A local developer is trying to create facts on the ground by clearing a sensitive Garry oak eco-system of its undergrowth, says a Saanich resident speaking for a group of concerned residents in the North Quadra area.
Stefanie Cepeda offered this assessment Thursday morning as private crews were clearing four lots off Milner Avenue of its under-growth. Last August, Saanich told Kasapi Construction to revise their plans for a sub-division on the properties after staff raised a number of environmental issues.
“This proposal is viewed as highly overdensified for the sensitive and valuable ecosystem present,” staff said in asking for revisions. “Would like to see a proposal that includes fewer lots, greater protection of the QEP [Qualified Environmental Professional] identified sensitive areas and perhaps includes a larger common area protected under natural state covenant, and a restoration plan.”
Cepeda said Saanich staff specifically identified the under-growth of the area for protection and this clean-up — which started Wednesday — represents a bad faith attempt by the developers to tip the application in their favour.
“So they are playing dirty,” she said. “They are absolutely trying to get rid of the problem,” she added later.
Cepeda said this move by the developer makes a “mockery” of Saanich’s environmental protection process. (By way of background, staff are currently working on ways to replace the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw, which had protected the four lots, until council rescinded the bylaw, following criticism from a small but vocal lobby of home-owners who argued that the bylaw diminished control of their properties and their values).
“The vegetation that they are stripping would have been protected under the EDPA,” said Cepeda, who also used the occasion to criticize councillors, who voted in favour of eliminating the EDPA.
“Councillors who repealed the EDPA, and all those who have failed to replace it in a timely way, must be held responsible for the environmental destruction that has happened today,” she said.
Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said the sub-division application remains active, and staff have been on site today, where they found no evidence of any infractions against Saanich’s tree removal bylaw.
“As for the removal of the under-story vegetation, staff have doubled checked other relevant legislation and can find no contraventions at the present time,” she said. “Without a specific assessment of the site by a qualified professional, it can not be confirmed if the vegetation being cleared would or would not have been protected under the old EDPA.”