Council opens debate on environmental area

Owner wants property near Christmas Hill removed from Environmental Development Permit Area

The next step in the future of the Environmental Development Permit Area in Saanich is expected to take shape at Saanich council on Monday.

A report on the EDPA will go before council on Monday as a property owner adjacent north of McKenzie Avenue near Christmas Hill looks to have the EDPA ruling lifted from their property.

The topic has been controversial as some believe the protective covenants of the EDPA are excessive and hypocritical, including the property owner of 4007 and 4011 Rainbow St. The session is therefore expected to be well attended as the ruling could have repercussions on how Saanich moves forward with other demands from property owners in the EDPA.

The EDPA was approved by council in March 2012 and relies on aerial maps of sensitive ecosystems – created by the federal and provincial governments in the 1990s. It restricts development in certain pockets of Saanich with a goal of protecting the few remaining areas of Garry oak and associated ecosystems.

Norman Webb owns the 1.3-acre property and discovered he was subject to EDPA restrictions while planning to sell his home two years ago. Back in February, Webb and his niece Anita Bull hired registered professional biologist Ted Lea to assess the property. Lea was previously recognized by the Garry Oak Ecosystems and Recovery Team for his work mapping the present and historic Garry oak ecosystems in Greater Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. But even though Lea concluded no such ecosystem was present, Saanich said several Garry oak trees on the property meant the land would remain within the EDPA, Bull told the Saanich News.

Bull is also part of the newly formed Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA, which  presented the organization’s concerns to Saanich council in May.

The news of the EDPA has stirred mixed responses as some homeowners said they were unaware their property fell within the “EDPA atlas,” though Saanich did send letters to affected owners and issue public service announcements in 2013.

“The bylaw has good [intentions], it’s just not being implemented correctly,” Lea said.

In some cases the covenants can limit construction and subdivision of properties. Adriane Pollard, Saanich’s manager of environmental services, said there is a lot of misinformation and that it’s best if homeowners talk to Saanich on a case-by-case basis.

To engage affected residents Saanich is hosting a second drop-in open house for the EDPA at Cedar Hill Rec Centre on Saturday, Oct. 3. As for Monday, Saanich staff prepared a report with three options for council to consider.

Staff’s recommendation is Option 1, denying the removal of the property from the EDPA. It cites the absence of a development plan. Option 2 is to convert areas of the property to “buffer” which could allow for “potential sensitive development,” which again is limiting.  Option 3 is to remove the properties from the EDPA atlas as requested, an option staff do not recommend.

“[Removal] sets a precedent, likely resulting in other similar requests and a gradual loss of rare ecosystems and buffers which are intended to be protected by the bylaw,” according to the report.

Visit Saanich.ca/edpa for more information.

reporter@saanichnews.com