Trust Council asking Province to amend Islands Trust Act; including an amendment for affordable housing

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, January 2 2019

The Islands Trust has provided the Province with a prioritized list of Islands Trust Act amendments that could form the basis for a review of the Act by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Islands Trust staff.

Peter Luckham, Chair of the Islands Trust Council, wrote to the Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on December 18, 2018, saying that as per the Minister’s request from January of 2018, Islands Trust staff and Trustees had put together the list of priorities.

Luckham writes, “We have taken that advice to heart and believe that we have identified realistic and achievable amendments to our primary legislation that will support the efforts of the Trust on behalf of all British Columbians.

“A topic as important as legislative change to the Islands Trust Act will require public engagement and I would appreciate collaboration with the Ministry on how it would foresee an appropriate process. Undoubtedly full and authentic public engagement will generate additional suggestions for legislative changes from the community itself. We are mindful that Island communities are participatory, feel their future is vested in the Trust and want to contribute to that future.”

Among the amendments suggested by the Trust is one which - if approved - would allow the Islands Trust to be able to enter into agreements with third parties to administer affordable housing, to be able to operate a housing service, and for local trust committees to be able to acquire and dispose of land.

Gabriola Trustees Scott Colbourne and Kees Langereis spoke to this proposed amendment. 

Colbourne said with housing issues being complex and interconnected, “it’s going to take co-operation and co-ordination among all levels of government to create and fund solutions that work for island communities and the fragile ecosystems that support them. I think the Executive Committee of the Islands Trust, in these continuing negotiations with the Province, is on the right track in asking for expanded powers so Local Trust Committees can be fuller partners in this shared work.

“For Gabriola specifically, holding land and entering into long-term agreements could help our community find scalable solutions such as transition housing for women fleeing violence and secure homes for people to age in place.”

Langereis added, “the affordable housing changes range in complexity and cost (i.e. resourcing) and would entail extensive consultation with and support from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, regional districts, First Nations and the public.  I anticipate a fulsome discussion with all participants as the changes propose the Trust assumes a service currently held by regional districts.

“The proposed affordable housing changes could potentially facilitate the development of affordable housing in the Islands Trust area by allowing the Trust to participate more directly in affordable housing initiatives.”

Luckham compares the review of the Islands Trust Act to that of the recent review the Province completed of the Agricultural Land Commission saying, “I am struck by the symmetry of how the Islands Trust and the Agricultural Land Reserve, born of a certain era in BC politics, have stood the test of time. We believe it is time that the Islands Trust Act is given appropriate and similar attention.”

Colbourne said, “The Agricultural Land Commission and the Islands Trust Act were born in the early 1970s and both have been under intense development pressure in recent years. I think reforming the Islands Trust Act early in this mandate could give islands a more robust, modern and integrated set of planning tools as we confront climate change, forge deeper relationships with First Nations, and reduce the suffering and health impacts that flow from unsafe and insecure housing.

“The letter to the Minister also rightly points out that full consultation with island communities as part of this process could draw out more priorities for reform and changes to the Act.”

Other amendments proposed include:

1. Allowance for entry warrants: would enable enables a justice to issue Bylaw Enforcement Staff an entry warrant if satisfied that access to property is necessary for the purposes of the Local Government Act.

2. Development permit area enforcement via municipal ticketing: There are currently no jurisdictions that have the authority to issue tickets for development permit violations, so the Islands Trust would be joining municipalities and Regional Districts in requesting this change. While this authority would be useful to all local governments, it is particularly relevant for an entity with a statutory mandate to “preserve and protect” an area of the province that is environmentally sensitive, since the key land use management tools in relation to environmental protection are development permit area designations and development permit conditions. However, allowing local governments to ticket for an offence against a provincial statute is a novel idea.

3. Adoption of development approval information bylaws by local trust committees: this amendment would increase the efficiency and independent ability of LTCs to administer their areas. This should reduce wait times for applicants.

4. To enable the ability to charge fees for telecommunication applications: A fee structure and process is needed to allow thorough review of antenna and telecom infrastructure applications.

5. Amending the Act to add “First Nations” to the list of those with whom we work “in co-operation”: An amendment to ‘Coordination agreements with other government bodies’ would enable the Trust Council and its delegates to enter into coordination agreements with First Nations.

6. The ability to delegate development permit and temporary use permits to staff: Unlike other jurisdictions in BC with land use authority, the Islands Trust does not have the ability to delegate via bylaw the authority to staff to issue development permits. Each LTC would decide on whether or not to delegate issuance of development permits. This would reduce wait times, simplify the application process and reduce administrative costs.

7. Clarification of foreshore zoning authority and jurisdiction throughout the Trust Area: There are jurisdictional inconsistencies with how foreshore zoning is administered with regard Regional Districts throughout the Trust Area. This matter is long standing and is a function of language and mapping in the Islands Trust Act and the Islands Trust Regulation.

8. In keeping with broader powers afforded regional districts, relative to S. 294 of the Local Government Act, to allow the Islands Trust entities, “incidental or conducive powers”: According to the Trust, this would be aminor broadening of corporate power, similar to what Regional Districts have, would allow the Trust to undertake some supportive actions in support of the mandate of Trust.

This power is not a full ‘corporate person power;’ rather it would provide a backstop to a given jurisdictional issue or challenge.

9. To include reference to the ecosystem in section 8.2 of the Islands Trust Act: Clarity is sought as to whether LTCs can allocate funds for environmental activities undertaken by others, in a similar fashion to history and heritage conservation. We recommend amending “history and heritage” in two places in 8(2)(f) to “amenities, environment, history and heritage”. Amenities and environment are the terms used in the object statement in s. 3 of the Act.