People who follow local government affairs will be forgiven for feeling dazed and confused after the events of last Thursday’s Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting.
Trust staff had been tasked with bringing an amended Bylaw 530 back to the LTC to consider, addressing various concerns raised by the public while maintaining a pathway to create affordable housing by legalizing some accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on the island. The result after last week’s meeting is the possibility of a bylaw that could give ADU rights to no more than a few dozen properties, which trustee Laura Patrick admits is “a farce.”
Clearly, proposed Bylaw 530, which arose from work done by the LTC’s Housing Action Program Task Force and was supposed to make it easy to both legalize existing ADUs and create new ones across the island, has failed. But Patrick attributes that failure to the lobbying activities of an organized group of citizens who know how the system works and who she believes would also influence the Trust’s Executive Committee. That committee would have to approve Bylaw 530 before it became law. Legal action has also been threatened, she notes. A new group — Keep Salt Spring Sustainable — even formed in response to Bylaw 530.
In looking to the future and how to actually get anything substantive passed through the LTC, trustee Patrick has focused on the way public input is gathered, last week bringing forth a motion that staff do research on how “qualified professionals” could be sourced “to develop an equity-based public engagement strategy,” and that funds be allocated for that purpose.
But when access to local government is not difficult on this island, hiring consultants seems like a complicated and expensive way to try to temper the well-organized voices of preservationism and hope a new set of voices is somehow mobilized to participate in the exciting world of local land use and politics. If only. Individuals can already write letters at any time, make phone calls or submit to public hearings in writing or in person. After last Thursday’s meeting, it sounds like writing to the Islands Trust’s Executive Committee should also be on the list of activities.