Speeches were made, philosophies voiced and frustrations aired at a lightly attended meeting of Salt Spring Island’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) — but despite trustees seemingly in agreement that more should be done to advance the cause of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on the island, the legislative path forward now contemplates even fewer parcels where they might be allowed.
Proposed Bylaw 530, originally envisioned to create a legal pathway toward ADUs in several zones across Salt Spring, is now being advanced by the LTC, but replacing its “zoning by designation” approach with a modified map schedule. The new schedule would allow ADUs within the land use bylaw’s current Schedule “I” — a map showing where secondary suites are currently allowed — but excluding parcels where, as trustee Laura Patrick put it at the Oct. 12 meeting, the possibility of building ADUs “isn’t real.”
Specifically, parcels would be left behind by Bylaw 530 if they are currently within any water service district, such as the North Salt Spring Waterworks District service area — because a building permit would require a proof of water availability NSSWD currently would not grant due to its water connection moratorium — or are in areas served by wells within a moderate to high saltwater intrusion risk, as identified by provincial modelling in 2021.
The LTC passed, on a 2-1 vote with trustee Jamie Harris opposing, a resolution requesting a new map schedule to that effect — now affecting very few parcels. Indeed, designing the new map from the current Schedule “I” — with the seeming exclusion of agricultural-zoned properties, some of which also currently permit secondary suites — the number would be in the low double-digits.
“The resulting map will be itty bitty,” said Patrick. “But realistic. That’s the intent of this, because I don’t want people to have any expectations [just] because they see they’re located on a map, and then find out they can’t do it. It’s important so people can see how few [parcels] are brought forward. It’s honest.”
As he dissented, Harris said, “Since it’s sort of a political stunt idea to try and shed light on some of the bullying and legal threats from certain people, I’ll just vote against the motion.”
Patrick took exception to the “political stunt” characterization, while expressing a hope that perhaps the effect might be to drive new voices to make themselves heard before the LTC.
“There’s a narrative out there that the sky’s going to fall, and we’re going to double our population, and all of that,” said Patrick. “They’re the only ones writing letters. And I think if we pass the bylaw as-is, that group is going to send letters to the [Islands Trust] Executive Committee, and the Executive Committee is likely going to turn it down.”
Patrick told fellow trustees she felt that gave these particular letter-writers too much power in the process, and she wanted to “take the power from them, [and] give the power to people who need these houses.”
Harris said he felt the Executive Committee wouldn’t be an obstacle to any bylaw that would increase housing stock, and that the community had already weighed in.
“People voted for us to do something, to build housing,” said Harris. “This is nothing, it’s a drop in the bucket.”
The new map, and revised bylaw, is expected to return to the LTC; the current Schedule “I” map can be viewed at islandstrust.bc.ca/document/salt-spring-island-land-use-bylaw-no-355/.
Speaking after the meeting, Patrick said, “I’m frustrated, as usual,” by the Trust’s inability to take meaningful action on the affordable housing crisis.
“My expectation all along was to try to find a pathway for the legalization of ADUs. This staff report didn’t do it.”
Salt Spring Solutions is a community organization that had advocated for Bylaw 530.
“One of the greatest barriers to landing housing solutions in any community these days is opposition from residents who are concerned about potential negative impacts,” said Mairi Welman on behalf of the group, when asked for a comment by the Driftwood. “Any change in a community warrants informed public education and dialogue, but it’s seldom properly resourced by local government. The consequence is that most of the community has no idea that the conversation is even taking place, far less that they can take part in it, and the staff and decision-makers hear from the same few voices over and over again.
“If Salt Spring is to achieve its stated community goals of reducing GHG emissions, supporting active transportation, broadening housing equity, choice and affordability, protecting nature space and farmland, reducing wildfire risk, fostering social inclusion and aging-in-place then the approach to public education and engagement has to evolve. The dialogue must be equitable and include a broad spectrum of voices. Instead of focussing on the barriers to achieving our goals let’s, as a community, discuss how we can make them happen.”
Ron Wright is a member of the ad hoc group called Keep Salt Spring Sustainable that is opposed to the bylaw. He attended the Oct. 12 LTC meeting and provided the following comment.
“Bylaw 530 was never about housing for low-income islanders. ‘Affordable’ never appeared in it. This is why so many Salt Springers saw it as exploiting the housing shortage to shift major land-use decisions from public control into private hands. So it was no surprise when the bylaw died — in its worst form, anyway — at last week’s LTC meeting. But what did surprise was Laura Patrick’s rant against the press for what she called ‘these battles in the Driftwood.’ Trustee Patrick herself has often appeared in this paper and other media, as have opponents and supporters. That is only right: democracy can’t work without healthy debate in a free press. When lawmakers object to such debate they’re showing dictatorial impulses.”