Water district seeks feedback

Group holds letter-writing campaign to push for housing options

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The North Salt Spring Waterworks District wants feedback on its draft strategic plan.

A public meeting is set for Monday, March 11 in the library program room starting at 1:30 p.m.

The plan, which is available on the NSSWD website, looks at the purpose and goals of the NSSWD and would guide the organization through the next five years. It focuses on governance, water supply and management, communication and engagement, asset management, organizational strength and financial management.

Community engagement has already begun around the document, with ratepayers and community members completing a NSSWD customer satisfaction survey. Additionally, the Salt Spring Housing Action Committee, which runs the Salt Spring Solutions website, is conducting a letter-writing campaign and inviting people to the event to ask the district to prioritize affordable housing solutions.

“The NSSWD’s moratorium, which is a really great climate and conservation policy, has the unintended consequence of making it extremely difficult for any densified or non-market housing to happen,” said Jason Mogus, one of the organizers of SHAC. He added that inviting people to the open house is a way to “thank [the NSSWD] for doing a great job, [and] to ask them to take another look at this housing issue and see if there are creative ways that they can work with other stakeholders in the community to solve it, because right now it’s not on their radar.”

The housing issue was discussed at the district’s monthly trustees meeting on Feb. 28. Trustee Michael McAllister emphasized that though affordable housing is not within the mandate of the district and therefore not considered a strategic priority, the board of trustees is concerned about the issue.

“We’ve had a number of discussions on affordable housing. I don’t want it out there that we haven’t talked about the issues of affordable housing and we’ve had some of those discussion in closed meetings and we can’t talk about those. The fact is that we are concerned. I am concerned,” McAllister said.

Allowing exceptions to the moratorium would open the district up to risk, McAllister and new trustee Gary Gagne added.

The Salt Spring Solutions group has stated that conservation measures that include water catchment systems and grey water management cannot occur within the North Salt Spring Waterworks District. However, according to the moratorium policy and district staff, rainwater catchment and reuse are not within the district’s authority. The moratorium policy only applies to applications for water service connections made after Oct. 1, 2014. Under the policy, all properties currently served are entitled to one 19-mm connection, and any changes to the size of that connection or applications for new connections will be denied.

“The root of the problem is that it puts 100 per cent of the restrictions on new customers and zero per cent of the restrictions on existing customers,” Mogus said. “It’s kind of a water justice issue . . . The cost of the moratorium has to be borne on anyone that wants to do anything that is out of the ordinary.”

As of Monday afternoon, 34 people had sent letters to the district.

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