North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones promises the first 100 days of the new council “will be exciting” as he will ask council to support a new vision for the municipality’s Official Community Plan review, among other issues.
“Residents have spoken loudly,” he said earlier during his inaugural address. “They want to maintain North Saanich as a rural oasis. To accomplish this, I look to contain the urban containment boundary at the current boundary with Central Saanich and Sidney, support the vision of the Regional Growth Strategy and grow North Saanich in a sustainable way that enhances our rural roots.”
While Jones did not further specify his new vision for the OCP, he said in earlier interviews that he will ask council to stop the process for two months.
Jones’ inaugural speech also repeated an earlier promise to involve local experts in the process to help develop a vision in line with keeping North Saanich rural as per the mandate from voters.
Jones is among five members of the incoming council, who had earlier received an endorsement from Save North Saanich.
The group — which has been critical of that community’s review of the Official Community Plan specifically and concerned about the pace of development generally — had also earlier endorsed incumbent Couns. Jack McClintock and Celia Stock, as well as new Couns. Irene McConkey and Sanjiv Shrivastava.
New Coun. Phil DiBattista and incumbent Coun. Brett Smyth also took the oath of office.
If North Saanich residents witnessed the inauguration of a council largely different from the previous one, Central Saanich residents witnessed the inauguration of a council that largely remained the same with Coun. Sarah Riddell as the new addition. But it is not short of significance.
Riddell won the most votes in 2022 and is the first woman elected to Central Saanich in eight years.
Mayor Ryan Windsor, who returned to office by acclamation, welcomed Riddell in his inaugural address. “We are fortunate to have you join our council as a new voice and decision-maker for our community,” he said of Riddell.
He later identified the municipality’s climate leadership plan among the priorities for the next term. “It guides us to reduce emissions through practical programs for our residents, such as the oil-to-heat pump program, which is allowing homeowners to significantly reduce pollution while heating their homes,” he said. “This is a first-of-its-kind program in B.C. and has demonstrated leadership despite our being a mid-sized municipality.”
He also expressed confidence that council will continue to support Central Saanich’s agricultural community. “Improving our active transportation network and road safety continue to be an area of great interest to our community, and other roadway improvements such as the Keating flyover will again be key in this term,” he added.
Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith also returned to office by acclamation. Voters elected two new councillors — Couns. Steve Duck and Richard Novek. McNeil-Smith acknowledged both of them, while also welcoming the four returning councillors — Couns. Sara Duncan, Scott Garnett, Terri O’Keeffe and Chad Rintoul — with all of them serving their second term.
McNeil-Smith’s inaugural address identified the review of the municipality’s zoning bylaw following the completion of the OCP review earlier this year as a “significant priority” among other issues.
“Housing development in Sidney will continue to be a high priority,” he added. “The new OCP brings new and important policies forward regarding how we continue growth in a balanced way and consider further policy to provide housing options for working individuals, families, and seniors.”
Council is also expected to review a draft economic development plan and the results of the parking study currently underway in 2023, he said.
McNeil-Smith also touched on two major infrastructure projects: the proposed roundabout for Galaran Road near the Amazon facility and Beacon Wharf.
Victoria Airport Authority (VAA), Sidney and North Saanich are currently awaiting the outcome of a federal grant application for $5 million prior to finalizing financial details for the roundabout, he said. “We anticipate that the project will initiate and complete before the end of 2023,” he said.
The project, led by VAA, faces cost overruns and North Saanich has already signalled opposition to cover any additional expenses. The initial memorandum of agreement calls for VAA and Sidney to each cover 40 per cent of the costs, North Saanich the rest.
McNeil-Smith also touched on Beacon Wharf, but without giving any possible clues about future directions.
“The public will recall that after the Beacon Wharf public engagement held in 2021, council resolved to maintain the existing wharf as long as is practicable,” he said. “The leases for the two businesses operating on the wharf were also renewed until the end of 2024. A condition assessment is completed on the wharf every five years; the next assessment is scheduled for 2023 and the results will be brought forward to council.”
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