Like it or not, the proposed housing development at 9395 East Saanich Road is a test case — and a risk — for the District of North Saanich.
At one level, it’s a test to see just how open the community is for new growth.
At another, it’s a test of the council as they fast-track the project alongside a community consultation process that will recommend possible changes to the district’s official community plan and regional context statement.
When it comes to new growth, it seems most people — no matter on which side of a divided council they fall — are okay with a little bit, here and there. In this area, the test has passed.
Fast-tracking the East Saanich Road project — in lock-step with the consultation process — is so far failing. It’s led to council acrimony and mediation, to dug-in positions from council and residents who seem to take contrary positions no matter what the debate is about. Council, too, does not appear to be on the same page when it comes to just what the consultant will bring back to the table in the new year. All sides are second-guessing the outcome of the process and do not seem to be willing to approach it with an open mind.
Council took a risk in its fast-track of this development. The majority of council were hoping they could get it done together. That assumes however, that the consultant they hired will deliver the message they want to hear.
There’s no guarantee of that and changing the OCP and RCS for the sake of one project carries with it high risk and the potential new standard for projects yet to come.
There is a need for diverse housing options on the Peninsula. Yet, to rush headlong into massive change — and for projects with no real guarantee of providing any workforce or affordable housing — council runs the risk of creating growth only for growth’s sake.