Shoreline work halts Ganges venture

New owners of a kayak rental and retail clothing business in Ganges are grappling with unexpected regulatory hurdles before renovation and repair work can continue.

Jason and Anna Watkin and their three children, Sarah, Olivia and Lucas, had started the family project of overhauling the former Island Escapades site and were hoping to launch their business called Beachside in time for the summer season. Their plans, which included community access to the beach, have been delayed for the indefinite future due to bylaw infractions in a development permit area.

As of Friday, the Watkins and Islands Trust staff agreed to start the development permit application process.

“We are doing all the things we need to do for permitting, and already have the people lined up — biologist, archaeologist, geologist, and all the other ‘ists,’” Jason Watkin reported.

Watkin is the Salt Spring founder and CEO of natural supplement company Purica. He said he was unaware site repair works would trigger the need for a development permit and supporting documents such as engineering, geotechnical and environmental reports.

A new retaining wall made of interlocking concrete slabs resembling stone that went onto the water side of the property is the source of the trouble. Watkin explained the work started as an emergency attempt to replace an existing sandstone retaining wall that he discovered had crumbled away while clearing out masses of invasive ivy. That situation, combined with the large holes left by the ivy’s huge root balls, put one corner of the building especially in jeopardy — that corner happens to be the closest to where Ganges creek enters the sea.

“I did not anticipate that I needed a wall. There was already a wall there — I was just replacing it,” said Watkin. “All I did was do something that needed to be done right now.”

Salt Spring trustee Peter Grove said he received plenty of emails last week from supporters of the Watkin family who decried the bylaw enforcement action that’s ground the project to a halt.

While many friends in the community have called for an expedited process, the Salt Spring planning office is facing an unprecedented number of applications, and other applicants would also like their development permits and rezoning applications processed quickly. The Local Trust Committee voted at their April meeting to ask the Islands Trust for additional staffing help.

Grove said permits typically take about three months to obtain, but the Watkin proposal has many complications.

“We can explore whether the permitting process could be expedited, but one must ask oneself if this is fair to those in the line up who have followed proper procedures and whose applications will consequently be delayed,” Grove said.

For more on this story, see the May 2, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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