Consultant interviews to be public

North Saanich council agrees to make housing consultant meetings public; will pay more for consultation program

North Saanich is okay with more than doubling the cost of their housing strategy consultation program, but less so with the frequency of private meetings being conducted in the process.

District council unanimously approved on Jan. 14 a request from consultant Ed Grafone to up his consulting fee from $18,600, to $38,500. Grafone, of CTQ Consultants Ltd. out of Kelowna, had made the request to revise the budget on Dec. 20, 2012 (and updated Jan. 7, 2013), citing the addition of a second public open house and an increase in the demand for one-on-one interviews.

Council awarded CTQ the consulting job last year and had Grafone present his consultation program on Dec. 10. The original terms of reference for the community consultative process were presented to council on Sept. 17, 2012.

In a Jan. 8, 2013 staff report, the consultant had told staff that a large amount of public and political interest in the housing issue “will require expanded communications, preparation for meetings and additional work.”

At its committee of the whole meeting Jan. 14, council and residents in the audience questioned the need for one-on-one interviews, with some calling on them to be made public.

Councillor Ted Daly said he was concerned with the meetings, mostly with their use of the consultant’s time.

“I expect that the consultant will tell people there are no more opportunities for such meetings, as the budget has to be adhered to,” Daly said.

Mayor Alice Finall agreed, adding it will be up to Grafone to use his discretion on the number and type of meetings and should seek a balance.

During a public question period on the matter, resident Springfield Harrison said he objects to the one-on-one meetings.

“I want them ended and I want them made public,” he said.

Resident David Olsen agreed, saying they should be made public.

Coun. Elsie McMurphy recommended that lists of stakeholders being interviewed, as well as a list of people in the one-on-ones with Grafone — called “key informants” by staff — be made public.

Director of planning and community services Mark Brodrick noted that such interviews are common in consultation and the lists of groups and individuals are, in part, being generated by staff as well.

McMurphy asked that council support putting this information on the district’s website and they agreed, with Coun. Craig Mearns the lone dissenter.

Grafone was hired to take the district and its residents through a consultation on a potential update to the municipality’s housing planning policy. There are plans now for two public open houses, two focus group meetings and two neighbourhood meetings. The plan is to draft a report on a “new planning policy regarding higher density housing in North Saanich.”

Brodrick noted that the consultant will be giving people an overview of the current issues and process in the district.

Coun. Dunstan Browne added part of Grafone’s job will be to assist with any changes to the district’s strategic plan and with any impacts on Capital Regional District policies.

Harrison added concerns he and a concerned citizens group at odds with increased development expressed over the process back in December — regarding bias and stakeholder groups — have so far been unheeded.

“I’m concerned with just who are these forces groups,” added resident Jack Thorneberg. “I wonder if they represent a broad spectrum of the community.”

Daly said that people shouldn’t second-guess the consultant’s expertise.

“We’re starting to really pick this poor guy apart,” he said, “and he isn’t even done yet.”

Finall agreed, noting that she hopes all of council will be at the open houses as well.

The first public open house is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 29, 4 to 8 p.m. at the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, 9295 East Saanich Rd.

First open house Jan. 29

The question of developing higher density housing in the District of North Saanich goes to the public for feedback for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

This is the initial public step in the district’s housing strategy community consultation process. The open house will be held at the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church between 4 and 8 p.m.

There are further plans for neighbourhood meetings, focus groups and another open house, before a consultant prepared a final draft report for council. Dates and times for those meetings have not yet been announced, but are expected in February and March.

• The focus groups, according the the district, include one for industry (developers/realtors), the Victoria Airport Authority and the chamber of commerce. Another focus group will include employees, prospective buyers and renters.

• Two neighbourhood meeting are planned for residents in areas where higher densities are being proposed: the Southeast Quadrant and McDonald Park Road. All community residents are encouraged to attend these neighbourhood meetings.

 

Just Posted

Active investigation into reported sexual assault at CFB Esquimalt

An Oct. 5 allegation is being investigated by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

Banquo Folk Ensemble serenades Sidney

20 into performing, the ancient music ensemble visits the Peninsula

Saanich mayor won’t tip hand on electoral referendum

Councillor receives support from fellow councillors in favour of PR

Taxis in bus lanes not being considered, Victoria Transit chair says

Susan Brice responds to a cab driver’s request for access to Douglas Street priority lanes

Team Canada will play 2 games in Victoria ahead of World Juniors

The annual World Junior Championship begins on Boxing Day

Throw a snowball to help kids at BC Children’s Hospital

Effort will raise money for sick kids over the holidays

No one wants to guard lives in Sooke

Puzzled community cancelling swim programs due to inability to hire life guards

Expect no quick end to Canada-wide cannabis shortages, producers warn

Provinces including British Columbia, Alberta have all reported varying degrees of shortages

Teddy the dog abuse case headed for February trial

Pre-trial hearing tomorrow in case that galvanized animal-lovers

Want to buy your first home? Move to Kamloops or Prince George

Kamloops, Prince George, Campbell River and Langford are the only other markets in the study without gaps between required and actual income in owning a home.

Feds give $2 million for anti-extremism programs in B.C.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said supporting efforts locally is key to prevention

Seniors in care homes may not get referendum ballots in the mail: Seniors Advocate

Voters list was established in May 2017, so if they moved into a care home since then….

Should the legal age for cannabis be increased to 21?

B.C. residents have a more mellow attitude to the age limit for pot – but 23 per cent want the legal age increased

Expect ride hailing in B.C. by 2020, Premier Horgan says

Taxi-style insurance option needed for part-time drivers

Most Read