Why does Islands Trust Policy include "Sustainable Communities"?

Interesting discussion in Trust Council on March 9, 2021. Trustee Wright proposed 3 motions:

Be it resolved that, as the Local Government Act instructs Local Trust Committees to include policies for a variety of housing in their Official Community Plans, housing policies not be included in the Policy Statement of the Islands Trust.

Be it resolved that Trust Council remove from the Strategic Plan, item 16, part i,
ii, iii, iv, and v, associated with housing and that these items be referred to Local Trust Committees and their local planning staff for consideration to include these matters in their local planning projects.

Be it resolved that Trust Council remove Part V, Sustainable Communities, from
the Policy Statement and request the Trust Programs Committee to develop additional policies to ensure the sustainability and preservation of the natural and rural character of the Trust Area, including policies to restore biodiverse ecosystems.

All 3 motions were defeated, but what was interesting to me (and many observers) was Trustee Dan Rogers’ discussion memo in response that brought up a lot of the legislation that framed the Trust object, and its purpose, originally:

p. 93 "In 1972 the Provincial Government established a Select Committee to study the Islands Trust areas and the issues that existed and to make recommendations on how to address those issues. That Committee reported out on September 25, 1973. Here is the Hansard Record of the “report”. Hansard — Tuesday, September 25, 1973 — Afternoon Sitting (Go the very end of the page – noted as page 255).

I suggest everyone read the whole report. It makes it clear that those who suggested the Trust as an entity (and this Report was the foundation of the Trust), understood that the unique nature of the Trust was not just defined by the environment and ecosystem but also by the history of the communities on the islands. That the Trust should be interested in and invested in the residents and commercial activity and the community generally. (I recognize the report was woefully inadequate in recognizing the important Indigenous history and heritage in the Trust Area.) Read the words in recommendation #2 which is:

  1. The Committee also recommends that the Provincial Government establish an “Islands Trust” (or commission), as the most appropriate body to be responsible for and to co-ordinate the future of each island within our terms of reference. It must be emphasized most strongly that the trust is to assume the primary responsibility for all Gulf Islands’ affairs within Government jurisdiction, including land use, future growth patterns, control of development, industrial, recreational and commercial activity, as well as parks and open space designations. It is essential that the trust be fully representative of all interests, not only on the islands, but throughout the Province as a whole. While recognizing the rights of the islanders, the Committee suggests that this section of British Columbia is dramatically affected by private and public activity which does not have the same impact in other parts of the Province. The Committee again refers to the fragile nature of these coastal units. Because it is recognized that a variety of Government departments and agencies: Highways, Health, Ferries, Lands and Forests, Parks, etc., as well as regional districts and citizen groups on the islands, all have an important role to play in this respect, we emphasize that the proposed trust or commission must not be a separate and (or) remote agency, but rather a fully representative co-coordinating body, whose task it is to bring together each group, agency or department of Government and to act in the best interests of the islands and their residents with due regard for the broader and Province-wide interest.

The point is that from the outset of the concept of the Trust, it was envisaged that the Trust would not deliver services but would have an interest in all aspects of life on the islands PLUS a specific mandate to protect the environment. While not exactly the same type of documents as the Trust Policy Statement, the Trust did adopt a Policy Document in 1975, another one in 1983 and another one in 1990. They are attached to this document." (p. 93-94).

Read Dan Rogers’ whole argument here: http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/media/351065/tc_2021_03_09-11_agd_pkg_final.pdf

I am really relieves to hear they voted against the changes to policy…did I read that correctly? THANKS GOODNESS…( If I read this correctly)

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Yes, those were defeated. But if you get a chance to read Dan Rogers’ discussion memo, it really is worth it. Trustee Rogers is the Chair of the Gabriola LTC, by the way, so we see him on Gabriola island quite often. I like his arguments and I enjoyed the dig through the original reports that were the foundation for setting up the Trust in the first place! Super cool!

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Thanks for posting this, Tobi.

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The Islands Trust policy statement mentions the unique amenities of the Gulf Islands and lists several aspects of the islands within the Trust that it deems unique. In my opinion, there are two main aspects of theses islands that are unique to Gabriola and the other islands within the Trust that stand out. These are the parklike nature of the islands and the predominant type of housing.

The park like nature of the islands is unique in that wildlife for the most part can wander about unmolested by natural predators and most residents of the islands have great respect for the flora and fauna of these islands. There is largely an absence of predators such of wolves, bears, and cougars so the cute little animals like racoons and deer can exist in numbers that are larger than in other places. This contrasts greatly with other parts of the province that I have lived in where hunting is commonly practiced by residents and visitors. Logging and mining is are mainstays of the local economy and the general attitude towards the land is that it is to be exploited. I cannot think of any other place in BC that is like the Gulf Islands where the natural landscape exists like this and is so widely valued by residents as something to be protected.

The other unique aspect of Gabriola and the other islands in the Trust that I wish to dwell on, is the predominance of single family houses on private land. On Gabriola, single family residences are the only legal option for small rural residential lots and on large rural lots a small secondary residence is allowed in addition to a single family residence. The only legal exceptions that I am aware of on Gabriola are the duplex units for seniors on North Road and Church St. and the Lyons Senior residence on Argyle. Also there are a couple of rental units above commercial property. I think the same situation largely prevails on other islands within the Trust. This contrasts sharply with the rural communities of the North Okanagan, the Shuswap, and the Cariboo where I have lived prior to moving to Gabriola. In all of those places, other forms of housing were quite common, including, duplexes, triplexes, town homes, and trailer parks. We lived for a number of years on a farm some distance from town with a rental duplex just a stone’s throw away on the neighbours property. Nobody in that community thought that a strange housing option in rural community.

It is clear to me that a very large part of the population of Gabriola as well the other islands within the Trust, like things the way they are in regard to housing options. But clearly the single family housing option as the only legal option to housing is not working when we have housing costs spiralling out of reach for so many and the available rental housing units falls far short of meeting the needs of the community.

It is astounding to me, that when other housing options are proposed, there is so much opposition to exploring other options for providing housing for residents. It has been my observation that objections are seldom voiced as a belief that single family housing units are the only accepted form of housing. Instead, the conversation usually centres around carrying capacity and density rules. Much of the opposition to the recent affordable housing project on Paisley Place also centred around trees and water issues, despite the fact that the proponents of the project had clearly made an honest effort to address those issues in the most sensitive manner.

So, isn’t it time to explore housing options that include other models in addition to the single family housing unit? Some other options to consider might include such things as low rise apartments near the village of commercial centre. As well why not consider duplexes, triplexes, trailer parks, tiny house villages, eco villages, and housing co ops? Unless we consider other housing options as possible legal responses to Gabriola’s housing needs, we will never be able to achieve a sustainable rental housing market on this island that meets the needs of the community and its members.

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We are immensely privileged to live in a unique, beautiful environment. I agree with you that we need - MUST - find other ways of housing the community in ways that are more in keeping with the ecosystem. It’s amazing to me that no one has yet put forward the idea that this particular ecosystem (Coastal Douglas Fir) is totally unsuited to the way we have chosen to develop: carving up lots into 2, 5, 10 acre parcels for owners to chop up into landscaped rock and garden plots, each with their own house, fenced and bordered, divides up the contiguous nature of the CDF in devastating ways. It ceases to become an eco system… instead, the forest trees are reduced to a visual barrier around each property. It’s crazy!

We do need other forms of housing, and other forms of development. Personally, I have been dreaming a long time of a housing co-op that becomes the landowner, and 6-8 members hold shares, which can only be sold to other members as a housing share. As a housing coop, the land is taken out of the commercial market forever. I would seek out a place that is suitable, with capacity for the number of inhabitants, a mix of already-cleared land and intact forest. Each would bring their own tiny house, converted buses, trailers, etc. - low impact movable homes (in case the coop doesn’t work for them, they need to be able to leave!)

And you could have a land use co-op that would regulate the energy systems, resources, solar power, water, human waste, composting, etc. You could design it around the functionality of the land so that the only approved use, whether habitation or agriculture, would be the best and highest use for that piece of the land.

Designing around the land’s attributes - water, soild, forest, slope, substrate - rather than around the druthers of a single home owner, seems to make sense to me. I don’t know why we don’t have more eco-focussed planning. That should be a thing!

I’m not crazy, am I?

Good thinking Burtt! and good to see you here!