CRD review of Central Saanich land decisions has many local supporters

The community is fired up over a Capital Regional District Board decision to review several recent decisions made by Central Saanich council.

  • Jul. 14, 2011 6:00 a.m.

The community is fired up over a Capital Regional District Board decision to review several recent decisions made by Central Saanich council.

“I’m speaking as a grandfather who hopes that my grandchildren have the same opportunities I’ve had to enjoy food security, the produce of good farms, and the ability to roam and wander in beautiful rural areas,” said North Saanich resident Jack Thornburgh. “I’ve served on municipal government in the past, and I’ve given a lot of thought to the responsibilities a municipal councillor is charged with. If I am an elected municipal councillor, there are at least two key responsibilities that I and my fellow councillors are charged with. One is to ensure the best possible mutual consultation with the citizens and residents of my municipality — whether that be in public meetings, one-to-one chats on the street, or in small groups in a neighbourhood.

“The other key responsibility of a municipal elected official is to uphold, protect, and defend the democratically-legislated bylaws, mandates, and regulatory processes of my municipality and region — until such time as these bylaws and regulations are duly amended through public consultation and full democratic process.”

Others echoed Thornburgh’s sentiments. “In the past three years, citizens of Central Saanich have spent thousands of hours of volunteer time, and to date $95,404 of donated funds to take the mayor and council of Central Saanich to task for approving these developments, which are not in the public interest,” said Central Saanich resident Lori Waters.

Waters is part of the Mount Newton Neighbourhood Association which was successful in its court challenge against Central Saanich in the Senanus waterline case. The district has since changed its approach, which has allowed the water line to proceed.

“While the CRD has greater resources than the citizens, the CRD also has a much greater stake. The Regional Growth Strategy is an agreement. If a signatory to that agreement says they don’t answer to the CRD with respect to issues in the agreement, then it is, by definition, no longer an agreement. What the District of Central Saanich and the CRD must remember is that Central Saanich signed and agreed to be bound to the other signatories and the terms, in order to create the RGS agreement,” Waters said.

The CRD will review Central Saanich council decisions on the Vantreight development, the Senanus waterline, a subdivision on McPhail Road, the proposed rezoning of Woodwynn Farms and the proposed northwest quadrant water service area.

“Central Saanich’s participation in the Regional Growth Strategy was passed unanimously by the council of the day, as was our Official Community Plan,” said Central Saanich resident Frances Pugh. “The present votes supporting the applications that are inconsistent with the OCP and RGS have been weak, split votes with one person casting the deciding vote and deciding the fate of our municipality.”

In an official response to the CRD the Central Saanich West Voters Association said it was shocked with the decision.

“The right of every Canadian to access safe drinking water has been recognized by every level of government in this country. Our members are strongly of the view that right applies to all men, women and children who reside in the CRD — including the northwest quadrant of Central Saanich — regardless of which side of an ‘urban containment boundary’ their homes are located.

“Rest assured that our membership intends to undertake all necessary measures to ensure that our good neighbours in the northwest quadrant enjoy the same political and legal rights and civil amenities as our neighbours in Saanich, Victoria and other CRD jurisdictions,” said CSWVA president Frank Towler.

The Peninsula Co-op also responded to the CRD decision pointing out that because the proposed bylaws for its development in Central Saanich are at third reading, and the public hearing has been concluded, members of Central Saanich council could not participate in further debate. “This removed the ability for the CRD board to hear from Central Saanich. This was and is procedurally wrong and unfair to the Co-op, and Central Saanich council,” said Co-op CEO Pat Fafard.

“The committee approved the agenda along with a motion to permit Ms. Frances Pugh to speak to the committee in opposition to the rezoning as a representative of the Residents and Ratepayers of Central Saanich (RRoCSS) of which she is a member,” continued Fafard. “Our VP of the board and chairman of our Planning Committee requested permission to speak. The intent was to inform the committee that due to the fact that the zoning bylaws had not received final approval, no public submissions either for or against the subject should be received. This was denied by Chairman (Graham) Hill, removing all opportunity to be heard.”

“Unless projects like our official community plans, Regional Growth Strategy, and regional sustainability strategies have some teeth, there is no way that I would waste my time, (or) recommend anyone else waste their time participating in such exercises, because that is all they are is exercises,” Pugh said.

“It is our belief that problems generated by restrictive and poor planning decisions in Central Saanich should be addressed by the elected council and not by a non-elected body such as the CRD,” said Fafard.

“While the electorate is seen as subordinate to council, the CRD member municipalities, as co-signatories to the agreement, are of equal or of significantly greater standing than the electorate to the court. Moreover, the court greatly needs the assistance of a party that can inform them on the Regional Growth Strategy agreement, and of the importance of staying true to the spirit of these visions for the broader community and public good. The CRD board must not allow the test of the electorate versus a council be its sole test of the validity of the RGS,” said Waters.