Saturna Island Property Owners Association
P. O. Box 27, Saturna, British Columbia, V0N 2Y0
August 17, 2011
Sheila Malcolmson Beverly Neff, Dian Johnstone, Peter Luckham
Chair Saturna Local Trust Committee
The Islands Trust
RE Draft Bylaw 104
Dear Ms Malcolmson and Saturna Trustees:
In the important and ongoing discussion regarding water conservation on Saturna, it has become very evident to all of us that this difficult and distressing process is one which has been aggravated, perhaps inadvertently, though various actions and/or omissions by the Islands Trust and our Local Trust Committee.
The Saturna Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA)
feels strongly about the need for appropriate water conservation measures on our island. SIPOA believes, nonetheless, there are several important issues of administration and process that must be resolved before there is further consideration of this bylaw. In addition, there are evident legal problems with the proposed bylaw as it is presently drafted. In particular, its relationship to the Official Community Plan remains most unclear.
Moreover, for the second time, in less than six months, following actions by The Islands Trust, SIPOA seeks to register its disapproval with the seriously flawed consultation process of the Local Trust Committee. What is particularly troubling is that this has happened after there was a clear message sent to the Trust from participants at the Saturna Groundwater Workshop: Saturna property owners want to be consulted before decisions are made, not afterward.
Once again we find ourselves presented with a draft bylaw and insufficient opportunity to comment on the definition, rationale or the need for the bylaw. Trust communication on this issue has been unclear and, with respect, misleading.
In SIPOA’s view, to proceed with such a bylaw, especially given the lack of adequate consultation and unclear communication to date, coupled with the results from the Groundwater Workshop, demonstrates a remarkable disregard for the wishes of Saturna residents and the $5000 of taxpayer funds that were invested in the workshop.
Attached is a document elaborating on SIPOA’s suggestions regarding Draft Bylaw 104 and possible next steps arising from the Groundwater Workshop. In brief, they are as follows:
1. The Islands Trust should revise its approach for drafting bylaws;
2. Local Trust committees need to develop principles for developing local bylaws;
3. There must be clear and accurate communication from The Islands Trust, and
4. Education about water quantity and conservation must be provided.
SIPOA appreciates the opportunity to comment on this important issue and would be happy to participate in further discussion.
Saturna Island Property Owners Association
Saturna Island Property Owners Association
Comments and Proposals
Regarding The Islands Trust Draft Bylaw 104 and Groundwater
“When presented with a problem, it is natural to gravitate toward a solution. But premature solutions can create divisiveness. My use of the term, “premature solutions” includes suggested outcomes, and/or lack of consultation of those who would be affected by an outcome. Rather than become polarized by premature solutions, it is important to first consult East Point property owners so that their input is noted and considered prior to determining outcomes.”
Ron Monk, Facilitator, Saturna Groundwater Workshop, May 16,2011
As a follow-up to the Groundwater Workshop and in response to the proposed Bylaw 104, the Saturna Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA) is submitting these comments to the Saturna Local Trust Committee (LTC). SIPOA represents approximately 45% of the property owners on Saturna and because the proposed bylaw, as presently drafted, is a law of “general application” and will affect all property owners on the island we have taken the time to ask our members their views before making this submission. Seventy-Nine of the 208 SIPOA members have so far commented on the proposed Bylaw of which 75 have indicated they do not support Bylaw 104 and most of these members also query the need for such a Bylaw. There are three members who are uncertain about the proposed Bylaw. A list of the members and their comments is available upon request.
Why is there concern about this Bylaw?
Saturna property owners were not consulted prior to the drafting of Bylaw 104 or provided sufficient opportunity to have input into either the problem definition or rationale about the need for the proposed Bylaw. In addition:
- the Local Trust Committee and/or Islands Trust Planners failed to mention at the Groundwater Workshop that Bylaw 104 was under development;
- no referral of proposed Bylaw 104 was made to the Advisory Planning Commission for comment/advice prior to First Reading;
- the letter from Trustee Luckham says the proposed Bylaw is only for undeveloped lots but this is not what the language in the actual Bylaw says. In fact, as written the Bylaw applies to all properties notwithstanding what Trustee Luckham states in his letter of July 12, 2011.
Compounding this lack of consultation, the communication on the Island Trust's website and in print regarding the Bylaw keep changing and as a result are unclear and misleading. For example:
- the website previously showed Bylaw 104 amending Bylaw 99; it now has been revised and shows Bylaw 104 amending Bylaw 78 but there is not mention of any revision on the website;
- in the original documents there were inaccuracies in the metric conversions although these are now changed on the website (again with no notice of revision); and
- there appear to be inconsistencies between the proposed Bylaw and the Saturna Official Community Plan.
Because lack of consultation and unclear communications appear to be a recurring problem for the Islands Trust and because it makes taxpayers wonder about the care and attention given to the development of public policy and resulting bylaws, SIPOA has identified the following needs and makes related recommendations for a more open, transparent and collegial process for drafting both policy and legislation.
1. There is a need for the Islands Trust to revise its approach for drafting legislation and the Saturna Local Trust Committee (LTC) can lead the way.
With the entire world at one's fingertips on the internet “ready, fire, aim, ” is no longer a viable strategy.
The history of the Islands Trust and the Saturna Local Trust Committee is for the planners to draft bylaws, have the trustees review it at first reading and then consult the public. This type of approach to public policy may have worked in the past, but it no longer is appropriate given public interest in the business of the Trust. Nor does this model reflect that we now live in a time where the public and in particular the tax paying public, has access to information on a scale never contemplated when the Trust's management processes were originally designed.
Indeed, while the Islands Trust and to some extent the Capital Regional District have maintained the “draft first, consult after” model of governance, federal and provincial governments now both employ consultation before drafting legislation and regulations, particularly regarding environmental and land-use matters. This is because these governments have recognized that the public wants to be involved in decisions that affect their lives and livelihood and they want to be involved to ensure that these issues are being satisfactorily addressed. And, by and large, consultation before decisions are made works. It saves time, reduces conflict and even saves money because it is done right the first time.
As to how to consult, there are many models of consultation, and no two consultations are the same but to achieve a successful public consultation trust and credibility must be established before designing solutions. This is best done by using innovative, open and credible methods and procedures. Because our association consults and shares information on a regular basis, both on the internet and in print, we are pleased to offer our assistance in developing a consult first model for the LTC's approach to drafting legislation.
2. There is a need for the Islands Trust and the Saturna Local Trust Committee to develop principles of legislation for Bylaws
Regulations and Bylaws are typically intended to control behaviour for the larger societal good. That being said, as an instrument of control or as a means to set public policy, these types of instruments are rigid, tend to stifle innovation and are typically insensitive to changes in conditions. Moreover, in today's world the public wants to know what they are designed to achieve.
Thus, it was no surprise that a major recommendation arising from the Groundwater Workshop was the need for the Saturna LTC to develop a common definition of a problem before designing a solution.
SIPOA concurs and believes this is an essential component in developing public policy or legislation. In our view, clearly defining the problem means not to limit ones options or ability to solve problems. Most importantly a clear definition can provide a baseline against which to measure how well a proposed solution addresses the problem. Moreover, it is critical that Trustees listen during consultation to the broad range of issues which people are likely to raise, assess what opportunities there are to work together and set realistic objectives.
Another essential component in developing a set of principles for public policy or legislation is a strong commitment to include cost effectiveness and flexibility in the design mix. For example, while Bylaws may detail what property owners can and cannot do, penalties for not complying with many of the Trust's Bylaws are unclear and it does not appear there has there been much thought given to incentives. In our view these kinds of options are best addressed first during the consultation phase, and before drafting.
Scientific and economic questions also need to be addressed before designing any bylaw. For example, considerable scientific uncertainly and information gaps continue to exist in the area of water management. These uncertainties need to be considered. Questions of how many properties would be affected by a proposed bylaw also need to be explicitly addressed before proceeding to a solution. And, there is also a need for some kind of cost/benefit analysis to be done on any requirement such as a bylaw – what is it going to cost, to whom and what is the cost of compliance and enforcement. Taxpayers will be interested.
Finally, while each of these principles is important, they all need to be explicitly part of any decision- making process to develop policy and bylaws.
3. There is a need for clear, consistent and accurate communications from the Islands Trust and the Saturna Local Trust Committee
When the public is poorly informed about scientific, technical or financial issues, or the reason bylaws or policies are developed, they frequently respond on an emotional basis. And, picking up the pieces, or mending fences, is hard to do after the public has rejected the work of the LTC.
Thus, when drafting bylaws SIPOA recommends that after consulting the public and during the drafting process the LTC takes the time to ensure communications are factually correct and are straightforward about what the proposed legislation is designed to achieve, and ensure the bylaw and the communications on the website and in print say the same thing.
The bottom line is that the LTC needs to be responsible for the communication between the Trust and the public but this requires, care and attention, coordination among yourselves and oversight of your staff.
4. There is a Need for the Saturna Local Trust Committee to support an education program about water quantity and conservation for the island
The biggest challenge to water conservation is to ensure everybody on Saturna understands the water problems facing the island and makes the required commitment to change their behaviour. In this case education rather than legislation is the way to change behaviour. Thus, SIPOA recommends the LTC coordinates and supports the development and implementation of public awareness programs about water management on Saturna.
As a first step we recommend that a multi-stakeholder group should be established to assess need, audience, information, delivery infrastructure, and decide what constitutes success. This group can work with existing organizations and hopefully would coordinate activities. The goal of this group would be to create a water conservation assistance program that helps households to improve their water-use efficiency.
None of the suggestions we have outlined above are difficult to achieve but it does require a commitment on the part of the LTC to makes these changes, to carefully oversee the work of the Trust's staff and listen to the public before putting pen to paper.