New density zones raise eyebrows

Consultant report on housing growth in North Saanich both expected and lamented

A delay in the public debate over North Saanich’s latest housing report is probably a good thing, say both supporters and opponents of the report’s findings.

That could be the last thing either side agrees upon.

CTQ Consultants of Kelowna submitted a final draft of the housing report to District council back in June. Staff shortages have contributed to the time it has taken to prepare an in-house report on the document, but the municipality had set Aug. 13 to begin public debate. That, however, has been moved to Sept. 9.

“I’m pleased with it,” said Councillor Ted Daly, who along with his counterparts Connie McBride, Craig Mearns and Dunstan Browne, have been pushing for more housing growth in the community.

“It came as no surprise to me when I reviewed it in June,” Daly continued.

While he said there has been a delay in a public account of the report, he’s supportive of moving a meeting on it to September.

“To me, the sooner the better, but it is a big issue in the community and it makes sense to get most of council at a meeting on it.”

Geoff Orr, president of the North Saanich Residents Association, says moving the meeting to September gives interested parties more time to prepare their input into the report. Concerned people, he said, had thought the report would come up at council’s planned Aug. 19 meeting. Some were scrambling a bit to prepare information for a meeting a week prior to that.

“I figure (the report) will spark a lot of talk and a lot of debate,” Orr said. “It has been fine to talk theories (about housing in the community), but now I will be interested to see how council uses this to define (the District’s) rate of growth. Council, I think, will have to decide what they want to bite off.”

Orr said he hopes the report is one piece of information used by the community in determining what’s an appropriate level of development in the future. He said he is still concerned that council would not include his association’s survey on housing in North Saanich as additional information in the CTQ report.

“We tried to give the survey results to council,” he said, adding they would not vote to accept it. “It was there to gauge response to the questions we had. In my personal opinion, there were 300 people in the survey and it should have been part of the overall review of the issue.”

The NSRA’s survey showed different responses than an official survey held by the consultant. They showed evidence of a continued disparity between those residents who favour growth and those who do not, or would rather see better planning by the municipality.

Areas of North Saanich determined by the consultant to be ripe for higher housing densities as well as places eye for new urban containment boundaries include two primary spaces: the southeast quadrant (around Canora and East Saanich roads) and McDonald Park Road on the east side of the Pat Bay highway, and; two secondary areas — McTavish Road west and the former Sandown race track land.

Orr said he wasn’t expecting to see MacTavish Road west included here but the subject should be discussed further.

“The report furthers what is needed to get (currently-proposed developments) moving,” Orr said. “It outlines for people what needs to be done to move ahead.”

Daly said the idea of new urban containment boundaries makes sense, as any growth in North Saanich has to be run by the Capital Regional District for its approval. Creating its own boundaries in some of those growth areas, he said, would give the District more control.

As for the secondary areas of growth pointed out by the consultant, Daly said that doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen there. He did add housing has been raised before as an option in the Sandown area in prior proposals. Overall, he said, the report is a good picture of areas he thinks are appropriate for growth.

Daly said he expects staff to have their analysis of the CTQ report ready by September, adding he hopes they approve it and council gets on with it.