Crowd expected for OCP hearing

North Saanich land use changes face public scrutiny July 14

If past public hearings on the official community plan in North Saanich are any indication, there could be hundreds of people at the Mary Winspear Centre Monday night, speaking to proposed changes to land use in that municipality.

Seven bylaws are up for public input — five of which will allow two neighbourhoods in North Saanich to accept the building of higher-density residential housing through redevelopment projects.

Two bylaws are to consider phased-in developments at Rideau-Canora roads (99 lots and up to 100 carriage homes) and at McDonald Park Road (a 54-unit condo development).

Monday’s mass public hearing comes after the Capital Regional District narrowly approved North Saanich’s plan to change its Regional Context Statement and OCP to accommodate the increased building density. This has been a polarizing issue in North Saanich, one that has existed for years, says Mayor Alice Finall, who has found herself in the minority at the council table this term.

Finall says council decided to move the public hearings session to the Mary Winspear Centre in anticipation of a large crowd.

“Back in 2006, during our OCP review at the time, public hearings at the time drew 200 people or so, so we had to re-schedule to a larger venue.

“When we did, it drew close to 850 people.”

Finall said she’s been hearing there could be a lot of people out on Monday night — especially since there were an estimated 200 people and 30 to 40 speakers at the CRD meeting that advanced the RCS changes.

“What’s on the table here is a change to allow the urbanization of around 174 acres of land,” Finall said. “Some of it is zoned rural or agricultural and the current OCP says it can be rezoned residential.”

Proposals, either before the municipality or still on the fringes, number an estimated 420 new homes, she continued.

“For me, this is very concerning, that we should be plowing ahead on these without a full OCP review.”

The majority of council has lamented that stance, noting that Finall had at the start of this term on council discouraged a full OCP review. She suggested at the time that any housing density changes could be done on its own. Finall said while that was the case, the majority could have overruled her at any time.

Since then, council has been split. Finall said some residents she has spoken with are concerned that no matter what is said at Monday’s public hearing, the minds of councillors are already made up.

North Saanich council holds a committee of the while meeting Monday at 4 p.m. at municipal hall. There will be a short break afterwards to allow councillors to get to the Mary Winspear Centre for  the hearing to start at 7 p.m.