District eyes more growth in 2014

Controversial change to District’s growth strategy to go to the CRD

A limit of  up to 520 new housing units in North Saanich has been established in the District’s revised Regional Context Statement (RCS) that will be forwarded to the Capital Regional District for their ratification.

A majority of council approved the new RCS in the middle of last month, confirming plans for increased allowances for residential housing in two parts of the community — the McTavish Road area and around Tsehum Harbour. Those areas were identified as likely spots for more development out of the District’s 2013 housing consultation process with CTQ Consultants out of Kelowna. Projects such as Canora Mews have broken ground, with others in the early application steps.

North Saanich is now asking the CRD to approve their plan for increased residential development in those areas and at an increased pace.

The change has been a priority for the council majority this term, having stated market-driven growth will help address housing shortages among the local workforce.

A minority of North Saanich council, led by Mayor Alice Finall, says that tack does nothing to address affordable housing for those same workers.

“I have been asking for (an affordable housing policy) to be put in place,” Finall said. “There needs to be something like that in North Saanich to ensure developers are providing affordable housing.”

Her position, she agrees, is different than that of the council majority. She said they are hoping increased housing density at market prices will solve the issue. Finall said, however, that homes at market price will still be too high for many workers to afford. She called the drive for change led by developer demand.

Council has debated these positions throughout their term, with clear lines drawn between the two sides and among the community.

While the mayor says the District’s previous RCS allowed for such growth, Councillor Dunstan Browne said if the municipality did what the mayor wants, it would “blow the industrial folks out of the water.”

A collection of local industry employers has lobbied for increased housing development to meet the needs of its workforce. They have met with local municipalities, seeking policy that would help create more affordable homes and allow people to live closer to their jobs.

Coun. Ted Daly challenged Finall’s position once again, stating there’s a need for market housing.

“You’re wrong, Madame Mayor,” Daly stated at council’s Dec. 16 meeting. “There is a demand and the reason we’re not seeing it is North Saanich isn’t building anything.”

Forty units are in the works at 9395 East Saanich Rd. (Canora Mews), with an estimated 95 (not including secondary suites or laneway housing options) in the Reay Creek Meadows proposal on land south of Sidney’s Summergate Village. Another three condominium buildings are proposed for McDoinald Park Road, next to Parkland Secondary School.

North Saanich staff will be working on a visual representation of the District’s new growth plans in 2014.