Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

Director summarizes CRD and housing initiatives

By GARY HOLMAN, CRD Director

The following is a summary of community projects and initiatives underway this next term — through 2026 — in which the Capital Regional District (CRD) has or can play a role. 

Affordable Housing

Construction and planning of new affordable housing will continue on a number of properties already designated or zoned for that purpose. BC Housing’s supported housing on Drake Road and the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation’s Seabreeze Inne for health workers will be completed. CRD will prove additional water supply on, and has leased to BC Housing, the entire Drake Road site, which has significant additional development potential. CRD is also working with the Dragonfly proponents on Drake Road to establish a water utility, allowing this owned, worker housing project to proceed. 

The Lookout Society has purchased the Land Bank’s Dean Road property and is now renovating it for additional tenants. Lookout is also exploring other possible opportunities on Salt Spring Island. Another NGO has an accepted offer on the Land Bank’s Rainbow Road property and is undertaking the due diligence necessary to hopefully complete the purchase and begin re-development of the site. GISRA is re-designing its Meadow Lane project, which can begin once the temporary accommodation for Seabreeze tenants at this site is no longer needed.

The six projects and properties outlined above could provide more than 200 affordable and supported housing units, many of whose tenants and owners will also be working in our community. Most of these projects will prioritize Salt Spring residents, which means they will also free up existing rental housing. Provincial and senior governments are continuing their substantial investments in affordable housing from which Salt Spring will continue to benefit. The CRD will also renew its regional housing program, which together with BC Housing and CMHC committed $120 million to affordable housing last term. I’ll continue supporting gas tax funding for housing-related infrastructure (particularly potable water alternatives in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s moratorium area), continue advocating for inclusion of Salt Spring Island in the Speculation and Vacancy Tax program, and work with our local homeless shelter and housing council to help secure permanent funding.   

Community Infrastructure

There are a number of important CRD-supported infrastructure projects that will be completed this term, most importantly a new fire hall and a new emergency room at Lady Minto Hospital. The middle school — now called the Salt Spring Island Multi Space (SIMS) — leased by CRD from the school district, is now providing affordable rental space for a number of community organizations, including our local emergency program. If longer-term tenure can be secured, the feasibility of relocating CRD administration and building inspection offices (now paying commercial rents) to SIMS can be examined. 

The feasibility of re-purposing the Ganges fire hall property will also be undertaken this term. 

Upgrading of the geothermal system by CRD at our public library will allow its use as a summer cooling centre. I’ll continue supporting gas tax funding to improve the climate resiliency of our community halls and refurbishing of our arts facilities. 

The Maliview sewage treatment plant will be rebuilt to ensure regulatory compliance, and continued improvements and an assessment of treated water reclamation at the Ganges plant undertaken. Lower-cost on-island disposal of our liquid waste will be evaluated and implemented. 

The first large-scale composting facility on Salt Spring will be completed, initially selling soil amendment to Burgoyne Community Farm operators, and ultimately marketing them more broadly. The fire district and CRD are collaborating on FireSmart initiatives, including chipping as an alternative to burning, which can also provide feedstock for the composting facility. 

The Root facility on Beddis Road will be fully operational, increasing Salt Spring’s local food storage and production capacity. The CRD stormwater service will continue to fund water storage tank rebates administered by the Transition Salt Spring Society.

The repaving of Ganges hill to Cranberry Road, with widened shoulders for cyclists and pedestrians, will be completed, serving as a model for completing the Salish Sea Trail route. The Ganges active transportation plan and an inter-agency working group for the Fulford terminal will facilitate pedestrian and cycling safety improvements in these villages. 

The Merchant Mews pathway, designed by Island Pathways, will be built. Detailed designs for completion of sidewalks on Rainbow Road and fronting Ganges Harbour, as well as detailed designs for the Ganges Harbourwalk will also be completed. We will also be expanding our transit system and EV charging infrastructure if provincial funding can be secured to match the already available local contribution. 

The recent shared daycare/recreation additions at the pool will be fully utilized. Other recreation-related projects will include continued swimming pool repairs, upgrading of Centennial Park, development of the management plan for the Salt Spring Community Park on Mount Maxwell, and detailed designs for bus storage/charging and a new PARC maintenance facility on Kanaka Road.    

Note that completion of detailed designs and costing aren’t “just more studies.” They are required for infrastructure grant applications and other fundraising. Salt Spring has been very successful in accessing infrastructure funding, securing over $30 million in regional, provincial and federal grant funding commitments in recent years for a number of housing, infrastructure and other initiatives, most of which are summarized above.

Governance / Service Delivery

A sea change in CRD governance will be implemented this term with the election of a local community commission (LCC) on May 27. An elected LCC, which includes the CRD director, will broaden CRD representation and take over the services now overseen by Salt Spring’s four, island-wide appointed commissions, thus consolidating and improving accountability for CRD service delivery. I hope that voters elect commissioners who are dedicated to collaborative decision-making and getting things done for our community. The LCC will conduct their regularly scheduled, public meetings in the SIMS building. 

Another key service delivery issue to be addressed this term will be to secure consistent funding for some of our amazing NGOs to revitalize Ganges, promote local food production, take action on climate, and facilitate affordable housing options. Inter-agency working groups will also be convened to explore community safety, better management of Ganges Harbour, and planning of seniors care facilities on the Lady Minto/Greenwoods site. 

As always, contact me at directorssi@crd.bc.ca with any questions or comments.

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