Trust planners must shed pro-development bias

The Gulf Islands Alliance endorses Islands Trust efforts to reverse the 13-year trend of dwindling support from the province.

But, in a letter in early 2007 to the Trust, the Alliance said that Trust planning staff proportionately spends too much time processing permits for development. The Alliance would rather see more tax dollars used for activities to assure that development does not harm the environment and local communities. It recommended that more funding and staff time be allocated to improving local planning services in the following areas:

Bylaw and Development Permit Area Enforcement – Islanders biggest demand is for better bylaw enforcement. The Alliance appreciates that enforcement is a complicated problem, one that might be solved, not in employing more enforcement officers, but in clarifying and strengthening bylaws and development permit area regulations, providing more information to the public, and/or addressing overlooked planning needs. Staff must have time to work with trustees and their communities to come up with the best strategies.

Long term planning – The Alliance is counting on the new Trust Area Services person to improve long term planning. The greatest need, however, is to boost planning services on each island. So, the Alliance supports, in the 2007 budget, $200,000 for ‘staff for Local Trust Committee work’; $10,000 for training; substantial funding for new mapping; and $224,000 for ‘implementation of the strategic plan’.

Planning for Rural Communities – The Alliance wants the Trust to give more planning emphases to sustaining the environment and rural communities. This can be achieved by hiring, promoting and training staff that show a keen interest in these vital areas. While it’s sometimes necessary to hire consultants, the Trust’s mandate will be better served by hiring and maintaining an adequate complement of staff planners who intimately understand the history and planning issues of each island.

It is difficult to allocate funds when resources are so sparse. One solution is for the Trust, as a policy, to insist that new development pay for itself. For example, the Alliance urges the Trust to set fees for development permits that cover their enforcement and administration costs.