Central Saanich ratepayers group disbands

A history of battles with the municipal council and an ongoing legal dispute leads to lack of interest.

The Resident Ratepayers of Central Saanich Society (RRoCSS) is no more.

At a recent annual general meeting in February, nobody wanted to take on any society board positions, leading to a motion to disband.

“I think it’s too bad … all volunteer organizations are finding it harder and harder to get people to do stuff,” said the former President of the Association, Ian Cameron.

The Central Saanich Rate Payers Association, said Cameron, folded in the 1990s as there weren’t enough people interested and not much going on.

“And a lot of the impetus behind the society always over the years was development, most of the members were concerned with development and taxes,” Cameron told the PNR.

In the ‘90s, he continued, there was a fairly anti-development council, part of what Cameron said led the rate payers to dissolve.

In 2008, following a municipal election which saw a new, pro-development council, individuals got together, rejuvenating the Society.

Cameron said during that first meeting, people were less concerned about taxes and development and more concerned about Central Saanich being a nice place.

“And so you ended up with a divided association. A lot of people wanted to keep council’s feet to the fire and have open council meetings and record what was going on and who voted on what, and a number of people wanted to basically run a welcome wagon,” he said.

That’s when the new group formed: the Resident Ratepayers of Central Saanich Society.

The Society, essentially formed to debate various issues with the District of Central Saanich over land use, took the District to court over proposed farmland redevelopment, losing the case and subsequent appeal.

RRoCSS were involved in three legal issues according to Cameron. The first was over the redevelopment of portions of the then-Vantreight farm. The Society took the municipality to court, saying they had abrogated their own community plan.

“The courts decided in favour of the municipality and said basically the OCP, in spite of what anyone might think, is not really a legal document and if council decides they don’t want to do it they don’t have to,” said Cameron.

Another issue was the plans by the Peninsula Co-op to put up a new building at the corner of West Saanich and Keating roads, which many residents objected to, Cameron said.

The third issue was the Senanus water line. Senanus Drive, home to some large and expensive properties, depended on wells. Cameron said with the amount of people there and with swimming pools, they later had trouble with their wells. There was still water, but many claimed it wasn’t fit to drink. The CRD’s health inspector disagreed. The residents, Cameron continued, wanted piped water and the nearest source was in Saanichton. Infrastructure expansion plans and conflicts over cost-sharing ensued.

It was Cameron’s practice following each meeting to send out an email, talking about the various feedback the Society received.

At one point during the water debate, Cameron said they had between 120 and 140 members. He said he was in contact with many through email, making comments to them about the waterline and the Central Saanich West Voters Association, representing people who lived on Senanus Drive. They had formed it to lobby for the waterline, he said.

Cameron added that during the waterline conflict, he mentioned Gordon Denford, who subsequently sued RRoCSS, Cameron, the Mt. Newton Neighbourhood Association and others who were executive members of RRoCSS, for libel.

RRoCSS then asked for arbitration which didn’t succeed. The court case brought by Denford is still ongoing and will be for the next two years, adding to the Society’s woes.

When asked if he thinks the Society could eventually reform, Cameron said he doesn’t think it will ever be revived.