creek flood plain and the filled-in portions of Ganges Village. While outlying areas are, in general, not as vulnerable to expected sea level rise, low-lying areas and shorelines will be vulnerable to storm surges.
Planning for sea level rise is an important aspect of the Ganges Village Plan.
A question was raised about the First Nations engagement concerning the draft Trust Policy Statement. This participant shared that his Status Indian family felt ignored even though they have resided on Salt Spring Island since before British Columbia was part of Canada. This participant expressed fears that his family’s traditional livelihoods could be threatened by Trust actions. Laura replied that, to date, the Islands Trust has primarily engaged First Nations government-to-government. But, the plan for this next phase of public engagement concerning the draft Policy identifies indigenous people living in the islands as a participant group.
In closing, a participant made a plea that we stop using fear and misinformation to express our opinions, and instead, learn to listen, compromise, and find solutions that work for everyone. Laura wholeheartedly agreed!
With frozen hands, we applauded Laura for braving the elements to be with us for this enlightening and issue-rich conversation. Thank-you, Laura!
ASK Salt Spring will be postponed next Friday, September 24, ceding our wonderful Meadow to the Climate Action Strike.
Please join our mental health professionals, led by David Norget, co-chair of Salt Spring Health Advancement Network (SSHAN), Friday, October 1, 11-1. David and his team will answer your questions, lead us in a discussion of mental health challenges on Salt Spring, and tell us about an exciting mental health initiative.
Come to the United Church Meadow (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if raining) 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!
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