A majority of North Saanich district councillors made it clear during a crowded public hearing this week that they are not pursuing social housing as they seek to allow a diverse selection of new homes on the Peninsula.
What is on the table, they said, are proposed changes to the district’s official community plan and zoning bylaw to help create the conditions (small residential lots) for market housing that can fill a need in their community. These changes are being led by a proposed 40-lot development at 9395 East Saanich Rd. While the hearing was not specifically about the development project — it was about zoning and OCP amendments — it is generally held that these changes are necessary in order for the development to proceed.
“The results from this public hearing are about right,” said Councillor Ted Daly, who had tallied up supporters and opposition who spoke out during the meeting.
He said with supporters slightly edging opposition (20 people stated they support the project, 16 were opposed and two didn’t clearly state a feeling either way), it mirrors the recent housing survey conducted by CTQ Consulting of Kelowna and one conducted in 2007 and 2008 following the last official community plan update.
Daly and Mayor Alice Finall both agreed that North Saanich is clearly a divided community when it comes to growth issues — and this dynamic is reflected by the current council.
“This community remains clearly divided,” Finall said. “There is no consensus in this community that we should be promoting higher density.”
Daly credited people for being honest in their dislike of change in their community but pointed out he believes there is a real need for new housing options.
“If it wasn’t for the airport and the ferry terminal, we’d be in deep, deep, do-do,” he said, referencing the district’s reliance on residential taxes.
Coun. Elsie McMurphy noted that while the district needs more affordable housing she feels it should come in the form of support and assistance, delving into the realm of social housing.
“I don’t want housing to trump land,” she said, “unless it meets our policy on a need for social housing.”
Coun. Craig Mearns said social housing — based on rents or mortgages set at no more than one-third of a person’s income — is for people on social assistance and is not on the table in this case.
“We don’t own this land,” added Coun. Conny McBride. “It’s up to its owners to decide it use and we need diverse housing.”
Opponents held a variety of opinions on the matter including the admission by some that they are NIMBYs and simply don’t want their community to change.
Others were concerned that the project was being advanced without the benefit of a final housing study report from CTQ Consulting. Daly pointed out on that point that council said all along that the study would not put on hold their decisions on this particular project.
Many of the speakers in opposition said they are worried the 9395 East Saanich Rd. project’s 40 lots are only the beginning — with 95 more proposed across the street and close to 200 in all looming on the horizon — and that the changes to the district’s OCP and zoning bylaw would open the door.
Supporters of the development also had many opinions, from the need for more affordable housing options on the market and the retention of local jobs, to beautifying the neighbourhood and adding sidewalks.
Council voted 4-3 to advance the changes to their OCP and zoning bylaws — as well as a bylaw to allow the project to be phased-in. They all passed third reading. Final adoption of these changes will require another vote at another council gathering.
The project itself still has hurdles to cross. Director of Planning Mark Brodrick says Sanpen and the district still have to agree on servicing and financing agreements for sewer and water utilities. Then, the company has to apply for a development permit and undergo scrutiny on the project’s form and character. Then, he said, there’s the building permit application process.
Workers to get first dibs on new homes
Sanpen Properties Inc. says local workers will get the first chance to buy new homes built at their 9395 East Saanich Rd. development site.
Mark Johnson, speaking on behalf of the company, says they will be offering the Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group, Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and North Saanich fire department first crack. He said the opportunity would last six months after the development officially gets shovels in the ground — with a full public opening to follow on or around December 16, 2013.
John Juricic, executive director of the Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group, says finding homes for local workers has been a top issue.
“This addresses the issue of non-workers buying the homes,” he said. “Financial incentives will be part of that.”
In a presentation to council, Johnson showed what the homes would look like, addressing concerns that the developer has not yet given an indication of the look and feel of the property. He said the project would be built out in one phase, despite the district’s need for a phased-in agreement.
Johnson added the company will be paying $32,250 in amenity and other fees, per lot, to the district for a total contribution of $1.25 million.
That includes money for the developer to build sewer connections.
“Certainly, this is a large cost of doing business in this community,” he said.
Prices for the homes, he said, would range from $399,900 to $434,900.
Angst over the OCP
A review of the official community plan in North Saanich won’t hapen any time soon, says Councillor Ted Daly, responding to calls to review it in the wake of planned density change sought to allow new development.
“I want it clear,” he explained, “I tried to get a full OCP review on the housing issue and was told by other councillors that this didn’t need it. Now, similar people are saying ‘do an OCP review.’ That ship has sailed.”
Instead, council at the beginning of this term of office decided to proceed with changes to the district’s housing policy, a document within the OCP.
“It’s true, an OCP review was requested,” says Mayor Alice Finall. “I did support it be put off but at that time, we had no idea this level of development pressure would show itself in North Saanich.”
Councillor Dunstan Browne said district staff told council they could proceed with looking at bits and pieces.
“And this is the one aspect that we’ve been talking about and this is the one that we reviewed,” he said.
Coun. Celia Stock says she’s not in favour of a full OCP review, adding the district’s chief administrative officer was clear that the housing component could be dealt with on its own.