By CRD Director Gary Holman
Salt Spring’s Local Community Commission (LCC) is already hard at work, deciding on two meetings per month, inviting presentations from former island-wide commissions of the Capital Regional District (CRD) and moving forward important planning projects such as the Portlock Park Master Plan and the Ganges Active Transportation Plan.
The LCC will begin considering 2024 provisional budgets and capital plans for delegated services at its Aug. 22 meeting and will be announcing an early evening town hall for Aug. 31. I will leave future formal reporting on LCC matters to elected chair Earl Rook.
Affordable Housing AAP and Initiatives
The CRD will be seeking municipal consent, and voter approval in electoral areas, to borrow $85 million for affordable housing investments in the region. This will be a successor to the CRD Regional Housing First (RHF) program, a partnership of CRD, BC Housing and the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation that has funded about 1,800 affordable housing units in the region, including the 54-unit Croftonbrook project on Salt Spring. I urge support for this initiative at a cost of roughly $2.30 per household per month, which hopefully will be matched by senior governments, regionally or on a project basis.
I recently attended a useful inter-agency workshop organized by Salt Spring Solutions to discuss their report Homes for All. A key report recommendation is for the CRD to establish a local entity to better coordinate affordable housing efforts. While this proposal deserves consideration, it is important to first clarify its objectives, given that Salt Spring has a housing council and several capable NGO housing developers and providers.
The CRD also has a regional housing corporation and program, and will be considering a rural housing strategy this fall to better support initiatives in electoral areas. There are a number of properties on Salt Spring already zoned or designated for affordable housing, with development potential of over 200 units. The key challenge to develop these properties, which will also free up existing rental stock, is to secure equity funding.
The CRD Electoral Areas Committee (EAC) recently requested a staff report on enforcement policy for alternative housing forms. The EAC and the CRD Board approved recommendations to continue the current approach — primarily complaint-based (i.e., not proactive) — and to advocate for a provincial review of alternative housing forms within the BC Building Code. However, it should be understood that tiny homes on wheels are still not compliant with the BC Building Code, and are potentially subject to CRD enforcement if there are health, safety or environmental concerns.
Ferries Plus Regional Transportation Proposal
Some disruption of local ferry service continues, primarily due to staffing issues.
However, the two extra sailings per day (except Sundays) during summer months recently implemented on the Fulford-Swartz Bay route appears to be having a positive impact on congestion that will be more apparent once construction on the Fulford terminal is complete.
BC Transit was also able to partly adjust to the new ferry schedule, although harmonization of these schedules should be improved next summer.
The additional sailings were advocated by the Salt Spring Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) and was part of BC Ferries’ submission to the BC Ferries Commissioner. The FAC also supported BC Ferries’ proposed deployment of two hybrid electric Island Class ferries on the Vesuvius-Crofton route in 2027-28, when both the Quinsam and Skeena will provide summer service at Fulford, further mitigating village congestion. More frequent ferry service at Fulford and Vesuvius will also facilitate improved transit service to these terminals.
With most of the public attention focused on BC Ferries service disruptions, the recent provincial government commitment of $500 million to stabilize fares over the next decade has gone almost unnoticed.
CRD has initiated consultation with member municipalities and electoral areas regarding the merits of a regional transportation service. Electoral area directors and the Salt Spring LCC have been asked to respond to an initial survey.
My concern is that Salt Spring households would pay the same property taxes per dollar of assessed value, but not receive the same service level as the Greater Victoria area. That is why I established a stand-alone transit service in 2008 rather than have Salt Spring join the regional system, and also to avoid the gas tax on fuel.
It is also very unlikely that BC Ferries and our provincial roads would be included in a CRD regional transportation service.
Emergency Preparedness and Water Conservation Measures
Salt Spring Island has so far escaped the destructive wildfires being experienced elsewhere in B.C., but we must continue to be vigilant. If you observe wildfire smoke, please call 911 to alert our local fire department.
I urge residents, if you haven’t already, to sign up for the CRD Public Alert Notification System on the CRD website, and to join your neighbourhood POD. Also be aware that North Salt Spring Waterworks District and our local CRD water districts have declared water conservation measures restricting non-essential water uses.
As always, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.