Croftonbrook project raises more questions than answers
By HUGH GREENWOOD and RUTH PEPIN
In March of 2017, it was announced that funding for a Salt Spring housing project was available from the CRD Regional Housing First Program, BC Housing and Island Health.
Island Women Against Violence then received approval from the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (the “LTC”) to build 20 new units for low-to-moderate income seniors (Phase 2 of Croftonbrook).
In October, IWAV submitted a rezoning application to the LTC to place 34 additional units into a Phase-3 development at Croftonbrook. IWAV proposed “mixed-model” housing that would include families, the chronic homeless, persons with social issues (e.g. addiction, mental health, etc.) needing housing prior to receiving social services. IWAV received first reading of the bylaw.
The community, anticipating a project that would provide housing for seniors, some of whom have experienced homelessness, was surprised by the open-ended scope of this new stage.
The proposal for Phase 3 raised questions.
Who will be housed? What criteria are being used to identify the target population and select the new residents? What is being done to ensure that the new residents are positioned to successfully integrate into an existing community? When problems arise, who will manage them?
What about density? There are already a total of 129 units in Croftonbrook, Cottonwood, Roscommon, Pioneer Village and Heritage Place, as well as 10 private homes along Corbett Road. Phases 2 and 3 would add an additional 54 units in Croftonbrook. This high level of density deviates from the kind of growth appropriate for this island.
Are there access issues? Island roads are under the purview of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Corbett is a secondary, single-lane road that was not designed to handle heavy traffic. Corbett Road serves Cottonwood, Croftonbrook and upper Roscommon, the private residences and commercial operations along this road. It is the only exit/entry for vehicles and pedestrians. Corbett Road intersects with Crofton Road, which is the sole access to Lady Minto Hospital.
What about water, sewer and physical infrastructure? Does this proposal have the potential to exceed prudent limits? The Islands Trust mandate is to preserve and protect. They regulate, monitor and oversee the natural systems in this fragile environment. We expect them to live up to that mandate.
Our attempts to get solid answers to these questions highlighted a new problem, namely, a piecemeal approach to social planning. There is no template against which our island can measure potential solutions to housing or other social challenges. There is no authority responsible for ensuring all known issues are discussed and properly managed from an island perspective.
We must look ahead to the long-term livability of our island and its people. Without advanced social planning we are setting ourselves up for failure.
To ensure the long-term success of this project, and other well-intentioned developments, they must be subject to comprehensive social planning, including sustainable funding, appropriate maintenance and sufficient human services.
Without adequate forethought, criteria and structure, we simply create more difficult problems. There are solutions but they don’t happen by accident.
What are we looking for? We want the same care and attention given to social planning as is given to water management. Islanders must be responsible for making decisions about our future.
The engineering problems connected with such a development will have engineering solutions and, even though they may be costly, they can be dealt with. Social interactions are complex and there are no formulas to solve them.
Quality of life is our touch-stone. That is what we pride ourselves on, why we live here, why we volunteer and why we stay. As a community we have solved difficult problems. We should not walk away from this one just because it is challenging.
The problem isn’t simply the Phase 3 development in Croftonbrook. The problem is expecting the LTC to approve any project in the absence of comprehensive planning.
Assimilating homeless and special needs islanders poses problems for any community, particularly when the scale of the project is as ambitious as IWAV’s. In the absence of an integrated, inter-agency approach to ask the questions and seek the answers to the many multi-jurisdictional challenges that will surely arise, we need the Islands Trust to play a role that we recognize is somewhat outside the conventional land-use planning arena. We ask that the LTC promote public dialogue and discussion through one or more forums where all stakeholders can feel heard. Participants should include the Islands Trust, CRD, BC Housing, Community Services, IWAV, current residents of Croftonbrook, Cottonwood and Roscommon, and our MLA.
At the forthcoming LTC meeting on May 10, as a condition of moving forward with the IWAV rezoning application we ask that trustees please take the necessary steps to make such an event a reality. This public discussion and analysis should precede and inform any further reading of the rezoning application.
Ruth Pepin is president of Roscommon Strata Corporation and has had a long career in social work. Hugh Greenwood is president of Cottonwood Close Strata Corporation and is a retired geologist and former UBC professor.