Viewpoint: Comprehensive village plan needed

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By Francine Carlin and Laura Patrick

A thriving Ganges village is vital for the health and well-being of our local economy. Yet the village lacks a comprehensive vision and plan for guiding sustainable development and revitalization.

To call for such a plan, the Salt Spring Island Community Economic Development Commission, during its March 15 public meeting, passed a motion that respectively requested the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee to revive the Ganges village planning process.This request was formally sent to the LTC in a letter on March 20 and officially addressed at the LTC’s March 29 meeting.

In response to this letter the LTC stated that it has made Ganges village planning a “priority in the context of the harbour walk and upland rezoning.” We believe this is a backwards approach to village planning. The harbour walk and upland rezoning should be addressed in the context of a comprehensive Ganges village plan. Without a long-range strategic planning process that integrates infrastructure planning (e.g., utilities and roads, design guidelines, pedestrian mobility, transportation and parking) with sustainable economic development and revitalization, there won’t be coherent direction to guide decision-making.

A village plan that anticipates needs and results in coordinated efforts will provide a sense of certainty for business owners and operators so that they know what to expect and how to best meet the requirements of their customers. A village plan has an economic ripple effect as it impacts the business prosperity of farmers, retailers, food and beverage producers, craft and lifestyle product makers, artisans, professionals and more. Additionally, a comprehensive, integrated plan creates opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to meet emerging needs that could become part of an envisioned sustainable economic future for Salt Spring.

CEDC is supportive of a diverse economy, where our residents can be employed year-round, earn a decent living and find the products and services they need here. An integrated and comprehensive Ganges village plan will help the CRD and LTC maintain a balance between preserve, protect and vitality. This plan will benefit the CRD and LTC by providing:

• A consistent point of reference against which to make decisions;

• the ability to make more informed decisions;

• more predictability regarding budgeting and planning;

• potential to optimize resource use;

• means to preserve community character;

• capacity to realize and manage sustainable economic development.

It’s time for the Salt Spring community to be proactive in meeting our economic and environmental challenges, seeking opportunities and managing risks. Through a deep and meaningful assessment of the current situation in the village of Ganges, and a thorough and robust planning process that reaches out to Salt Spring citizens, energizes the LTC planning department and mobilizes partners (e.g., CRD), the island could collectively realize a comprehensive and sustainable vision for the Ganges village.

Francine Carlin is the Salt Spring CEDC chair. Laura Patrick is the CEDC vice chair.

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