Opinion: South end needs connecting place
By DAVID FULLBROOK
I watched Sidney Crosby score Olympic gold for Canada in 2010 in the Fulford Inn — arms linked in a swaying mass of south-enders singing “Oh Canada.” With its odd collection of beer taps, cozy fireside seating and Wednesday pizza night, the Fulford Inn wasn’t pretty, but it was ours.
The Fulford Inn was sold shortly after that memorable day. Big plans came to nothing; they auctioned off the furniture, the fixtures, sold the liquor licence and shuttered the place. After the squatters moved in, the CRD pulled the building down. And there it has sat, fallow and forlorn, a depository for people’s random junk and garbage, a campground, a private drinking spot on the creek, and the crime scene for a tragic, unsolved homicide.
For those us that call the south end home, we lost a deep and historic connection to our community when the Fulford Inn closed. And we want it back.
Meanwhile, the Saturday market is bigger and more dynamic than ever; the New York Times repeatedly blows the clarion call for world tourists to visit our pristine island; and craft and artisanal entrepreneurs have built thriving enterprises that drive our local economy. But not for the south end. In a time of climate crisis, we on the south end have limited amenities and are compelled to make daily/weekly trips to Ganges.
It isn’t difficult to conclude that the loss of the Fulford Inn was the essential loss of a significant economic and cultural connector within the south end, not to mention the entire Salt Spring community.
The Trust’s mandate is to “preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities.” That word “amenities” may be vague, but to us, it includes the cultural and economic assets of our community, and the Fulford Inn (and the associated land use zoning for the site) is an example of that.
Just because they pulled down the building does not mean they have the right to remove the underlying zoning and land use. It is not a blank slate. We have the right to re-establish this use in our neighbourhood and we have the support to do so.
The land-use bylaw dates from 1970 and represents the culture of that time: car-oriented rural motel, liquor store and pub. The accessory uses, of which the ‘70s zoning allows about 100 square feet, are meant to complement the experience of the guests. In an absurd moment of consultation with Islands Trust staff, when we asked the definition of accessory uses, the planner replied, “a place you can buy a toothbrush or cigarettes.” 1970s indeed.
We have proposed a limited number of variances to improve the community value and meet 2020 market conditions. But we don’t need the variances. They just make the plan better.
For those familiar with the plan, there are four variances Trust staff do not support: 1. accessory uses; 2. signage; 3. elevated viewing platform; 4. sewage system plan. We have agreed to strip out 2 and 3. We would have done so if staff talked to us. The staff’s issues with 4 relate to a lack of technical expertise to assess the design, but this variance will require an approved detailed design. This is not unusual or outside normal approvals.
Item 1, accessory uses, however, gets to the heart of the matter. This is about the Vortex concept: a village square, the opportunity for curated events for guests and locals, small affordable kiosk spaces for local makers. We are pleased this item will be reviewed by the Advisory Planning Commission and are hopeful they will see the wisdom and opportunity of our plan.
Other issues: sea level change, road dedication, water attenuation from the Fulford Water Service Area and First Nations engagement are all outside the purview of the Trust. We have obligations to meet requirements for rising sea level and water through the CRD, and an archaeological site assessment through the Heritage Conservation Act in coordination with First Nations. All of these items were initiated as a part of our work plan well in advance of owning the property in March 2018.
On Sept. 30, Pitchfork Social will host its last summer concert at the Fulford Hall. It is an excellent show. Tickets sales have dropped in their new venue and this will quite possibly be their last show ever. Simply, people won’t come to the south end. You can’t really blame them: there isn’t much here. Consider that 50 per cent of PitchFork attendees come from off-island, generating upwards of $25,000 per night for the local economy. This is a regionally recognized concert series and its loss will be significant.
But imagine if there was a place that people would make the trip for. A place with a funky groove-yard in the sun where memories are made and renewed with the passage of each season. A place where Salt Springers would have linked arms and sang “Oh Canada” as Bianca Andreescu made history at Flushing Meadow. We need that place and we need it now.
We seek the right to re-establish the zoning that is in place. Your continued support is essential, so please don’t give up, and we won’t either. The process may not be a pretty, but it is ours.
The writer is CEO/founder of Merchant House Capital and a south-end resident.