Friday, September 29, 2023
September 29, 2023

First LCC town hall proves lively

Salt Spring Islanders filled all the seats put out Thursday, Aug. 31 for the first evening town hall organized by the Local Community Commission (LCC) — a new evening format for the island’s newest governing body, and one commissioners hope to repeat. 

Some 50 to 60 islanders made their way into the Lions Club Hall up Drake Road, and most brought specific issues to raise with the new five-person governing body. And as commissioners appeared without Capital Regional District (CRD) staff — and without the trappings and protocol of a formal meeting — commission chair Earl Rook emphasized that the plan was to stay on-topic to discuss services the LCC actually provides. 

To that end, there was a handout at the door for anyone unfamiliar. 

“Our enabling legislation has given us certain areas of responsibility,” said Rook. “We’re going to go through and ask for comments specific to those.” 

And, it was pointed out, that same legislation also required they not advance the business of the commission meaningfully without a formal meeting structure in place. 

“We’re not allowed to further any commission decisions in this meeting, because this is a town hall as opposed to a business meeting,” said commissioner Brian Webster. “So we can’t make a deal on anything here and now.” 

Unsurprisingly, those who turned out Thursday night found none of this dissuading, and the LCC heard from a wide range of islanders with concerns on a broad spectrum of island topics. From parks to parking, from liquid waste disposal to economic development, members of the public weighed in and commissioners listened eagerly, and — from time to time — tried to help fill in the histories and status of various projects. 

Much of the discussion centred on Salt Spring’s plans for Portlock Park — a master plan process that, despite being modelled on the seemingly successful Rainbow Road master planning procedures, left many in attendance feeling unsatisfied. While people speaking on behalf of the large baseball-playing population on the island supported a plan that would add a senior ball field to the park, several local runners felt the subsequent loss of the oval track there would be disastrous.  

Pickleball players said they felt they’d “missed out” on giving input on Rainbow Road, and now the Portlock Park engagement process seemed difficult to access online — a sentiment echoed by others who said their experiences had been similarly vexing. For example, they said, if someone didn’t like any of the three park layout options in the web-based survey — or if they liked one but didn’t want to rank the other two — it was unclear whether the form would even allow any further comments to be submitted.  

And as each group sympathized with the next, one participant suggested — to a round of applause — that perhaps “pitting different park users against each other” to compete for space in a utilitarian format might not be the kind of collaborative process Salt Spring could be proud of.  

Regardless, ultimately it will be the elected LCC that makes decisions — either informed by consultations and formal public input or, as commissioner Ben Corno put it, also remembering how they personally felt as people spoke passionately before them on particular issues.   

“I don’t think we’ll be scoring all these things, and saying ‘this checks off that box so that will be the choice,’” said Corno.  

“There’s a process that’s ongoing, thankfully,” said Webster. “You’ll be able to credit, or blame, the five of us.” 

One new way to reach out to LCC members will be through just-announced “office hours” that will begin today (Sept. 6), intended to be held every Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the CRD offices — with Corno, Webster, Gayle Baker and Rook taking shifts to gather input and answer questions in-person. 

“It will be posted [online] and in the Driftwood,” said Baker. “And we’ll be there, we’re going to be available. We want to listen.”  

The LCC’s next regular meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. in the Salt Spring Island Multi Space boardroom on Rainbow Road. 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m surprised that this recap did not involve a mention to the interest around housing as still being at the forefront of our island’s woes. I look forward to housing being taken seriously at the next LCC and LTC meetings and Town Halls. Let’s get to work on solutions for those in our community who remain insecurely housed, if at all.

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