District of North Saanich staff are anticipating more development pressure in the community over the next few years than in recent history, and that was something the politicians didn’t seem to want to hear.
District director of planning and community services, Mark Brodrick reported that in his professional estimation, there could be as many as 590 lots or units proposed in the municipality now and in the immediate future. That figure is part of Brodrick’s Oct. 29 implications of current and anticipated development report, presented to council at the Nov. 5 committee of the whole meeting. He told council he is making estimates based on ongoing and anticipated development applications in North Saanich, adding the final numbers could vary depending on what is approved by council.
In comparison, Brodrick reported that over the last 16 years the district approved only 448 units or lots — or an average of 28 per year. Current development pressure, according to his report, is equal to about 20 years of historic growth.
“The current growth limits are 1,015 units/lots by 2026,” stated Brodrick in his report. “Should all current anticipated development be approved now, that allowable growth to the year 2026 will be exceeded.”
Asked by councillor Ted Daly what the current development applications are and the growth they represent, Brodrick said there are around 350, if maximum lots or units are taken into account in four proposals before council right now.
He added there are another 200-plus units/lots in proposed projects that are not before council yet, nor in the application stage. Brodrick said those are in the early discussions stage and have not been made public.
Daly and coun. Dunstan Browne took issue with Brodrick’s numbers, saying the planner took only the highest estimates for each proposal.
“What’s being talked about is the maximum for only the active development proposals,” Browne said. “That’s what’s on the table right now.”
Brodrick said his report is speaking of potential, and how, if council grants bylaw amendments, the numbers could go up to the maximum if developers’ plans change. He did admit he had done some guesswork and analysis in coming up with his figures.
Browne said the current development proposals only ask for between 105 and 145 units or lots. Brodrick noted that proposed wording of bylaw amendments needed to allow them to proceed, could allow for more. His report also indicates there are staff concerns about proceeding too quickly in advance of consultation with the public on housing issues, site servicing, Capital Regional District growth strategy concerns and the lack of a district amenity policy.
Daly said council cannot rely on the 590 number.
“This council should only be considering the implications of active proposals in front of us,” he said, suggesting that Brodrick’s report wants council to go back to the beginning on these proposals.
Daly added the proposals before council offer the type of housing the district doesn’t have, and needs. He said he still thinks the district can create policies, one-by-one, as they deal with each development proposal.
Mayor Alice Finall said the implication of Brodrick’s report is that the district needs an OCP review, and to hear from the community on the issue of housing.
“Council has no way of knowing what residents of North Saanich think on this issue,” she said.
Finall added that the current council majority didn’t proceed with an OCP review at the start of their term because “they thought it would be faster if they didn’t.” A review of the OCP in North Saanich remains a contention issue between councillors.
Finall said the number of developments and their implications have never been adequately addressed by council. Brodrick’s report, she noted, shows the impact is going beyond spot development proposals and are having a wide range effect. Finall said staff have no new policies to guide them, as housing proposals sometimes contradict existing policies.
“I still haven’t seen what the final plan is for 9395 East Saanich Road,” Finall said of one of the proposals.
Daly raised a motion to receive Brodrick’s report, which would essentially shelve it.
“The report is based on assumptions, estimations and opinions,” he said, noting he doesn’t believe the figures.
“How can I rely on a report that based on numbers that, in my opinion, don’t add up.”
His motion passed, 6-1 (Finall opposed). Council will have a chance to debate the issue once again when the matter is brought to a regular council meeting for ratification.