North Saanich councillors will hear calls to stop the review of the Official Community Plan Monday when meeting to discuss a key document.
Save North Saanich, a community group including former mayor Alice Finall, will rally opposite municipal hall on the other side of Mills Road starting at 6 p.m. on July 12, to express opposition to the substance and process of the review designed to map future land uses. Inside, councillors will receive a report summarizing public engagement as well as emerging concepts as the process moves into the third phase.
The group fears the OCP paves the path for more development contrary to what it believes to be the rural character of the community and is calling on the municipality to stop the current process and start anew.
“We need a new path forward that involves residents, local businesses and First Nations, and not everybody else in the universe,” said Don Enright, a member of the group.
The group has accused the municipality of allowing developers — specifically the Urban Development Institute (UDI) — to shape the process, a charge which Mayor Geoff Orr rejected. “It’s not controlling the process, there is no evidence to support that,” he said last month. But at least Coun. Celia Stock has been sympathetic to the group’s charge, publicly accusing UDI of being biased against farming last month.
Another subject of criticism is North Saanich’s consultant, MODUS, which is also handling the OCP review process in Sidney and Central Saanich.
“The consultant has very little sense of the community,” Enright said. “The consultant, we believe, arrived with a result in the mind and has moved relentlessly on that course. You can see in their basic concepts – which is urbanization, densification and intensification — the three horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
The group has also been critical of the process. “The idea that they could launch an OCP review … during an international pandemic, when you can’t really have dialogue seems a very precarious situation,” Enright added.
While the review started before the COVID-19 pandemic, a good deal of consultations so have far have happened online. But the municipality has also hosted multiple, socially-distanced in-person events in recent months.
Officials have promised to review the process.
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