The District of Saanich has hired Diamond Head Consulting to review the controversial Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw.
The contract was handed out eight months after Saanich council initially voted to have the bylaw reviewed.
Several residents came forward with complaints in 2014 regarding the bylaw, which prompted a public check-in process from June 2015 to February 2016. Following that, Saanich held a pair of highly attended special sessions.
The last was in March, when an estimated 250 people were in attendance for a special session at the George Pearkes Community Centre field house. At the time, council voted unanimously to uphold the bylaw for now, but also to hire a third-party consultant or team to review the bylaw in depth.
That was chosen over repealing the bylaw or maintaining it as is.
“Improving the bylaw aligns with Saanich’s ongoing commitment to the protection and restoration of rare ecosystems and vital habitats, while mitigating financial impacts on property owners,” said chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson. “We look forward to working with Diamond Head Consulting on this important work.”
In the meantime, Saanich worked to define the review, which will compare Saanich’s EDPA bylaw to other municipalities. In its final report, Diamond Head is expected to outline potential recommendations and potential solutions for council’s review.
The EDPA bylaw was introduced in 2012 after public consultation. It was designed to protect threatened and endangered species, as Saanich is home to many, including the top three most endangered habitats in Canada, the Garry oak ecosystems.
Five per cent of private properties in Saanich are within, or partially within, the EDPA, while 52 per cent of the EDPA in Saanich is located on public land (mostly parks).