Letter to the Editor – Helen Grond

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The Trust is busted!

The Islands Trust has been trying to ban home-sharing on Hornby Island for decades.  No valid reasons have ever been given.   Gaslighting and fear-mongering have always replaced facts and data.  Hornby Island has survived this ongoing onslaught through the protection offered by our Official Community Plan (OCP).  Changing the OCP through the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) is the only way to stop home-sharing under current laws.  The APC is hand selected in secret by the Trustees.  They are required to be fair and unbiased but that wouldn’t have achieved the desired outcome in this case.  As early as 2016, plans were being made between the Trust and our local Trustees to “rig” the APC by excluding all community members who might have differing or unbiased views.  I have seen the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) documents proving this.  

The newly appointed APC was drawn from a small but highly vocal group of anti-home-sharing advocates.  They had already spear-headed a smear campaign that promoted misinformation and succeeded in creating widespread negativity towards home-sharing in 2019.   They produced a report in March, 2022 that included no facts, data or evidence to support their recommendations, which were to change the OCP and remove the legal rights of the community.  Hornby home-owners were expected  to lose their livelihoods and privately supply the critical low-cost housing that the government has repeatedly failed to do. The community was misled to believe that banning home-shares would solve the housing crisis and alleviate congestion.  The report was not up for debate and it’s false conclusions were adopted without challenge by the Trustees and the community was ruthlessly bullied into silence on social media.  

 

Home-sharing is the cornerstone of Hornby’s economy and millions of dollars of direct and widespread benefits cannot be replaced.   The Trust’s plan was near completion when surprising new provincial laws were brought in last fall to abolish STVRs in communities over 10,000 people.  The province removed the right to “grandfather” and that took away the carrot the Trust was dangling in front of the community to entice them into giving away their rights.  Communities under 10,000 could choose to opt in to the new regulations and there was strong pressure from a tiny local group to do so.   An emergency March 22 Trust meeting was called to address the situation.  The Community hall was full of Islanders desperately seeking clarification.

It was icy cold in the Hall.  No heat was turned on to provide any comfort and there was no opportunity to speak.  This was not a meeting.  This was an exceptionally uncomfortable lecture.  With their futures hanging in the balance, the community had to sit through three long hours listening to the Trustees thoroughly prove how confused and biased they truly are.  The refusal, once again, to listen and dialogue with the community was disrespectful.  Alex Allen was in favour of opting in and Grant Scott advocated for a less punitive option.   What was agreed upon was a temporary “stay of execution”.  The only honest option would be to cancel the whole project and start fresh with a fair and unbiased approach.

The Trust operates in secret and has for many years. The only way to explore the Trust’s real agenda, is to seek freedom of information requests (FOIA) or hope that a staff member or a Trustee slips up.  Luckily for Hornby, Alex can usually be counted on to blurt something out that would normally be withheld.  It’s comical to watch the reactions from the other Trustees and the staff when he does it.  Grant often gets quite annoyed and frustrated when this happens.  The animosity between the Trustees played out in the tension filled meeting. 

Alex didn’t disappoint us.  He lamented that he “had” to go to the meeting and cut short his vacation in Tofino. I wonder what his accommodations were?  In his monologue, Alex admitted that banning home-sharing would unlikely provide any new rental accommodation.  He indicated he had his own personal reasons for wanting them gone.   He claims to love Hornby; apparently that love doesn’t extend to the hundreds of people trying to survive here.  He scoffed at the plea from families who had owned property on Hornby for generations and depended on a few weeks rental to help cover expenses.  “Why would they need the income – they should have paid off their mortgages by now”  That drew quite a gasp from the silenced crowd! 

What Alex reveals is that he doesn’t even believe the conclusions of the APC report himself in spite of his loud support for it.  True agendas are hard to hide.

The Trustees have aggressively targeted home-shares as being the main contributors to congestion, even though they only represent 7% of total island accommodation.  Why then, did they approve the high density controversial Thatch condo development?  Why didn’t they consider the problem with excessive campgrounds.  Tribune Bay campground, (the “Feed-lot”), hosts 500 people (10% to 15% of total) per day in our congested village centre.  If 500 people were no longer at Tribune Bay, the Coop and the Ferries, we wouldn’t even recognize Hornby in summer!  If I were queen for a day, I would turn the campground into a cosy neighbourhood of portable housing for locals. Tax payers bought it soooo……

The new Park acquisition of Tribune Bay campsite and the adjoining ten acres were secretly negotiated without community consultation. Why?  Our Trustees have been tight lipped throughout.  It’s worth considering that new tourist accommodation providers like the Thatch and the Park’s planned new resort would benefit significantly if competing, local family provided accommodation was gone!  Just sayin.

The Trustees have lost the confidence of many to make unbiased and evidence based decisions.  Their agenda is glaring.  They should resign before any more harm is done.

TIG
Author: TIG