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LETTER: Get developers out of the OCP process in North Saanich

I applaud Jeff Stanhope’s letter to the Review regarding Alice Finall’s commentary on the direction the North Saanich OCP is taking. His letter was bang on. North Saanich has been valued as a rural district. It is the green space, or as Alice Finall says, the lungs of the region.

One of the reasons I love this area so much is because it is rural. However, the direction the district is taking will irreparably change this, it doesn’t seem to have much interest in preserving the environment or wildlife that live here. Development has become the new focus. In North Saanich households struggle with affordability, Wolfgang Depner writes that, “Most households in North Saanich – and especially families – cannot afford the most common type of housing…single-detached homes.” (Aren’t people already residents if they own houses here?) And that older individuals or couples whose children have moved away are “likely” the main homeowners in North Saanich. He promotes increasing affordable housing when as Alice Finall (and Jeff Stanhope) remind us, this is contrary to our region’s planning values.

Generally, affordable housing has been out of reach in all of the Greater Victoria municipalities. For years, we have seen a trend of people who can’t afford to get into the market move up island where property prices are lower. Langford’s acre upon acre of cheaply designed ‘affordable’ housing is still out of reach for many people. Due to expensive new homes flooding the market here, I’ve seen my property assessment go up by 13 per cent this year. And, isn’t there a very active real estate market in North Saanich with houses selling as quickly as they are listed? Obviously some people can afford them. North Saanich is outside of the Urban Containment Boundary in the regional growth strategy so why is there a push for us to become an affordable housing mecca?

Developers don’t care about preserving the environment or rural character of our district, it is all about maximizing their profit. You only need to look at the abomination at Moses Point, where, with our district’s blessing, all the trees were razed and requirements adjusted so the maximum number of lots could be jammed in. Developers have far too much input already (eg. the Tree Protection Bylaw review). They hire their own arborists to support the wholesale removal of trees and again maximize their profit. Developers should not have a voice in our OCP review. Wolfgang Depner noted that the District pushed back in support of developers involvement in the OCP saying a “farmer with a strong vested interest in agriculture could also be seen to have a vested interest.” The farmer is a taxpaying resident in our district, the developer is not, and the farmer’s interests align with the focus for our region. The time has come for our district to ‘preserve and protect’ what is left and get the developers out of the OCP process.

Sue Starkey

North Saanich