About 100 islanders turned out Tuesday evening for a Salt Spring Local Trust Committee hearing on a bylaw that would allow the long-term rental of some seasonal cottages. Most who spoke up were unhappy with the bylaw as currently written.
Bylaw 512 identifies 411 properties on the island where seasonal cottages are currently permitted and which meet a number of conditions, such as not being located in an area with known problems with water quantity or quality. Recent additions to the draft bylaw included a prohibition on the use of those cottages for bed and breakfast home-based businesses, a clause that many islanders spoke against.
While property owners affected by the bylaw have been given the opportunity to opt out of the mapped area, many speakers Tuesday night said they preferred to have their options open rather than being faced with an either/or decision. Others spoke strongly against any reduction to property rights.
“Don’t take the rights way from one group in an attempt to force them to provide something to another,” said one speaker. “I ask you to do your jobs as elected representatives and come up with a solution that will not hinder the rights of others — in this case property owners with seasonal cottages or the rights to seasonal cottages — and, don’t do anything to negatively impact healthy and thriving tourism, which a lot of islanders depend on.”
Trust staff reported that recent communication from the public outlined four top concerns with the draft bylaw. In addition to the B&B restriction, people feel a new requirement that rainwater catchment systems be added to any new cottages built in the bylaw area is too onerous. A clause requiring property owners to register a covenant on title stating they cannot subdivide the cottage as a strata unit has also been flagged as excessive.
Housing advocates have meanwhile stated the cottages project is insufficient to meet the scale of the rental housing problem, and some have called for the bylaw to be abandoned altogether.
“Salt Spring is one of only two islands that has seasonal designation of cottages. We should join the rest of the Trust area to allow a cottage to be a cottage; allow people to use it how they will,” said Rhonan Heitzmann. He suggested a better path would be to amend the official community plan to remove the “seasonal” definition and thereby allow long-term rental of any cottage, as long as water supply is protected in areas of concern.
“We should be protecting the resources we’re concerned about specifically, not trying to control how someone uses a dwelling,” Heitzmann said.
The cottages bylaw is due to come before the LTC for third reading on Feb. 18. Amendments could be made at that time or the trustees could choose to shelve the project for reconsideration.
For more on this story see the Feb. 5th issue of the Driftwood newspaper.