Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

LTC urged to not reconsider kennel

There was little said, and no action taken by Salt Spring land use officials last week after islanders voiced their opposition to an unpermitted dog kennel still operating on a Blackburn Road property. 

As of Tuesday, no application had been opened by Salty Dog Retreat & Rescue, according to Trust staff — not to seek a rezoning that might “legalize” the contravening use, nor to request an amendment to the island’s official community plan (OCP) to allow it to operate. Either action might have prompted consideration by Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) to halt enforcement actions while those applications were being reviewed. 

But neighbours and others concerned about the health of the nearby watershed brought the issue before the LTC on Thursday, Feb. 15 regardless, in a show of letters, public comment and delegations that helped the meeting’s agenda packet top 270 pages — not exceptional for the notoriously prolix Islands Trust, but there were relatively few other items already under consideration. 

Back in April 2023, Salty Dog Retreat’s Jaime Halan-Harris approached planners for a temporary use permit (TUP) to operate the kennel at its new site, after a hasty relocation from its long-time operation on Rainbow Road. The kennel began operations almost immediately upon moving to Blackburn Road and was soon subject to multiple bylaw enforcement actions. 

The TUP was denied somewhat routinely, as the property’s Watershed and Islet Residential designation under the OCP doesn’t allow for exceptions under the Islands Trust’s TUP process. That triggered backlash from Salty Dog supporters, who crowded the LTC’s December meeting along with Halan-Harris seeking a path forward. 

With that path still uncertain — and with land use contraventions seemingly ongoing in the interim — islanders concerned for the nearby Cusheon Lake watershed took their turn before the LTC on Thursday. Following several public comments from residents, two delegations on the matter — from Chris Drake representing the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society and Doreen Hewitt from the Cusheon Lake Stewardship Committee — drove home similar points: the Blackburn Road site, they said, is the wrong place for a kennel. 

Drake said the 40-year-old non-profit society was concerned not just about the dog kennel operation, which he said represented a source of potential contamination of surface and groundwater from both dog and human feces, but also that amending the OCP for such a use would establish an unwelcome precedent. 

“Such an amendment — or rezoning — could potentially weaken regulations and watershed protection,” said Drake, as climate change pointed toward heavier winter rainfall producing “increasingly significant” runoff.   

“Feces and urine contain high levels of phosphorus, which are shown to be the factor causing previous algal blooms [at Cusheon Lake],” said Drake. “Blooms can produce a toxin lethal to humans and wildlife.” 

That possibility was alarming to the more than 500 people who rely on the lake for drinking water, speakers said; Hewitt told trustees they had made the “correct choice” in November to deny a temporary use permit and “close the file” — for the health of the watershed, and the protection process. 

“Many developers do not seek a permit first,” said Hewitt. “They want forgiveness, rather than permission. This is dangerous for the protection of fresh water on Salt Spring.” 

Full comments can be read online at Trustees received the delegations, public comments and letters largely without comment; the next LTC meeting is scheduled for March 7. 

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