Housing put on Salt Spring LTC’s top priority list

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The Salt Spring Local Trust Committee changed its top priorities at the Oct. 6 business meeting by adding a new housing project to the list and moving cannabis regulation to the back burner.

The decision comes on the heels of a report submitted by the LTC’s housing working group in September. A new task force will now be established as per their recommendation, with members to help develop a housing action plan “that will accurately reflect the public’s values and has community support.”

Trustee Laura Patrick, who assembled the housing working group, said the goals of the project are to build a vital and sustainable community. Creating policies that will increase the quality and quantity of housing options is to be balanced by consideration of environmental factors such as climate change and forest protection.

“The full spectrum of housing policy is to be considered, from farms to denser villages to discouraging the carving up of forests for more development,” Patrick explained in a letter to a community member.

Trustee Peter Grove supported the move, but noted it would not provide the short-term solutions some people might be hoping for.

“It is a very large project; it’s going to involve a great deal of community conversation. I don’t think it will be done before our term is over, which is in two years,” he said.

“Housing is not going to be solved in this term,” Patrick agreed. “It took decades to get into the mess that we’re in, and this project contemplates all of that.”

The most important step, she added, will be the community engagement component, which she said will help establish a shared vision. Having that in place will make it easier to advance specific policies.

“If we have a destination we can move more quickly and boldly, because we know the community will be there with us,” Patrick said.

A huge amount of correspondence was sent in urging trustees to make housing a top priority after the LTC first considered how to make room for the proposed project in its work schedule last month.

“Your community will be very happy with the action you’ve just taken,” LTC chair Peter Luckham observed.

The LTC also voted on how to proceed with Ganges village planning last Tuesday, with agreement that creating an area plan for the village is the preferred goal.

New Islands Trust planner Louisa Garbo was given direction to start planning an early engagement process with key stakeholders, including First Nations, the Capital Regional District, the Agricultural Land Commission, School District 64, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce and the Salt Spring Arts Council.

“I think Ganges village needs a really comprehensive look, not just from the Islands Trust but from all our partners, with the view of [how we want to be] developing the village into the future,” Patrick said.

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