Since moving to Gabriola in the Fall of 2013, Rosemary and I have been active members of our chosen community. We have made many new friends and enjoy the island spirit that is so prevalent here. I wanted to return something to this community that has absorbed us so well, so in response to the urgings from friends I have decided to run for election as a Trustee for the Islands Trust.
My past experience in land use planning and the organization of community groups, as well as liason between those groups and government bodies, has well equipped me for this role.
The mandate to protect and preserve is an ethic I firmly believe in. As I see it, the task of a Trustee is to strike a balance between the natural values here on Gabriola and the growing pressures of development in a way that meets the needs of both.
I look forward to being involved, over the next weeks before election day, in many discussions about the various issues that we three islands—Gabriola, Decourcy and Mudge—must face while maintaining that balance.
This phrase is on everyone’s mind these days, so a little context is required. The last decade has seen housing prices rise far faster than wages and income, a situation particularly acute here on Gabriola. This translates into loss of housing/rental opportunities and has an effect on us all because it is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for service workers to find affordable accommodation. These are the people who are health care aides, health practitioners, home cleaning and maintenance providers, carpenters, electricians, builders, servers, service workers, volunteers—all the people who provide necessary services on the island.
This is the major reason why the second phase of the Housing Review Project needs to proceed immediately. It focuses squarely on the sections of the Official Community Plan (OCP) that cover affordable housing and multi-family dwellings.
The existing wording in the OCP needs to become more flexible re who can qualify for these units. Instead of only being for seniors, special needs and low income persons, housing projects need to have a full range of tenants and support a richer community mix.
The funding possibilities need to be expanded to include private partners along with non-profit organizations, provincial and local governments. This broader inclusion of funding partners will lessen the tax burden for such projects and provide incentive for more creative financing. For example: a project may include a mix of market and assisted housing. Consider an 18 unit complex with 6 market units and 12 assisted living. The mix of all community members, not just seniors, special needs and low income, would be included. This is not a new idea. Many housing co-ops work this way with variable rents, degrees of ownership, and market housing.
The Trust has recently approved second dwellings on lots 1 ha or larger. We need to investigate ways in which smaller lots can have more rentals and/or secondary dwellings.
The mandate to preserve and protect is still the bedrock of the OCP and that is as it should be. We also need to realize that over the 36 years that the Trust has been in existence the ways and means for protecting lifestyle and ecosystems have advanced a great deal.
New technologies such as composting toilets, Tiny Housing, heat pumps, more efficient water collection systems, energy efficient homes, solar arrays, wind turbines, and electric cars are solutions that either were not available when the Trust was created, or have been vastly improved.
Employing these technologies on existing lands and including them in new community housing projects will actually enhance the community while reducing the impact on the ecosystems of Gabriola. For example: accepting water collection for multiple use housing as being potable conserves water. Composting toilets removes any possible contamination of the water table. It seems clear that using the old density argument and trying to keep the number fixed is no longer a desirable or effective tool for today’s Gabriola. It is the wrong issue at the wrong time.
The new approaches to funding, the encouragement of market and non-market in projects and the inclusion of new technologies, in conjunction with a different set of approaches to density, will allow Gabriola to break free from the present straitjacket it finds itself in and move ahead to the future we all want.
The encouraged use of green technologies will help Gabriola achieve its stated goal for Greenhouse Gas reductions in the next two decades. It will also reduce the strain on water and ecosystems we currently have as homes and businesses retrofit their buildings. These green energy ideas need to be supported beyond the current rebate system. While a good start, these programs need to be enhanced in the same way that conservation covenants are supported. For example: if a home owner or a project utilizes the new technologies mentioned above, then the Trust could recommend to the province that the tax rate for these properties be lowered to encourage their installation. Perhaps a new sub zone category to allow the designation of “green dwelling” with a sliding scale according to the number of energy/water saving tactics employed.
In accordance with the standing resolution adopted at the September 27, 2018 LTC meeting, I will continue the outreach and relationship building for First Nations which includes invitations to LTC meetings, annual gatherings, more inclusion in local land use planning and recognition of the Snuneymaux title to their territory.
This is an ambitious agenda for sure. It will require much hard work , good faith discussion and a lot of time. As a community we are in a situation where “No” is not an option. We are losing ground with every month that goes by and I believe there is enough intelligence, energy and dedication here on Gabriola to make great strides to conserve the community we want and the ideals we cherish.
I have been an activist all my adult life. I cut my teeth in the union movement during the late sixties; organizing and helping to unionize Bell Canada in Ontario. In the mid eighties, when we moved to our wilderness home in Precipice Valley, the introduction of wholesale clearcut logging posed a threat to the forests around us, so I formed a group to negotiate with the logging interests.
This started a chain of events which eventually led to me becoming a full time negotiator for biodiversity and conservation interests at various land use planning tables established under the provincial land use strategy, legislated by the Harcourt government in 1992.
In this capacity, I helped create several organizations to assist communities in dealing with environmental and land use planning issues. As a negotiator at these land use planning tables I have been part of the creation of several protected areas, including the Itchas and Entiako Provincial parks, and biodiversity reserves in the central interior.
At various times during these years, I chaired a province-wide coalition of environmental groups, managed the Eniyud community forest which was a partnership between the local community of Tatla Lake and the Redstone First Nation, and represented various wilderness tourism interests, lobbying the Provincial Government for biodiversity and wildlife issues.
I continued in these roles right up to 2013, when we moved to Gabriola, and I retain a keen interest in conservation issues as they relate to residential/commercial use and development.
Solar! It’s an important part of our fast-changing times. Having solar energy for your own use doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be unattractive.
I designed my first solar array in 1986, long before companies sold complete packages. My wife Rosemary and I had moved to a very remote mountain valley, built a house, and lived off-grid for 27 years, using solar to power our very comfortable home.
When I moved to Gabriola, I was fascinated by the new modules with built-in inverters, and the grid-tie option. But I was appalled at the cost of purchasing a system and having it installed. A friend who felt the same way and I founded GabEnergy, a non-profit organization dedicated to getting high quality solar into homes and businesses at a reasonable cost. We were fortunate to hook up with a solar supplier who gave us wholesale prices, so we could pass that savings to our clients. I gave lectures, DIY workshops around the Gulf Islands, on how to get involved with solar.
GabEnergy has withdrawn from active involvement, but I continue to do workshops and consultations and sell equipment to people, operating under DN Consulting. I feel very strongly about clean energy and promote it whenever I can.
I have always enjoyed working with wood, experiencing its grain, colour, and strength. Wood never lies to you; it is what it is. All you can do is to coax the best out of it and go from there.
Fine woodworking is new to me. Before we moved here I’d worked with wood on a grand scale, using huge firs cut from our own property in a remote area of the West Chilcotin. These were cut on a portable mill into the various sizes we needed to build the post and beam home that we designed. With no neighbours or heavy-duty equipment, and a lot of naïve determination, Rosemary and I eventually completed our 2,200 sq ft, two storey home.
But during those years wood got its hold on me. So now that we live on Gabriola, I’ve an opportunity to work with it on a more intimate scale. I’m learning new skill sets—including precision and patience! I recently joined the Gabriola Woodworkers Guild, which is comprised of very skilled woodworkers who create all manner of exquisite wood forms, from kayaks to wardrobes. We held our first wood show in August and we all were impressed by the tremendous interest that Gabriolans showed us.
I really enjoy my new association with wood, and look forward to learning from others as this adventure continues.
In the spring of 1986, Rosemary and I moved into a small mountain valley in a remote part of the West Chilcotin, adjacent to Tweedsmuir Park, called Precipice Valley. There, we used centuries-old fir trees horse logged on our property and milled into posts, beams and lumber for our self-built home in the valley.
We lived in that wonderful Precipice Valley until access to services beckoned and we moved to Gabriola in the fall of 2013. Our home was solar powered for all of those years, first in a small log cabin and eventually fully powering our 2,200 square foot timber frame house. As you can imagine, we have had a great variety of experiences living in the wilderness and I wrote a Blog about them for several years. I haven’t kept up that blog since moving here, but for those of you who are interested this is an invitation for you to share that lifestyle and our view of the world generated by nearly three decades of wilderness living.