SDRA President John Silins Retirement & Reflections

After 8 years as a director of our organization and 4 years as president, I have decided not to stand for reelection. However, I leave you with the following reflections.

In early 2010, Anne mentioned to me that in 1910 this area, South Oyster was given the name of Saltair by the E&N Railway. I had been on the SDRA Board about a year so I mentioned this at one of our monthly meetings and suggested that we should celebrate the event. One thing lead to another and I ended up leading a group of volunteers to stage a celebration. At the time I thought that it would involve a lot of work. As it turned out it was an exceptional experience. The volunteers were wonderful. We started out from scratch: generated a lot of ideas, fundraised, co-opted businesses, service organizations and enthused the residents of Saltair. The celebration was a success – some 500 people attended.

In retrospect all I had to do was generate a ‘to do’ list and maintain it. It brought the community together and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Now fast forward a few years.

Three years ago CVRD bought the school property – five acres for $300,000 – $60,000 an acre, a huge bargain. The property was zoned institutional. CVRD bought the property in a rush and beat out some potential developers. The property came with the school building. What an opportunity to have local community centre, I thought. Soon after the purchase rumors or – in Trump speak ‘alternative facts’ were floated about, probably by unsuccessful developers. These included, in part , the building was full of asbestos and remediation would cost in excess of a million dollars as would deconstruction, the septic system was shot, no economical heat, health hazard, the roof needs replacement – hundreds of thousands of dollars, buried leaking oil tanks and so on. Unfortunately the rumors still persist. Why? Because the owner, CVRD, of the property never, in the years it owned the building, did a building inspection or assessment. Why not? You better ask them. Some of us did and got no satisfactory answer. Eventually, to comply with provincial legislation, CVRD is undertaking an assessment; the results are expected in June or there about. It is then that we will know the condition of the building and will be able to chart an appropriate course of action. In the meantime the rumor mill has been very active with resulting damage.

Fortunately there are some in Saltair who care enough about our community to form a society to take advantage of the current facility and start developing programming to benefit the social, physical, and mental health of our residents

A tough task with a lot obstacles – the most recent is objection to the CVRD Board for granting the Society start up funds. The objectors are complaining on the grounds that funding will deplete recreation reserves. The objectors conveniently forget to mention that there is a tenant in the building and that the rent paid exceeds the funds that the Society requested. Perhaps I should coin a new phrase – ‘selective facting’.

SDRA has been accused of being a secret society. We have a constitution. The purposes are enshrined in the constitution and are listed on the community web site. We are a member driven association. Our members pay an annual registration fee. The minutes of the SDRA Board meetings are posted on the ‘members only’ page of the community web site. We also produce a periodic newsletter, the Newsie, which is distributed to our members. Our AGM is followed by a ‘town hall’ meeting. Both meetings are widely advertises and are open to all residents of Saltair. We actively encourage membership. Our elections are open to all members.

Is that secret?

We have also been accused of somehow being in ‘cahoots’ or being ‘in the pocket’ of our Area Director and staff of CVRD. I refer you to our statement of purpose as stated on In part these include the requirement ‘to liaise with properly constituted (elected and appointed) bodies which make decisions about the district’. We do that regularly. We agree with some actions taken and support them and disagree with others and say so. We do this formally and informally. It seems to me that that is the proper thing to do.

On a more personal note I have enjoyed working with Mel Dorey, our elected representative. Mel has always listened. We have agreed on some things and disagree on others. When we have disagreed I, of course, think that I am right, and I am sure that Mel believes he is right, but we have worked together to the same goal, making Saltair a better place. I also recognize that our democracy is a representative democracy. We elect our political representatives on the basis of their platforms. We assume that those representatives will live up to their promises. I also recognize that environment changes over time and that not all promises are or can be can be kept. If we do not agree with the departures from promises, we say so at the next election.

Finally, I thank you for the opportunity to serve, you, our members.

Submitted by John Silins,  May 2017

3 thoughts on “SDRA President John Silins Retirement & Reflections”

  1. Well said, John! Thank you very much for your perseverance, commitment and dedication. Looking forward to working with you on the other side of the fence : )

  2. “Three years ago CVRD bought the school property – five acres for $300,000 – $60,000 an acre, a huge bargain.” Not such a huge bargain when we are faced with an additional $350,000 to demolish the building or an additional $3 Million Plus to repair and upgrade the building.

  3. Thank-you John for all your hard work, and it was a pleasure to work with you in the various capacities.
    We would like to comment on John’s statement in his letter. “Fortunately there are some in Saltair who care enough about our community to form a society to take advantage of the current facility”
    We personally also believe a meeting place/community center would be a beneficial addition to the Saltair Community, and that this building has the potential to fulfill those needs. To demolish the building leaves us with nothing. To build a “new” facility could cost even more than the assessed estimate recently submitted for repairs, not to mention, many years to get there.
    There are alternative options for bringing the existing building to an acceptable level that would not require the extent of improvement and cost suggested in the recent assessment which happens to focus on bringing the property to a new built condition.
    There are many old buildings throughout Vancouver Island which are much older, still used by people in communities, who also see the value in a community based meeting place.

    Warren and Grace Predy

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