Central Saanich council is hosting a special committee meeting April 22 to invite more public input on the Capital Regional District’s regional sustainability strategy after residents spoke up at a March 9 committee meeting.
They spoke against the inclusion of a Future Growth Area (FGA) for lands on West Saanich Road north and south of Keating Cross Road. The FGA was proposed by the former Central Saanich council, and if adopted, would open the rural area to development for industrial, commercial and residential use.
It’s something Councillor Alicia Cormier is dead set against.
“Central Saanich needs to value the arable land that we have, and treasure it, and know that in 30 years it will be a really valuable community asset,” she said.
The RSS is a “progressive and necessary document that will guide us as a region. They’re necessary and aggressive targets (for reducing greenhouse gasses),” added Cormier.
Cormier said the FGA goes against everything the sustainability strategy is trying to do.
“What is the rationale for paving viable farmland and creating a negative impact on local food security?
“It creates urban sprawl and will negatively impact the commercial viability of Saanichton and Brentwood Villages, as well as the Keating industrial area,” she said.
Cormier also pointed to an infrastructure deficit in the District.
“For us to even fathom adding infrastructure costs to support development is just out of the question. Development is at best cost-neutral, and it’s not going to pay for itself.”
Mayor Ryan Windsor made the motion to recommend that council mail out an informational flyer to the residents of Central Saanich to raise awareness about the FGA and to invite input.
“I’d like to hear more from the community before I make a final determination on this,” he said. “We need that information before we react to either proceed or take it off the table.”
Staff will likely need a few days to prepare the document, said Windsor, and then a week or two to distribute.
Cormier’s concern is time, she said.
With the CRD accepting input from municipalities until their April 16 deadline, she doesn’t see how the flyer and further public input can be gathered in time.
But the mayor insists that the residents of Central Saanich will have their say.
“We can always ask the CRD for an amendment,” he said, adding that as a regional director on the CRD, he can make the case to the board for more time.
“We’re dealing with a new council, and we have to take our time. If we have to delay the process, so be it.”
Council was unanimous in their desire for more public input and discourse.
“There was a healthy number of people (at the meeting) who spoke out against (the FGA),” said Coun. Bob Thompson. “My position since day one is I’ve been between two sides. I wanted to hear from all sides and get a full community debate.”
“It’s always been a contentious area,” he said. “The difference in part this time is it’s added in an industrial and commercial component that had not been considered previously.”
The location of the April 22 special committee meeting has not yet been decided, though council specified it would be at a larger space than council chambers to accommodate attendees. For more information, visit centralsaanich.ca.
For a complete draft of the Regional Sustainability Strategy, visit www.crd.bc.ca/project/rss. To see the report from Central Saanich District staff, visit http://bit.ly/1Mun15o.