Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

Salt Spring LTC gives three readings to Bylaw 537

A bylaw meant to create a path for some Salt Spring properties to be allowed “legal” accessory dwelling units (ADUs) was read three times at one meeting this week, and is now on its way to the Islands Trust’s Executive Committee for approval. 

Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) held a special electronic meeting Monday, Jan. 22, advancing Bylaw 537 — a downsized spiritual successor to trustees’ last effort on ADUs, Bylaw 530 — without a public hearing. The plan establishes a map of island parcels where ADUs, such as secondary suites or cottage/garden suites, would be permitted. It is much like the most recent version of Bylaw 530, except that it was introduced — and notice given to the public — such that a first, second and third reading could all occur in one meeting. 

The Local Government Act allows for trustees to skip holding a public hearing on proposed bylaws if they choose, so long as the proposals are consistent with an existing official community plan (OCP), which trustees — at least, most of them — and staff agree Bylaw 537 is. The Jan. 22 agenda did not include a live “town hall” public comment period, although trustee Laura Patrick said she felt much had been heard, particularly regarding Tsawout First Nation concerns on the original plan’s scale possibly exceeding the island’s “living capacity.” 

“I feel comfortable that we have more than addressed concerns that were raised,” said Patrick. “This being a substantially scaled-back version, I think we’ve shown that we’ve taken it into account. So I am more than satisfied to move forward today with this bylaw, and I’m hopeful we will have a spot zoning process created in the future.” 

Trustees have asked staff to create a streamlined “spot zoning” process that would allow property owners outside the map boundaries to ask to be included, conceivably growing the scope incrementally. But trustee Jamie Harris remained unconvinced. 

“This bylaw, as it is now, will not do anything to help us out with the housing crisis,” said Harris, who suggested they proceed no further with the bylaw, opting instead to amend the OCP to fit the “original intent” of the old Bylaw 530, as it would have involved far more parcels from the outset.  

“I won’t be debating anything else,” said Harris. “I’ll just be voting against everything [today].” 

At all three readings — and at motions to indicate the LTC’s belief that the bylaw is not contrary to the Trust’s Policy Statement and to advance it the Executive Committee — Harris was the sole vote against. 

Trustees had previously sought to have Salt Spring, as a Local Trust Area (LTA), included under recent provincial legislation Bill 44, which could have outright prohibited a public hearing on housing matters such as ADUs. But officials at B.C.’s housing ministry declined a November LTC request to put the Salt Spring LTA under the same regulations as municipalities, with Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon citing Salt Spring’s “existing infrastructure capacity issues” surrounding drinking water and waste disposal — as well as interests of local First Nations and the Trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate. 

“I think all of us recognize this is not the ultimate fix or solution for Salt Spring,” said LTC chair Tim Peterson. “This is just one small step towards where things need to go.” 

The Islands Trust Executive Committee next meets Wednesday, Jan. 31.


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