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Uncertainty surrounds OCP process in North Saanich

Mayor-elect Peter Jones said earlier he plans to ask for a two-month suspension of the process
Questions surround the OCP process in North Saanich following the election of a new council largely critical of the process so far. (Black Press Media file photo)

A statement from the District of North Saanich said discussions between staff and the incoming members of council are focusing on preparing them for their new roles.

Black Press Media received that statement in response to a series of questions about the future of the official community plan (OCP) review. The members of North Saanich’s newly elected council will take their oath of office on Nov. 7.

“Staff have continued to meet with the consultant on a regular basis, as they have throughout the project,” it reads. “Once drafted, the plan will be presented to council and North Saanich residents in the first quarter of 2023 for review and another phase of public engagement.”

Modus Planning, Design and Engagement based in Vancouver has been handling the review in North Saanich, along with the since-completed OCP review in Sidney and the ongoing but far less controversial OCP review in Central Saanich.

The outgoing council tasked Modus with drafting a new OCP almost two months before residents elected a new council with five members including mayor-elect Peter Jones endorsed by Save North Saanich. The community group has been critical of the review specifically and the pace of development in North Saanich generally.

Critics of the OCP review — like Save North Saanich, which has previously called for a stop to the review — say it paves the path toward what they have called the suburbanization of North Saanich, contrary to its rural character, a charge countered by voices who argue that North Saanich needs additional as well as different types of housing for younger, working families looking to establish themselves, and older individuals looking to downsize in place.

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Voters for their part signalled a clear preference by electing a council whose members have been largely critical of the review based on past statements.

Jones said in an earlier interview he would ask the incoming council to stop the process for two months. “We will talk with people within the community that should have been consulted when this was first looked at two or three years ago,” he said. “We will put a hold on the consultant from Vancouver. We will talk with the people with vast experience that we have in North Saanich. A number of these people are prepared to step forward and help us to get an OCP that is reasonable and not radical.” More broadly, Jones has promised to get the OCP done.

It is, however, not clear yet whether North Saanich can suspend the process under the terms of the agreement, and if so, at what costs and other risks down the line. Black Press Media asked the district about its legal leeway to ask for a temporary suspension of the work without incurring any financial penalties and whether North Saanich runs the risk of breaching its contract with the consultant and thereby potentially inviting a lawsuit. Black Press also asked North Saanich staff to rate the possibility of paying the consultant a compensation fee in the case the work gets suspended.

North Saanich said in its statement that it is unable to answer these questions at this time, adding that a copy of the contract with Modus is available through a freedom-of-information request.

Black Press Media also reached out to Peter Jones, but did not receive a response by deadline.

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