North Saanich wants clarity on its OCP policies

North Saanich council wants there to be some way for residents to know what policies out of the district’s official community plan

North Saanich council wants there to be some way for residents to know what policies out of the district’s official community plan (OCP) are in effect and which ones are not.

Residents Rod and Linda Harris had approached the municipality more than a year ago, inquiring about the district’s policy in regards to green building construction. They were under the impression that the OCP included provisions for a rebate to homeowners who followed green practices in the renovation of their home.

Rod Harris told council at their June 3 meeting that he was told by staff that policy, while it was part of the OCP, had not yet come into effect. That effectively meant that the Harris’ would not be getting a rebate.

“What takes precedence, bylaws or the OCP,” asked Harris. “I think that the OCP is an instrument to defer decisions.”

Councillor Ted Daly said he was surprised that the OCP says one thing, but that the action needed to be taken to enact it has not yet occurred.

“I want to strike that part of the (OCP) bylaw if council has no intent on following through,” Daly said. “It’s misleading and we should strike it from the bylaw.”

Chief administrative officer Rob Buchan said the district’s OCP contains a variety of policies, none of which council is obliged to implement.

“But once (council) does so, the subsequent bylaw must be consistent with the outline of the overall OCP,” Buchan explained.

He added that this particular policy in the OCP — allowing for rebates on green construction — is not in effect by way of council bylaw. Nor could it be made retroactive, under law, should council decide to vote it into effect.

Buchan also warned of the potential consequences of dropping policies from the overall OCP bylaw.

“If council wanted to remove all of the policies in the OCP that aren’t implemented,” he said, “they would find a large portion of the OCP would disappear.”

Coun. Craig Mearns said, however, he likes the idea of offering rebates — as well as offering the Harris’ a rebate on their renovation, if it can legally be done.

Buchan noted that district staff have been working on a green housing plan, which to date has not yet been enacted by council. Director of planing Mark Brodrick added a climate change action plan was completed by a consultant some time ago, but it too remains inactive.

Daly suggested that council get the green housing rebate plan in motion, a move approved by all of council.

Daly added he would like there to be some way for people — and council — to know what portions of the district’s OCP are in effect and which ones are not.

“Our OCP should have a way for people to know what policy statements aren’t in place.”