Editorial: Trust exercise

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As the land-use authority on Salt Spring, the Islands Trust gets blamed for all sorts of local ills.

Elected officials on the Local Trust Committee are there to represent the public’s wishes, and if their work does not seem to reflect community reality, dissatisfied grumbling is apt to turn into outright protest. During the past electoral term the LTC was visited by multiple organized events, with islanders turning out in droves to variously demand action on several issues. Another rally on housing is being assembled this Friday at the Islands Trust office.

Community protest, along with public engagement by the trustees, in fact had direct impact on the LTC’s strategic goals for this term. Increasing the availability of affordable housing is on that list, and is currently represented by a priority project to legalize seasonal cottages for long-term rental, with a targeted wrap-up date of spring 2020. Climate change adaptation and Douglas-fir protection are also on the list.

The local government process is, by B.C. law, one that requires many prescribed steps and therefore takes some time to bear fruit. That may be frustrating for those who want to see action now.

The Islands Trust is but one organization responsible for local regulations, however. Since the North Salt Spring Waterworks District has reached its supply limit from local lakes, water has become the major obstacle to increasing density in the village area — the most environmentally friendly place to do that.

While the LTC has explored its ability to require rainwater catchment on new developments downtown, and recently moved to require such systems in the cottages bylaw, regional health authority Island Health has so far refused to okay rainwater as a potable source for multi-family developments. It’s these developments that have the best chance to significantly increase housing stock in a short time.

The Capital Regional District could also be encouraged to increase incentives for rainwater system installments with more grants and rebates. Provincial funding support is no doubt warranted.

With a climate change emergency proclaimed by multiple government levels and the housing crisis recognized all around the province, finding coordinated solutions is paramount. Island voices have proved loud enough to get local officials listening. Let’s see if they can move up the chain to catch regional and provincial ears as well.

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