Discussion about accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on Salt Spring will advance, according to officials — and a controversial proposed bylaw aimed at allowing more of them will go back under the microscope.
At a special meeting Thursday, Jan. 26, Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) started the new year with a brief closed session; upon opening the public meeting, trustee Tim Peterson announced that the LTC has requested staff continue work on proposed Bylaw 530, which deals with permitting ADUs.
Specifically, LTC directed staff to complete a list of tasks set out by the previous committee back in September of last year — before the October election, and after well-attended public meetings on the proposal over the summer. An August public hearing saw dozens of islanders making written and in-person comments both for and against the proposal, as well as the receipt of a letter from Tsawout First Nation representatives expressing their opposition.
Ultimately, that LTC decided to halt the process in order to both re-examine the proposal and attempt to address public input — and by the next meeting, staff would have direction, and there was a lot of it. In addition to consultation with First Nations addressing concerns about the bylaw, the to-do list included preparation of “communications materials” to guide the public on specifics for ADUs and how they would be regulated. Staff were further asked to produce analyses on how limiting the size, number and frequency — such as how many might be allowed in a calendar year — of ADUs might minimize environmental impacts while still advancing the goal of creating more affordable housing.
Trustees cited Community Charter Section 90 (1)(i) in closing Thursday’s discussion to the public, which suggests they would be receiving advice “subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.” The idea that the LTC might face legal action — either from parties in favour of Bylaw 530, or from those against it — has been bandied about in community discussions, although no threat of lawsuit has been made public.
Discussion of Bylaw 530 was not on the published agenda, and it was not discussed further during the open meeting, other than a brief mention as being an LTC priority for the coming term.
Bylaw 530, crafted at the urging of the Housing Action Program Task Force and shaped through several public events and LTC amendments, is hoped by proponents to help ease Salt Spring’s rental supply crunch by permitting a new housing option: ADUs, which would be permitted in several zones across the island. The bylaw text — so far — also presents a host of regulations on how those ADUs would be permitted and used. While the proposal has been referred to several relevant organizations with no changes recommended — apart from the inclusion of building and fire code requirements and the provision of water and sewer, according to staff reports — the combination of substantial public concern and direct opposition from Tsawout First Nation seems to have been pivotal in the previous LTC’s decision to pause its process.
During the fall election campaign, then-candidate and now-trustee Jamie Harris ran on a message that 530 was a “Band-Aid solution” that he would work to implement, while believing it ultimately wouldn’t go far enough to solve the housing crisis. Notably, incumbent and continuing trustee Laura Patrick expressed similar thoughts at that time about 530’s likely efficacy. She stopped short of promising to work to pass the bylaw, and instead called for additional steps to make a wider range of housing available.